When working with government agencies they sometimes create such strict rules that they defeat the purpose of what they are trying to accomplish. One case in point is the interviewing process when trying “to be fair.”
When consulting to one of our Silicon Valley cities, I observed the interview process for potential new employees. There was a panel of interviewers. Each was given a specific question and their role was to ask that question of each candidate. There was to be no deviation – and no additional questions – including asking for clarification or more information – were allowed.
The result – a false sense of fairness. Candidates were graded based on their responses (often superficial) to the basic questions and at the end of the interview process little more was learned than what already appeared on their resumes.
A good interviewer will delve deeply into answers – asking for examples, additional information, clarification and anything that will enable her to really get to know the professional strengths and weaknesses of a particular candidate.
When I interview for high-level positions I might take as much as a whole day with the candidate. Now clearly I don’t spend that much time with candidates for supervisory and below positions, but I do spend a few hours getting to know if they are who they say they are and if they will be a good fit for the people and the company considering hiring them.
I’m often told about a series of 20 minute interviews with a bunch of people. I’m not sure how valuable these are – other than to weed out anyone who stands out to any of the team members doing this superficial interview.
Oftentimes, having a few highly trained and qualified interviewers spend more time is far better than a bunch of people who don’t have the insight or instincts necessary to spend a short amount of time each just to see if they like or dislike the candidate.
Nothing beats strong interview instincts and techniques – like most “soft skill” talents, the highly successful professionals are a combination of education, experience, and intuitiveness.
In my career, I’ve interviewed many C-level candidates for my clients – and those I selected were proven to be a good fit for the company and its culture. Too, I learn little things that are useful for management.
For example, I once helped hire a CFO and observed that status was far more important to him than increases in salary. He was subsequently rewarded by having a corner office, his own parking space, and other perqs that were obvious to one and all. He was a happy camper.