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Getting the most out of job hiring interviews

When interviewing, listen most of the time. In your experiences, you likely have interviewed for a job where the interviewer did most of the talking. When it happened to me, on more than one occasion, I remember thinking, 'How does he (she) expect to learn about my fit for the job when she (he) isn't listening?'  Others recently in the job market have said this upside-down approach is still prevalent. Many interviewees leave bewildered, frustrated and disappointed that they didn't get to show their stuff to a prospective employer.

Why do people who need to listen, talk so much during job interviews? There are probably many reasons for the widespread interviewing error of talking too much. Let me share a few reasons I have observed:

Some people love to hear themselves talk. This is a common reason for these one-sided interviews. While some folks have been able to leverage their skills of talking into careers in broadcasting, politics, entertaining and public speaking, it's a deadly skill when applied in a job interview. Talking shuts down our brain's listening capabilities.

Interviewers are excited about their organization and the job.  This is understandable. If you are already employed as a manager or owner, you believe in your business and what it provides for the customers. The tendency to 'sell' the company to candidates is a very natural impulse and should be a part of a good interview, but not the major focus. There are ways to share our enthusiasm without dominating the conversation.

Everyone is nervous. Candidates are often nervous and this can make the interviewer uncomfortable. When there is silence in a situation, people tend to talk nervously. While it relieves the tension, it can also undermine the discovery process.

The person interviewing is 'winging it'. Going into an interview without a planned agenda is not only a bad way to get the insights and perspectives needed to assess candidates, but can also place the interviewer and his/her company in legal hot water. Even talking too much can be perceived as a form of discrimination if the talking is only done with certain groups of applicants.

You can probably think of other reasons why people might talk too much. In any case, the lesson is that too much interviewer chatter is counterproductive.

Some ways to make your interviews better

1. Start with a plan for the whole hiring process. Interviewing is an important part of the recruitment-hiring process, but it takes place later. First, you need to write or revise the job description, determine the pay range and benefits, advertise the position, review and screen resumes and cover letters, narrow the field to your top seven to ten candidates, do initial telephone interviews to assess fit and interest, check references and decide who you want to bring in for in-person interviews.  You need a plan first.

2. Decide who will be interviewing candidates. A team approach is the best way to assess candidates. It helps to have a group that includes peers, people who might report to the position as well as the supervisor. Each can bring needed perspectives.

3. Train the interviewers. There are numerous legal pitfalls that one can unintentionally blunder in when interviewing.  The only way to learn them is by reviewing examples of what to avoid. Additionally, asking questions the right way is a learned skill. It pays to get interviewers ready. Hiring is too important to risk making mistakes.

4. Develop 'situational' and 'behavioral' questions based on the job description responsibilities and qualifications. In order to get candidates talking and sharing their thought processes, it is best to make certain the majority of questions are open-ended and cannot be answered with a yes or no. Situational and behavioral questions do that in a way that also elicits how someone would act or behave in various scenarios. Here is an example of a question that makes the candidate have to think and reflect about the answer: "We all have times when our workload is heavy and there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day. Give me an example of how you handled a difficult time."

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