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Conducting Interviews

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    I'm recruiting for a position again within my team- it's a very small regional team which is part of a very small worldwide team, the role has a fair amount of responsibility and it's crucial I get the right candidate each time (as one bad apple in a small team has a huge impact on the performance of the whole).

    I always find giving interviews more nerve-wracking than being an interviewee, as the pressure is on to get a good candidate, to sell the job as accurately as possible (so candidates know what they are in for) but not to paint it in a negative way. And also to make them feel comfortable and give the best account of themselves and to be as fair as I can possibly be.

    I've never had any formal interview training and so I try to base them on what I think are the good parts of interviews I have had myself when looking for work. I think I'm good at putting candidates at their ease, encouraging conversation and making them feel as comfortable as possible. I ask a few relevant competency questions which are the same for each person I interview, but much of the interview is more of a dialogue than a set of formal questions. As a result, different questions get asked of different candidates based on what is on their CV and what they have told me about themselves. Still a formal interview, but quite relaxed and more of a conversation than a list of questions. I go a lot by how people do in interview rather than what's on their CV, and their personality plays a big part in it- being a small team, I need someone not only competent but also easy to get along with.

    Is this unprofessional and am I being unfair to candidates by not making every interview conform to the same pattern? Should I be asking identical questions to create a perfectly level playing field- or tailor the interview more to the individual candidates? I always try to focus on candidate's strengths rather than weaknesses and get them to talk as much as possible about them and their experiences.

    Any advice/opinion/criticism welcomed.
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    To avoid any comebacks and claims of discrimination after the event, I was trained to give interviews to a set format and set questions you ask every candidate.

    It makes it easier on you as to who to decide as well.

    Be aware there are some things that might seem relatively innocuous to you, if you touch upon in interview, you are asking for trouble.

    Although you are fine with 'Tell me more about X on your CV/application' where X is a specific thing they have mentioned.
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    You NEED to get your employer to provide you with some interview technique training and get input from someone in the HR world. You are doing yourself, the business and the poor people you are interviewing disservice if you don't do this. My employer won't let anyone interview until they have been through the training package. If you aren't even in your approach and methodology with all interviewees you leave yourself and your company open for comeback if someone isn't happy with the way in which you have conducted yourself.
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    Thanks, this is much as I suspected and I will standardise the interview format 100% to ensure maximum fairness. I want to give everyone the best shot possible. To clarify though, the competency questions were always standardised with this in mind- but I found several candidates find competency questions harder to deal with and tend to be more comfortable with other types of questions related to their CVs and experiences. As good oral communication is such a big part of the job and many candidates are non-native speakers I need to get them to talk as much as possible and I've always found certain types of question get them to be more expressive and more comfortable (which in turn helps me to better gauge their ability in whichever language I am testing for as well as their general communication skills). My worry has always been that too rigid a format might stifle this.

    I don't think the assumption that my 'poor' interviewees are suffering in my presumably terrible interviews is quite valid- when I first began interviewing I co-interviewed with, and was mentored by, senior managers before being given the green light to give solo interviews. I have been told my technique is excellent and the candidates I've chosen thus far have been great- so I must be doing something right. I will look into what formal packages my company offers although these will undoubtedly be web-based (and so not very different from the internet resources I have already consulted). My nearest viable HR contact is an 8 hour flight away so not ideal but I have experienced interviewers to hand who I have already consulted for advice.

    Anyway, thanks for the advice. In this round I will make sure all the questions asked of the candidates are identical, notwithstanding some freedom to develop questions based on the answers given.

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Updated: June 28, 2012
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