An Appointment with Fear Part Three: Getting it Right

In the first two articles in this series, we looked at the need for thorough preparation before interviewing and getting the questions right when you are interviewing. Now, in the final instalment, we turn to interacting with the candidate: exploring why two interviewing heads are so much better than one, and why it might be wrong to concentrate on just the filling in your sandwich!

Clunky. It's a great word. We're not quite sure what it means but it does describe what happens in the, shall we say, less professional interview.

Clunky questions. Clunky rapport. Just a clunky experience all round.

We are probably using the word 'clunky' as a synonym for 'awkward': a lack of polish or smoothness. Yet being clunky, that is lacking polish and professionalism when interviewing, threatens a basic law of interviewing: you want good candidates to accept your offer of the job. After all, they are interviewing you as well!

Going it alone

Should you interview on your own? There's nothing in any legislation preventing you from interviewing solo, but if we could give you one word of advice it would be DON'T.

Most of us - who are not HR specialists - interview on an irregular basis. Perhaps that is why we often enjoy it. It's the chance to break away from the normal routine and spend a day meeting others, surveying the skills and abilities 'out there' and hearing about what goes on outside your own organisation.

But because it's an occasional activity, it's one that we have to work at harder to carry out well. Think of it: you have to ask intelligent probing questions, take meaningful notes, maintain a reasonable degree of eye contact to keep the interviewee engaged, be watchful about body language and the effect of your questions, keep an eye on the time…

No. Have at least one other person with you and suddenly the task becomes so much easier. You can split the responsibilities; have one ask questions whilst the other takes notes; swap the note taking and let the other ask the questions. Many interviewers have a succession of candidates to see over the course of a day. Maintaining the level of concentration that good candidates deserve is demanding and tiring.

Some organisations use three - or more - interviewers, but two is enough for many organisations.

Washing up is easier with two!

But the real beauty of having a colleague with you is when you come to consider the candidate after the interview. Being able to 'bounce off' your thoughts about a candidate, and having to justify those thoughts with the evidence contained in your notes is going to ensure you avoid the 'Horns and Halo' effect: the effect of warming to someone (halo) or not (horns) because of the way they dress or speak or think.

The 'wash up' you hold when all the interviewing is over, of selecting the right candidate for the post, is a crucial time. Your only selection criteria have to be the competencies you originally identified for the post. Keep unswervingly to that selection criteria and you'll avoid any unpleasant fallout afterwards from disaffected candidates.

First impressions

But have we got ahead of ourselves here? Let's rewind the tape and go back to the beginning.

It's all very well thinking about the interview itself, but the interview is the filling of a sandwich; we need to make sure that the pieces of bread either side are equally professional.

Candidates are often nervous. Letting reception know who will be attending is a vital - and thoughtful - move. The candidate feels welcomed, and that they have stepped into a professional and attentive environment. The offer of tea, coffee, water or a soft drink steadies things even more.

Another 'must' is that the interviewer greets the candidate; a warm handshake, welcome smile and an opening such as 'How was your journey?' will gently ease the applicant into the situation.

Last impressions

And when your questioning is done? Let the candidate have an opportunity to ask their questions. If you don't know, promise to get back. Give full answers and treat the queries positively and tactfully. Remember, you may get questions such as "How do my skills compare to the others you've interviewed?" That's a tricky question that you have to tactfully circumvent. How would you avoid it? What exactly would you say?

And for dessert? A sincere shake of the hands and then it's taking the candidate back to reception chatting openly as you do, so that, even if the candidate has proven themselves not equal to your criteria, they have no evidence from your manner that 'on this occasion their application has been unsuccessful'.

All done. Applicants that leave the building with a positive impression of your organisation and - if you've done it right - the desire to want the position you've discussed even more.

And not a clunk in sight.