Interviews are NOT Exams

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interviews are not exams - talentvine hiring tips

An interview isn’t an exam. Give your candidates a chance to prove themselves.  

The candidate interview and selection process is, for the most part, cumbersome, outdated and frankly wrong. Too many of us treat interviews like some kind of exam.

Candidates are hit with a barrage of questions that may or may not be relevant to their role. We measure their responses against hidden criteria, deciding to hire based purely on their responses to interview questions.

It’s time to overhaul the interview process. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing away with tough questions and expectations of high performance. It does, however, mean some changes in the way we prepare our candidates for their interviews.

The Phone Interview

It’s common to screen candidates with a phone interview. It’s an important phase in the recruitment process, and is often the first interaction you’ll have with a candidate following their application for a role.

How it’s done now:

  • The cold call – The number of organisations that spring a surprise phone interview on a candidate is staggering. Quizzing a candidate during your first conversation with them, while allowing zero preparation, is not a good way to start a working relationship.
  • The checklist – Sure, this is the tenth candidate you’ve done a phone interview with today. However, that doesn’t mean you need to doggedly follow a checklist of questions, allowing no opportunity for the candidate’s personality or other skills to shine through.
  • One and done – Failure to follow up on a phone interview not only affects your relationship with the candidate, it also paints your organisation in a bad light.

How it should be done:

Let your candidates know what’s coming. Tell them there’ll be a phone interview, and if practical, schedule a time and date for it to happen. Give them a rough outline of what to expect during the interview, and give them the chance to perform.

Speak slowly and clearly, and be prepared to clarify any questions you may have. You may have asked the questions a dozen times already, but this is the first time the candidate is hearing them.

Always let the candidate know what’s next. Tell them the next steps in the interview process and when you’ll follow up. If plans change, keep them posted.

The Face-to-Face Interview

This is the real deal. The face-to-face is a stressful experience for candidates, but it’s your only chance to really get to know them.

How it’s done now:

  • Irrelevant behavioural questions – Don’t hit your candidate with the same old generic questions that every single interviewer asks, eg, “how do you deal with competing deadlines?”.
  • The surprise tour – Candidates have other commitments too. Don’t surprise them with anything that wasn’t previously scheduled. This includes tours of the building, their potential workspace, interviews with future coworkers or anything else that is going to chew into their time.

How it should be done:

Provide candidates with an agenda. It seems a bit basic, but this means everyone knows what to expect and can adequately prepare. You can do this via email or simply over the phone, but give them all the relevant information regarding who they’ll be meeting and what they’ll be discussing.

Providing candidates with an agenda sends a pretty clear message. You value your own time, and you value theirs. It displays professionalism and preparedness, two attributes most employers look for in potential hires.

Keep the interview relevant to the role. Behavioural questions are worthless if they aren’t mildly related to the kinds of tasks the candidate will be doing undertaking during the daily execution of their role.

By being upfront about what to expect, and allowing candidates to put their best foot forward, you can ensure that you’ll only be hiring the best.

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