It is a humid afternoon in Mumbai. I am new to the city and find the place where the interviews are going to be conducted. I see a lot of people lined up before me. All of them are filling forms. This is a document which tries to capture all the details of the resume and beyond. And a copy of the resume has to be attached with it. After the laborious essay writing in the specified format, the interviews start. And as expected, the very first question asked is, tell us something about yourself!! Humph! I just wrote an essay about the last 5 generations of my family and attached a copy of my resume that talks about me too. And yet the first question every interview asks is the dumbest!!
At the outset, this blog post is not to deprecate interviewing practices generally followed or label people of the HR community stupid. This post rose from several interview experiences people have shared with me over the years. And more specifically inspired by the experiences of a client I am coaching right now. Which made me realise that some interview practices haven’t changed in a long time to reflect the changing times. I also have some amazing insights about interviews towards the end of this post. These insights prove how little interviews matter in today’s times and yet most of the grilling happens in the interview process.
There are a lot of ways in which interviews have changed in the last decade. We are all more active online. If you can look up candidates online, candidates can return the favour too. In fact, it is recommended that they do as a part of the prep process. The candidates are a lot more aware of their own worth in the job market. It’s not solely the decision of the interviewers, candidates too analyse the company and decide if they want to work for it. Personal branding can add to one’s worth. But, like I mentioned, from the stories I hear, interviews haven’t changed a lot from the usual questions we are used to.
Here are some suggestions for interviewers to up their interviewing game so that the candidates really have a challenge to look forward to:
1. Prep for the interview: I know that it is the candidate who should come prepared. And the HR just takes time out of their busy schedule to appear for a chat. But the equation has definitely changed over the years. The candidate has enough information about the organisation and is equally evaluating if he/she wants to work with the company. And as a representative of the company, the interviewers need to spruce up their act too.
2. Be nice: Being nice never killed anyone. Watch your tone and attitude. Thank the candidate for considering the company and making the time to turn up.
3. Get back: Even if it is a rejection. This is something that seems to be the same even now. And it’s for this reason that, “We’ll get in touch with you” has become synonymous with – we won’t get in touch with you. This is a part of being nice and reflects your company culture. So take time out to call up the candidate, thank him/her and convey your decision. Don’t keep candidates hanging.
4. Ask questions that really matter: “Tell me something about yourself” is so commonplace that it seems like someone leaked the interview questions. Browse through the resume and try to see the real person behind the information. And ask about the passions mentioned and their favourite projects among the jobs they’ve handled. This not just brings freshness to the interview but also gives the candidate the opportunity to present his/her case for being chosen over the others.
5. Don’t pry just because you can: Some of my clients also share how personal questions tend to get a little too invasive at times. Wanting to know your marital status or whether you have kids is fine. Personal life does have a bearing on one’s work life. But asking why someone is single and why one isn’t planning kids right now is taking it a bit too far. Don’t pry just because you can.
In fact, I’d go a step ahead and say how about conversations rather than interviews! How about getting to know someone to check how they’d fit into the job profile with the experience and passion they bring in to the job.
I also have insightful findings about tools that work better than interviews in assessing a candidate’s worth. A recent article published in HRExaminer by Abhijit Bhaduri and his co-author Dr. Tomas Chamarro Premuzic points our how ineffective interviews can be. Comprehensive research of about 32000 people in 500 different professions over decades showed that interviews were responsible for only 8% of performance predictability. Instead, some of the other things that can be used to pick the right candidate are – using multiple assessment tools, checking on the candidates development needs and letting algorithms do the accurate math for you. The twist in situational questions is to not ask them about the situations they have managed in the past but to find out how they’d fare in the situations their future job would spring on them.
If you are wondering what happened to the interview I went for – I don’t think I got the assignment. There were too many contenders and the interviewers cared way too little. But thankfully things have gotten better with experience and then starting my own training company has helped the conversations along.