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Resources & Development - The Truth About InterViewing

The Truth about Interviewing

By Zahira J. Coll

 Lately I have noticed an increased amount of articles about interviewing know-how and/or employee behavior predictions.  Most of the trade shows I’ve been to in the last six months have had a lecture on the subject, and many of the trade magazines have published advice on how to interview, what questions to ask, what steps to take etc.  Because this is a topic dear to my heart as a Human Resources professional and Behavioral Analyst, I read and listen to what everyone is saying or writing on the subject.

One common thread I’ve noticed in everything that has been brought out in the limelight lately is the lack of answers.  We are told what to ask the candidates but not the answers to be looking for.  What answers would help us determine if the candidate is indeed the right fit for us and our business?  How do you know?  How do you analyze their answers?  It is not a simple task.  Things do not mean the same to all people and if the questions we ask are not behavior driven we will not be able to guess or predict how this person really is.  As Talent+ has proven with their research and methods; past behavior is a prediction of future behavior.  This is the beauty and science behind behavioral interviewing techniques. It provides you with the opportunity to predict with certain accuracy how that person is going to behave, react and/or act in a given situation. 

I have also read and heard advice on which questions to ask such as; “If you had six months to live, what would be the most important thing for you to do or complete?”  How do you analyze their answer if they say, “Quit my job and travel the world?” Or “Spend all the time I have left with my husband and/or wife and/or children and/or family?” What is the purpose of such a question, what do you want or expect them to answer?  I doubt you will hear too many candidates saying, “Devote myself to my work to leave everything ready when I pass on.”

Another popular question is, “What are your top three weaknesses?” Let’s say the candidate responds, “I am absent minded, extremely honest and a neat freak.”  What does it mean when they actually consider honesty and neatness weaknesses and not strengths?  What if you consider those two characteristics strengths and they are what you are looking for?  Should you still consider this candidate even though they see them as weaknesses? Why ask about weaknesses at all? Managing through people’s strengths accomplishes more, increases performance, and enhances team work and retention. It is extremely important to really understand what the candidate’s strengths are and how those meet what you are looking for.  Great leaders surround themselves with people that complement them, that have strengths where they have weaknesses that are knowledgeable where they’re not; however it takes knowing yourself very well to be able to do this.  Let’s say you are a bit absent minded and not very organized, then my recommendation would be for you to surround yourself with team members that are the opposite; people that are organized, detail oriented and proud of it.  If you don’t ask more specific questions and if you do not ask for the candidate to add to an answer or elaborate, illustrate, give examples, you are not even beginning to scratch the surface.

Employee behavior analysis and/or interviewing and selecting require technical knowledge, expertise and experience.  It is not something that is learned from reading an article and/or attending a one hour lecture.  Please do not misunderstand me, I do believe that you can learn the basics, the steps; you can get great ideas on questions that you should ask and even get a better comprehension of what really should take place in an interview process by reading these articles and attending these lectures.  You can even learn the basic legalities of how to interview without getting into legal trouble.  However, Human Resources Professionals have devoted their careers to studying and fine tuning the skills and technical knowledge needed to be able to interview and analyze answers in order to make the appropriate selection.  In today’s Human Resources professional world interviewing is increasingly becoming a scientific process with tools and research for every characteristic you want your team members to have. 

Just because someone had success as a business owner and/or director and was able to recruit and maintain a great team does not mean that their method and/or approach will give you the same results.  As individuals we have different expectations and we operate differently, we expect different things from our staff and manage them very differently.  When interviewing and analyzing candidates, it is extremely important to understand yourself first as the owner and/or Spa Director, what makes you tick?  What traits in others do you have tolerance for, which can you not deal with?  What are your operational strengths and/or weaknesses?  Do you know what you need from others to achieve excellence in your vision, your goals?  What are the expectations you have of your staff?  Do you micromanage?  Do you not want to be bothered with the little things?  Are you a big picture person?  What do you want your company to be?  What kind of clientele will you have?  What work environment will you provide? 

When you have the answers to these questions and many more, then you can start thinking of what to ask the candidates to figure out how they will match with you?  Are they really what you are looking for?  Will you be able to direct them and motivate them?  What are they looking for in an employer, in a direct supervisor?  Listen carefully, are you really like the person they are describing they want to work with? 

Employee selection is key to the success of the business; it is the foundation on which your business will develop its future success.  Employees have the power of making you or breaking you, they are a huge benefit to you and your business.  Are you giving your interviewing and selection process the time, financial resources and dedication it needs and deserves?

If you are not a massage therapist instructor you would not dream of hiring non Massage Therapists employees and teaching them the techniques and the skills needed to perform the job.  If you are not a Chef you would not dream of accepting a job as a Chef or owning a Restaurant without having a Chef.  Would you?  We hire experts to do these jobs because we realize we can not be everything or know everything. Do you want to select and hire staff members that are replicas of you or should you be finding personalities that complement you and fill in your weak areas? It ultimately depends on what you really need to help you and your business achieve success. 

Let’s start considering interviewing and selection an area in which we need the assistance of the professionals in the field. Do I have the resources to hire a Human Resources professional or will I need to outsource this service? Do I need to find an expert or a recruiting firm to do this part for me?  Whichever way you choose to do it, make sure you are indeed acquiring the services of an expert.  Check their credentials, their references, and their track record.  Did they take the time to “interview” you, analyze you and what you expect of your team to decide how to help you best?  Are they willing to teach you as much as possible about the process and the results to look for?  Do they completely understand the type of business you are in?  The same guidelines you use to find a consultant to assist you in your business should be used to find the Recruiter and/or Human Resources Professional to assist you in your process.  Credentials, references, experience, education and most importantly do they really get you?  Do they understand what your vision is and what you need in your staff to accomplish your business goals?  Or if you enjoy the beauty of finding the right person, of finding that perfect fit for your company, do take the time to study, research and learn these skills so you are the expert in your business.

One more thing:  What are the answers I look for and/or recommend?  It depends!  It depends on your answer to everything I’ve said before.  What are you looking for? Analyze yourself; decide the questions and the answers that represent the characteristics you want in your staff and the behavior you are looking for. Avoid using too many “close-ended” questions which will elicit a simple “yes” or “no” response. I only recommend to use this type of questions for verification of information or to get the ball rolling when you have a series of questions on the same subject. Instead prepare “open-ended” questions, they are deliberately broad in nature, have no “correct” answer, and are designed to keep the candidate talking.  For example, rather than asking an applicant “Can you work under pressure?” (Who would say no?), you will get a more detailed response from “Tell me about a time when you had to work under pressure.”  Open-ended questions often begin with “How do you…” “Tell me about…” or “What do you think about…”  When you ask open-ended questions you get answers that give you examples of past behavior, which will help you figure out how this candidate will behave in similar circumstances in the future.

Most importantly prepare yourself, know what you are looking for and do not settle for less.  This might be one of the most crucial aspects for the success of your business!


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