The job interview is your best tool for making the right hiring decision. You can’t count on references, and resumes are designed to make the candidate look good.

The job interview is your best tool for making the right hiring decision. You can’t count on references, and resumes are designed to make the candidate look good.

However, research shows most interviewers decide, consciously or not, to accept or reject a candidate in the first five minutes of the interview. This does not allow sufficient time to gather all the relevant information on the candidate’s actual job skills. Here are some interview techniques that will help you identify the right person for the job.

1) Depict the position realistically by describing a typical day. Don’t oversell.

2) Listen more than you talk. As a rule of thumb, do 80 per cent of the listening and 20 per cent of the talking.

3) Allow silences. When the candidate finishes answering a question, pause before asking the next one. A silence will often lead her/him to go on talking and tell you more, especially information s/he wouldn’t come out with at first.

4) Ask open-ended questions, the kind that can’t be answered just with “yes” or “no.”

5) Avoid either/or questions that force an answer into just one of two categories. Instead of asking, “Do you prefer working on your own or with a group?” try, “What working conditions have you enjoyed most?”

6) Avoid leading questions that practically beg for a certain answer, such as, “This job calls for a lot of customer contact. Do you like working with the public?”

7) Emphasize past experience, (“How have you handled such a situation in the past?”), rather than hypothetical cases, (“How would you handle this situation?”) Such questions are called “behavioural interview questions.” (See sidebar).

8) If the applicant brings up information which could reflect negatively on her/him, (such as leaving a job after a short time or being fired), de-emphasize the importance of the information to get the person to talk more about it. For example, ask “Probably everyone’s run into a boss like that at some point. What happened in this instance?” If you wait after a de-emphasizing comment, an applicant may say more on the subject.

9) Seek “disconfirming evidence.” If you’re getting a strong impression one way, positive or negative, ask questions to bring out examples of behaviour that go the other way. For example, if you think an applicant will be excited and enthusiastic about the job, ask her to tell you about a time when she got bored at work. Or if you get the impression he will try to get by with the minimum, ask him for a time when he went the extra mile for an employer.

10) Listen to your gut reactions but don’t be ruled by them. They may reflect unconscious prejudices on your part. Instead, when your gut reactions run counter to the objective information you are receiving, treat this dissonance as a red flag. Search further to find rational justification for your subjective impressions. •

Behavioural Interview Questions

Use behavioural interview questions to find out if an applicant has in past jobs displayed the qualities you are looking for. Get the applicant to tell you a story while you listen and observe. Here are some examples.

• Give me a specific example of a time in a past job when you got really excited about something you were working on.

• Now let’s hear about a situation where you got bored at work.

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