Here´s a quiz question for you. Is a job interview a test or a conversation? Do you shine a bright light in the eyes of hopeful candidates or subject them to firing room squads of five-on-one group interviews? Do you hope that you will ask the question that trips candidates up so you can eliminate them? And interview ought to be a conversation — a two-way discussion that allows you to get to know the candidate and visa versa.
A job interview is not a test, it should be a conversation.
I am not a fan of group interviews because they do not make for a good conversation. Relationships are not being built and you are subjecting the candidate to stress that might inhibit his or her ability to open up and share experiences. I was once interviewed by a group of 12 people at once. The group included the CEO and several of his senior leadership team members. As a facilitator, I was able to handle the conversation. I was determined to get the job and one reason is that I wanted to get them to stop doing these group interviews! Did I really get to know any of them? No. Did they really get to know me? No, all they learned was that I could facilitate a conversation with 12 people.
Here are a few other recommendations for how to interview deeply and well and find the candidate who is the best fit for your open positions.
First and foremost, don´t let HR own the process of filling your position. Too many managers abdicate ownership of hiring and this is a big mistake. Who needs to train this person? Who needs to manage this person? Who will be responsible for ensuring this person is productive? On whose team will this person reside? You and yours. Personally, I would not even let HR narrow down the people to a list you ought to interview — their might be one of those unconventional rock stars in the pile of resumes and HR departments are more likely to screen based on job descriptions. Take the time to be very involved from the get go. Nothing against HR, I am an HR person myself. But HR does not know your needs and team like you do and they will not be managing the hire. It is in your best interest to get and stay involved. I know that some government agencies don´t let managers own the initial screening — if you work for the government, be as involved as your system allows and advocate for improving the system in an appropriate manner.
Behavioral interviewing: I like using behaviorally based questions because they get tell you how people approach their work and how they respond to various situations. I am not a fan of using behavioral questions in such a regimented way that it gets in the way of creating a conversation and relationship. Do you hand interviewers a list of seven questions and tell them to ask those and nothing else? I don´t recommend that approach — it´s mechanical and hiring a rock star needs to be a bit magical too (I can imagine all the employment attorneys wrinkling their noses at me while reading that). I think it is fine to ask each candidate some of the same questions, but then also take time for conversation that is specific to their experiences and interests. If you are not skilled in interviewing techniques, seek training or coaching, as this is necessary to make the right people decisions.