TEN BASIC PRINCIPLES OF INTERVIEWING
Employee selection is the choosing of one individual in preference over others on the basis of characteristics that the employer believes an employee should have in order to be successful in a specific job. The key question is: can a candidate’s suitability for a job be forecasted? If available techniques cannot produce an accurate evaluation of a candidate that possesses the desired characteristics, then management is handicapped in achieving its objective to pick the applicant who is best qualified for the job.
Except in special cases, certain basic rules should be followed in preparing for and carrying out successful selection interviews. Ten basic, proven principles are discussed here.
1. Determine your employment objectives
The objectives of the specific hiring situation should control the shape and content of the interview. Interviewers who proceed on the basis of the known objectives of a given employment project have a head start in developing plans for the individual interviews. From the beginning, they have a general picture of their information requirements, the yardsticks for evaluating candidates and an optimum profile for the “winning” applicant.
2. Learn about applicants in advance
Interview time is limited. The interviewer who does not digest the information available from applications, resumes, test results and references in advance is wasting personal resources. Further, the interviewer who does not use such data as a basis for “fine tuning” the interview plan is wasting the applicant’s time as well as the company’s money. Know your applicants before the interview begins. It will save time, help you plan productive interviews and indicate to the applicants that you are interested in them as individuals.
3. Know the job requirements
In addition to knowledge about the applicant, another important area of advance information needed by the interviewer to ensure successful results is knowledge about the position for which the applicant is being interviewed. Obviously, knowledge about an applicant can be modified, expanded and more clearly understood during the interview. However, knowledge about the job must be acquired before the interview. The knowledge of the job is an essential prerequisite of the interview. The sources for such knowledge range from readily-available information on file in the personnel department such as job descriptions and performance standards, to highly relevant on-the-job insights gained from your experience.
4. Plan the interview
For many positions, little additional preparation may be necessary when the experienced interviewer knows about the job to be filled and has learned what there is to know about the candidates in advance. Experience will readily indicate a suitable approach. This is certainly true with regard to routinely filled positions.
For the interviewer who is not highly skilled, however, it is beneficial and often essential to plan the interview. Even the experienced interviewer needs to plan when a non-routine or higher-level position is involved, or when the job is infrequently filled or otherwise unfamiliar. The planning can range from an abbreviated review to determine key information to be gathered during the interview, to a detailed plan for handling each successive portion of the interview with each specific candidate.
5. Create a constructive attitude
Participating in a selection interview on behalf of your company is a responsible role. You must be positive and professional to represent the company image. You have to work hard and stay alert during the interview. For the occasional interviewer, it is a somewhat strange and even uncomfortable process. You are obliged to probe into the personality and makeup of a number of complete strangers, and this can be time consuming and tiring. Finally, you must recommend or make a decision.
Approaching the interview with the right attitude, and preparing to create the right atmosphere for it, can be learned. Skilled interviewers adopt their own methods for being “up.” Like actors, athletes or teachers, they must know how to ready themselves for a given occasion. You too, on the basis of your status as a unique individual, can develop your own particular way of doing this. But, as a starting point for the novice or a refresher for the jaded interviewer, it may be helpful to review some don’ts. Thinking of ways to avoid mistakes and to achieve a positive approach will encourage a constructive, fruitful interview.
6. Build an interview framework
A great variety of styles and strategies can be used in interviews, either singly or in combination. Interviews can be designed to fit such descriptive headings as “regulated,” “permissive,” “counseling” or “negotiated.” Then there are interviews intended to “sell” the applicant, the “stress” interview, the “buddy-buddy” approach, the totally professional discussion, the applicant-centered interview, and so on. It is important to understand that an interview should have some kind of detailed framework for the interviewer to follow in a flexible way and which will be in keeping with the employment objectives (1) and the interview plan (4). Taken together, these two techniques will define the broad scope of the interview.
It is highly useful for the interviewer to have in mind a number of configurations and formats from which to select an interview framework, even when there is little time to prepare.
7. Develop rapport quickly
A key means of making the interview profitable is to quickly establish a close and sympathetic two-way understanding. This sort of relationship promotes the channels of interchange, helps to raise the interview to a meaningful level and produces a greater depth of insight for both participants.
A positive method of building rapport is to treat the applicant as an individual, not just as another body sitting on the other side of the desk. Words or actions encouraging the belief that the interview will be a genuine interchange between individuals are always helpful. The interviewer need not be talkative, overly considerate or super friendly. The interview can be conducted on a person-to-person basis at virtually any level of formality or friendliness.
8. Listen before you talk
The interview is totally a communication process. All the thinking, emotion and physical effort that goes into it on both sides should be aimed at communicating — that is, interchanging information and knowledge by oral, visual, sensory or any other possible means. Of course, oral communication predominates and means both talking and listening. Again, acquiring skill in getting applicants to speak up, if they are hesitant to do so, is vital. However, there is a far more basic and insidious communication hurdle that all interviewers face.
The best advice that can be given for acquiring interviewing expertise is to “listen more than you talk.” Keep your mind on the applicant and what he or she is saying. Don’t spend your time thinking about your own views on the subject under discussion. If you do, what you will record is your own thoughts. In this self-centered approach, whatever the applicant says will be filtered through your own views and you may hear only what you expect to hear.
9. Control the interview
The interviewer should strive to maintain overall control of the interview from beginning to end. The purpose of this control is not to satisfy the ego of the interviewer or to keep the applicant properly humbled by showing who the boss is. Rather, control is maintained so that the various requirements of information acquisition, expenditure of time, satisfaction of the applicant’s needs and so on will be met.
The most elementary form of maintaining control is to use a question and answer format. The interviewer keeps track of the time spent on each area of the interview and, when necessary, shuts off discussion to move on to the next area. This is a matter of “leading” the interview in a positive, open way. By growing more and more practiced and sophisticated, the interviewer becomes adept at allowing an increasingly free form of discussion. Nevertheless, the interview is still being controlled so that each major subject area will have adequate coverage within the time allotted for each applicant.
10. Respect the applicant’s needs
Even for the veteran interviewer, there is a temptation to let one’s personal needs dominate the conversation. All interviewers should, of course, be primarily concerned about adequately satisfying the needs of the company and the applicant. The interviewer who is going to be the supervisor of the selected applicant should be intent on keeping a balance among the interests of three parties: the company’s, his or her own and the applicant’s. In any case, a fair share of attention should be given to what the applicant needs to know.
Job applicants need to know about the organization, its objectives, and its rules and conditions of work. They need to know about the jobs they are being considered for and the people they will work with if they are hired. They need to be able to talk about themselves in relation to possible employment with the organization and to project to the interviewer their own picture of how this relationship will work out.
J.D. McHenry is the President of Global Jet Services. He has been involved in numerous aviation maintenance and flight operation programs for more than 31 years. His background includes aircraft manufacturer, corporate flight operations, FAR 91 & 135 operations, aircraft management, repair stations, and fixed base operation. He holds and A&P, IA and Doctorate of Business Management. Global Jet Services goal is to lead the way in aviation maintenance training standards. Global Jet Services and FlightSafety International are business partners offering the “Shared Resources” program. For more information, visit www.GlobalJetServices.com.