What use are interviews?

Job interviews can offer real insights into the mind and likely behaviours of candidates, but only if you approach them in the right way.

What Use Are Interviews?

Interviews are a key part of the selection process for just about any role. Sometimes, they virtually are the selection process. So how effective are they in helping you find the best candidate?

In truth, they’re as effective or as pointless as you choose to make them.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of the interview that wasn’t focused on finding out anything much other than confirming what the interviewer could have gleaned from your CV.

We’ve probably all seen the interviewer whose mind seemed elsewhere or looked like they were reading the CV for the first time.

Forget about those – that’s just bad practice. Let’s focus on how you can make sure interviews deliver real value to the selection process.

What Do You Want?

There could be any number of reasons why you are recruiting for a particular role. Sometimes you just have a project to deliver and you need somebody competent, diligent, and who can follow a process and work in a team.

Usually, you’re looking for people to grow beyond the current role. This isn’t about ambition – anyone can have that. It’s about emotional intelligence, empathy, resilience, character, intellect, curiosity and humility.

The people who succeed are the people with those qualities. With the right preparation, process and environment the interview will help you pick them. Start with the result you want and work back to the questions you need to ask.

Culture and Values

Competence should be a given. The interview should focus on discovering the person and the story behind the CV.

Structure interviews around the culture and values of your organisation. The questions you need won’t fit the standard interview template. They might even be a little ‘off the wall.’ They will be unique because they are all about the individual cultural identity of your business.

If they’ve never worked in your kind of organisation you will want to explore whether they are adaptable enough to adjust.

Downloading a set of ‘questions to ask at interviews’ from the internet won’t give any of this. Savvy candidates will have rehearsed answers to those questions leaving you none the wiser about who’s behind the mask.

The Environment

Does it make sense to put candidates under pressure to see if they crack? If you want candidates to open up about who they really are you want to create an atmosphere where you can have a proper conversation.

And don’t forget, they are interviewing you also. What impression are you putting across about how you operate and how you value people?

Be attentive. You will learn just as much from the questions candidates ask you as you will from the questions you ask them.

With the right environment you can start to find out what somebody actually did to make the projects they were involved in successful – what difference did them being there really make? Get them to talk about their failures, how they coped with them and what they learned.

Has this person really got the grit and resilience to keep going when the pressure’s on? That resilience isn’t on the surface, it’s deep inside where superficial questions won’t reach.

Have they ever put their head above the parapet and done the right thing, even when there was pressure to take an easy route or cut corners? Explore whether they value the same things as you do and how they handle conflicts, for example.

Recruiting for Your Clients

The organisations that commission construction and infrastructure projects are looking for more than project delivery. Value-based procurement and growing expectations around the customer experience are shaping what clients expect from contractors and supply chains. Factor client expectations into your interview and selection process if you want to build better client relationships.

How to make interviews productive:

  • Allow enough time. If it needs two hours, give it two hours. How much time will a wrong decision cost you?
  • Avoid back-to-back interviews, leave time for reflection.
  • Prepare! Read the CV and covering letter several times, note the points you want to explore.
  • Devise questions that explore the values and behaviours you want.
  • Use behavioural and situational questions.
  • Throw in some real-world problems you are facing, ask candidates how they would tackle them.
  • Put candidates at ease. Why not tell them in advance what you will want to talk about? Tell them about your dress code.
  • Keep the selection panel as small as possible, maybe involve their peer group.
  • Ask about how they see your industry, business and their role in it developing – are they curious?

Interviews shouldn’t be a formality. They aren’t easy to get right if you want to be sure of the best outcome. Recruiting for key positions can also mean the stakes are high. Which is why it makes sense to work with a specialist recruiter that will take the time to understand your values, culture and business plans as well as the needs of the specific role.