We shake hands, exchange greetings and I offer a drink. We sit down, I explain the format, then start asking the questions that will determine whether the person in front of me is suitable for further consideration in the available role. It’s a very familiar process, and I’m far less nervous than the candidate.
Are you nervous? Perhaps you should be!
But maybe I should be nervous. Whilst research shows that interviews can be a highly valid form of assessment, am I really sure that the script I am about to follow really ascertains whether the individual has the right skills, knowledge and motivation for the role? If this is a question you have ever considered, I hope my blog will be of some interest!
As the graduate and industrial placement season gets into full swing, I thought I’d share my recent interview experiences on the validity and reliability of interviews. For now I will just focus on two key points; interview design and candidate motivation. A future blog will look at my views and experiences of assessing job-person fit and the best structure to use for graduate interviews.
1. The wrong questions waste time and money
The best questions are the ones that stop the candidates in their tracks. I have recently conducted a review of over 800 interview responses to the question ‘Tell me about a time when you had to manage a range of tasks at the same time’. Out of the 800 candidate responses, 650 referred to them planning their university work load. From the client’s perspective, the interviewers were wasting time gathering information from this question when there is so little variation in individual’s responses. Not surprisingly, 90% of the graduates scored an average mark to this question. Assuming the interviewers spent 10 minutes on this interview question, and with 800 candidates being interviewed, they have just wasted 133 hours – that’s nearly 4 weeks of work – on data that will not aid them in their selection decision making process. Whilst you could strongly argue that it is the candidate’s responsibility to provide an example that stands out from the crowd, it is our responsibility to ensure that each question allows us to use the full marking range. Testing of interview questions is key to avoid costly mistakes like this being made, and feedback from the interviewers should be collated regularly to spot flaws in the design.
2. Do they really want the job?
In a time where unemployment is high, employers could be mistaken for thinking that there are a wealth of enthusiastic graduates out there who want to work for them. In reality, many graduates tend to panic and apply for a number of different roles in different industries in the hope that this will guarantee them a job of some form. I have seen many incredibly talented candidates rejected from recruitment processes as they haven’t convinced the company that they want to pursue a career with them. But from the company’s perspective it is far worse to have recruited these bright and capable people only to lose them six months down the line after companies when they go and pursue their desired career pathway.
Quite simply, to assess motivation effectively, it is all down to the questions you ask. Very basic motivation questions tend to ascertain whether the candidate knows the relevant data about the company they are applying for but all this shows is that your website is well stocked up on facts and figures. In interviews, I often hear candidates talk about wanting a challenging role and so I start this challenge at the interview stage. If they really want a challenge, ask them questions that make them (and you) squirm a little. So when they say ‘they like the culture of the company’, ask them to describe the culture as they see it, and why they have these views. And when they say ‘they want a role in a certain sector’, ask them what other companies they have applied for and the reasons for this. Suddenly you will learn so much more about whether the sector and/or the role is really right for them. The more detailed and direct the questioning, the less likely it is that you will get a vague response. Don’t leave the interview without knowing for sure what their motivation for the role is. You almost want to get to the point where you feel you are being interviewed by them, as the candidates who really want the role are the ones that really want to find out more about your own experiences in the company to cement their thoughts that this is the role for them.
I would love to hear your views on this. What have been your experiences of competency based questions and assessing motivation? Have you been successful in designing interviews that use the full scoring range? Get in touch and let’s share experiences and best practice.
Written by Jacqui Rice, Organisational Psychologist at Loganberry Limited
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