Recruiting and Interviewing

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Essentially, recruiting and interviewing are about bringing the right people to your organization. The process of keeping those people with the organization is called retention. We will focus on the first two parts (recruiting and interviewing) in this module.

The Job Selection Process

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Organizations typically go through a formal or informal process when there is a vacancy to fill. 

In some organizations, simply getting permission to fill a vacancy can be a challenge. Once the process starts, the pattern is very similar from one place to the next. Although the steps seem straightforward, this is a very interactive process, so stages can overlap.

Job Analysis: Here we will consider the KSA’s (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) that are required for the position, and make sure that they are included in a job description. 

Recruit: Attract the right candidates to the position. The best way to start this part of the process is to have a good idea where your candidates are. The most effective way to do so is to know what interests them, where they tend to congregate, and in a shrinking labor market, where they already work. 

Filter Candidates: It is not necessary to interview every candidate. By the same token, some folks do not interview well and yet can provide supporting and interesting information to you through screening and testing. For example, if you are hiring customer service representatives that will spend a lot of time on the phone, then conduct an initial, short interview over the phone. If they sound professional and confident, then you can consider a face to face interview.

Interview: Structured, formal interviews will give you far more valid and reliable results than informal ad-hoc interviews. Know what you are interviewing for, be well prepared, and be ready for candidates to have plenty of questions for you. 

Select: Check references. Make an offer to the right candidate, and be prepared to negotiate, especially in a tight labor market. 

Introduce and Retain: Now that you have your new employee, prepare to introduce them to the team, and to build on the relationship that has been established during the recruiting process. 

Get Good at Interviewing

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Interviewing, as an interpersonal activity, is something that can be troubled by lack of consistency and standardization if you do not go about it well. Here is a model to assist in setting up ideal interviews, as well as some of the pitfalls and best practices.

Interviewing Fairly

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It can be easy for an interviewer to succumb to bias or stereotype. Be aware of the following issues, so that they do not thwart your efforts at the interview. 

  • We used to think that if people sat with their arms crossed, they were being “closed” or “standoffish.” Sometimes, however, people are nervous and maybe trying to keep their hands still or perhaps they are simply more comfortable with their arms crossed. Reading body language is not always simple; a tendency to pay more attention to non-verbal cues means you may miss what someone actually says.
  • Remember, too, that if an interviewer and applicant are of similar gender, race, or share other physical characteristics, this can (and does) influence interview results. 
  • Women, people who are overweight and visible minorities are typically paid less than Caucasian men working in the same roles. Be aware of this in terms of employment equity. 
  • The halo effect is seen when a personal attribute is presumed to reflect some kind of truth. For example, a person who is perceived as physically attractive is frequently considered more intelligent and sociable than someone who is less attractive, even in the absence of proof. 
  • Contrast effects surface when the characteristics of one candidate are compared to candidates who have already been interviewed, rather than against established behavioral criteria. 

The Best Way to Interview

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Interviews alone are not a great indicator of job performance, especially unstructured, informal interviews. The correlation between effective hiring decisions (a good choice) and a poor choice are improved by the use of behaviorally based questions. Otherwise, you can almost skip the interview and draw straws to select the right person. This is also why testing, accurate references, and use of portfolios (actual examples of work) are so helpful.

  • During the interview, ask questions that are job specific. To improve reliability and validity of the selection process, ask questions that are relative to the job. Concentrate on job knowledge and skills related to performance, and increasing your ability to forecast success on the job. 
  • Interview questions must be fair, and not lead to bias. Questions that pertain to the work as well as decisions that have been made are typically the best questions. (Behaviorally based questions, which often start out as “Tell me about a time when…” is an example.)
  • When you ask questions, the best information comes from those that are “open.” An open ended question encourages the interviewee to say more than just yes or no, and to explain their answers. If you need to ask closed questions (such as “Do you have a valid driver’s license?”), then do so, but also plan to get detailed, active input from your open ended questions. 
  • During the interview, score responses using a systematic, structured approach to evaluate their responses. If you require specific answers, build them in to your scoring. 
  • Finally, train interviewers in listening, questioning, and evaluation to get consistency in the interview process and consequently make better hiring decisions. 

Some examples of common questions and fairer options are listed below.

Common QuestionBetter Question
This job requires a lot of walking. Can you do it? This job requires you to be on your feet for most of the day. Do you have any physical conditions that we should know about in considering you as a candidate? 
We would like a photo to attach to your application because of the number of applicants. Would you mind supplying us with one? (This could lead to bias during the recruiting process, based on physical attractiveness.)All staff has their picture on our internal Web site so that we can recognize one another easily. If you are hired, would you mind having your picture taken for that purpose? 
You have an unusual name. What nationality is it?(Again, leading to or even highlighting, bias.)Did I pronounce your name correctly when I met you?
Have you ever been arrested?This job requires that you secure a high level security clearance, including a criminal records check. Will you have difficulty providing us with that clearance?
Are you American? If you are hired, we require proof that you are entitled to work in the U.S. Can you provide us with a work permit or proof of citizenship? 

Case Study

Elizabeth was having trouble understanding the interview process, and had asked Isaac for help prior to the series of interviews she would have to conduct the next day. He was the head of the HR department and had experience in recruiting and interviewing employees, and suggested they review techniques for interviewing fairly. Elizabeth agreed and was pleased when he explained that certain body language cues may interfere with the interviewers interpretation of what was said, and that ethnic favoritism should be avoided. Isaac pointed out that Elizabeth should try to avoid bias when interviewing potential candidates and should focus on what was said and avoid comparing candidates with each other.  Elizabeth used the techniques she had learned the next day and was happy when she hired the candidate most suitable for the position.