Why your interview process might be failing your business (and how to fix it)

Jordan Oldbury

The largest internal influence for how well your business performs is your employees. Recruiting the right people can be tough, especially if you're limited to using a traditional interview process, so it’s important to make sure your interview technique works and you find the best person for the role. Entrepreneur and investor, James Caan, explains the importance of a good recruitment process:

"Hiring new people to join an existing team is something that you always want to try and get right the first time around.

"Not only is the recruitment process a costly and time consuming process, but if you do get it wrong then it can have a huge effect on team spirit as well as the bottom line."

Recruit for role success

The worst examples of an interview questionnaire might include those stock questions we’ve all come across during our search for jobs:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • What are your strengths?; and
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

These questions may give you some insight into the candidate, but they do very little to help determine whether the person in front of you is right for the role you've advertised.

Better questionnaires include more task-specific questions based around the job description.

  • Give me an example of a time when you gave great customer service; or
  • Tell me about a time you were successful in leading a team to complete a project.

These types of questions will enable you to see whether the candidate has the capability to perform the role to a satisfactory standard. But you don’t want satisfactory. Recruitment author Barry Deutsch explains:

"The number one [mistake] made by the vast majority of hiring managers is not defining success for a role – before beginning the recruiting and hiring process."

By tailoring your interview questions around being successful in the role rather than competent, you're ensuring you get the best candidate. Define your goals and ask your candidates how they will achieve them.

  • You currently manage a store with an annual turnover of $1.5 million. How would you achieve a 10 percent increase over the year?; or
  • Your department has an LTIFR of 3.2, how are you going to achieve an injury free workplace?

Structure your interview process

The most important thing you can do when preparing for a day of interviews is to ensure that your interview panel has a structured approach to follow. All candidates should be asked the same questions and interviewees should accurately record the answers given.

The aim of a job interview is to select a candidate that's right for the role, and your company, from a pool of recruits. The only way to do this fairly is to ensure objectivity in the process. You’ve designed your questions to determine success for the role, but what about the answers? Interview questions should have a weighted score attached to them based on their importance to the role. HR thought leader Dr John Sullivan explains a common mistake that recruiters make during the interview process:

"No agreement on good answers - almost universally, interviewers asked questions without first determining what is a weak, good, and great answer. As a result, the exact same answer will get different 'scores' from different interviewers."

By agreeing on your ideal answer you can add weighted scores to your questionnaire and ensure that you are objectively selecting the best candidate.

Ensuring a cultural fit

We’ve spoken a lot about role-based questions and objectivity, but another important aspect of your recruiting process should be whether the candidate will fit into the culture of the business. Skills and experience are certainly an important factor to consider during the interview process, but if the candidate doesn't possess personal attributes and values that align with the company, you’ll find that you’ll be repeating the recruitment process again a few months down the track. There are some effective methods to help determine the cultural suitability of your applicants.

You can ask cultural indicative questions as part of your interview process, but a good way to determine whether the candidate will work with your company is to ascertain what your cultural baseline is, the key values that make up your business, and then use this to produce a survey for your candidates. Making this part of the application process will help you shortlist candidates for interview, as explained by Bruce Watt, DDI Europe:

"Organisation experts, who know and understand the organisation in its current as well as future state, identify the different facets of the organisation’s culture. Job candidates then complete a questionnaire to provide information about characteristics they would find appealing or unappealing in an ideal organisation. Finally, the individuals' rankings are compared with the organisation profiles to identify areas of alignment and potential mismatch."

Jordan Oldbury

Jordan Oldbury is a freelance writer from Western Australia who specialises in Human Resources and Culture. Jordan has been published in The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Find him @jordan_oldbury.


Image: Unclepockets, Flickr Creative Commons license