So Much Free Advice Available, Why Are Interviews So Ineffective?

Creating an effective employer interview question guide is a necessity for hiring qualified workers. But a simple search for the phrase “interview question guide” turns up 60,200,200 Google results in only 0.14 seconds.  With such an ample supply of free advice, why are employee interviews so ineffective at employee screening and employee selection?

The problem with most employee interviews is that the wrong questions can elicit persuasive but unpredictive candidate responses that influence managers to hire them.

There are two types of wrong questions.  First, you have the illegal questions – the questions you can’t ask.  Federal and some state law explicitly prohibit asking specific questions about age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion and others.  These questions are nixed because they generally have nothing to do with the ability to do the job.  The solution to this problem is simple – avoid these questions.

That leads us to the second type of questions – the questions you can ask.  Unfortunately that approach doesn’t mean you can ask just any question that comes to mind.

For example, an interviewer often asks this popular interview question to a managerial candidate: “describe for me how you have motivated an under-performing employee?”  The candidate describes a scenario that is music to the interviewer’s ears. The interviewer checks off that question and moves on to the next. Unfortunately the candidate could have just recited a scripted response he picked up on the Internet or learned from a friend. Providing the “right” answer doesn’t conclude the candidate actually performed this act or even has the ability to do it. All he or she did was merely show a skill in answering a question.

While the candidate might have indeed accomplished what he says he did, the skilled interviewer should not accept the response at face value.  He should follow up by asking something like “And how did you learn that process?” or “have you been able to repeat that success again?”  Few if any interview questions relating to job fit should ever answered satisfactorily with just one response.  The interviewer should always be prepared with a probing follow up question. My rule of thumb is that for every question asked, the interviewer should be prepared to ask two additional follow up questions.

Interviewers also tend to ask a lot of questions that might be job related, but not job relevant.  Agencies like Equal Employment Opportunity Commission only require that employers ask job related questions.  But while a question like “tell me what you disliked about your last job” might be job related, it might not help you determine if the individual can actually do the job for you.  A job relevant question might be “tell me how you generate and qualify leads” or “describe your role in developing and implementing a plan to reduce employee turnover.”

By asking the right job relevant questions, followed up with additional probing questions to challenge your assumptions, managers will begin to hire successful workers and avoid the problem of selecting candidates who interview well, but perform poorly.

This article originally appeared in The Total View, a weekly online newsletter that focuses on hiring, management and retention strategies. The Total View is written and published by Ira S. Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions and is distributed with permission by The Chrysalis Corporation. Subscribe for FREE to The Total View by typing your e-mail address in the newsletter sign-up box on the right side of this page.


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