We have all had interviews where the interviewer did so much of the talking that, as a candidate, it was hard to give your best examples of how you can help this company. Then, when the interview is over, the interviewer makes a bold proclamation that this candidate is perfect for the job. Sound familiar? As the interviewer, you should try to talk no more than 25% of the time and allow the candidate to speak at least 75% of the time.

For the interview that assesses skills and experience, the most effective approach is one where the candidate is given the most opportunity to relay their experiences as told in the form of stories. Using the technique of behavioral interviewing, ask the candidate open-ended questions that request descriptions of how, what, why, or when they had a particular experience. For example, if you are interested in a candidates’ ability to learn quickly, you might ask, “What was the most difficult aspect of your present job that you had to learn?” The follow-up question is to ask how long it took them to learn it and how they went about learning this difficult aspect. Your objective is to have the candidate give you a full description of an experience they had that answers your question.

In the absence of behavioral interviewing skills, many interviewers will ask a leading question such as “Are you a quick learner?” Of course, the candidate is going to say yes, yet the interviewer has no way to assess the accuracy or validity of this answer.

For the personality and cultural-fit interview, get a clear understanding of what they enjoy doing and what they do not enjoy. Do not think that they will change. It is like a marriage partner who says they will change after the marriage or learn to like the person. It really does not happen too often. If you ask a candidate to describe their worst working environment, and they respond with an answer that describes your environment fairly closely, do not think they will be successful in your company. It does not mean that your company environment is terrible; it just means that this person is not going to be happy. Unhappy employees do not make long-term employees.

Other areas to explore include:

  • Ask what special or unique experience they had that they really felt great about and those experiences they hated.
  • Ask about the kind of supervision, guidance or direction that is optimal for them.
  • Ask them to describe their best boss and worst boss. Ask what they did not like about the management style of their worst boss.
  • It is advisable that you take notes (although, not on the resume) even though you may have a great memory. You can use these notes when you have to try to remember the candidates you have interviewed several weeks ago.

Optimizing Chances of Success
What can you do to keep the great people you have hired? Just because they are performing well doesn’t necessarily mean they are enjoying the environment, the company, or the culture. Here are some tips to optimize the chances of success at having a long-term employee in your organization:

  • Make sure you and your new employee agree on clear standards of measurement for their performance. Set clear goals and objectives to accomplish within the first 6 to 12 months. Have this conversation within the first 2 weeks of your new employee’s start date.
  • Ensure your new employee has adequate learning time to become acclimated with the job, the department, the people, and the company. If you expect the person to fully “hit the ground running” you may be expecting the impossible.
  • Allow your new employee to meet and get to know the key people who will rely on this person to perform up to the defined expectations.
  • Provide the new employee the opportunity to fully understand the goals, mission and values of the company or department.
  • Provide regular and honest feedback in a manner that is comfortable and effective for the new employee. If you have some performance issue to discuss with the new employee, hold that discussion as soon as possible to allow for change. Provide as much positive and reinforcing feedback as possible and as often as possible.

How much time do you devote to making a decision that is going to cost your organization $100,000? Why don’t you devote the same time and careful attention to hiring? Well, now you have some tools that will help you with these decisions that have great impact on the future of your organization.