Relying on the interview alone to make a hiring decision is risky, says Matthew Callow, registered psychologist and Associate Director, Queensland & New Zealand at Hudson Talent Management.
“If you're weighting your whole decision on an interview, you're really putting yourself at risk as a company because the interviews aren't the most objective hiring tool. They're open to a lot of subjectivity,” Callow says.
Michael Simonyi, director of Brisbane-based LiquidGold Consultants, agrees that a candidate’s performance in an interview doesn’t determine whether they’re the right person for the role.
“Ask yourself: am I looking for people who interview well, or am I looking for people who will perform in the role to a high level? Because they're not necessarily the same thing,” Simonyi says.
The interview is just one piece of the puzzle
Interviews are best used alongside other recruitment tools such as reference checks to find out past performance, and psychometric assessment showing cognitive ability and personality traits.
“If I just base the hiring decision on interviews, and the person crashes at interview and I don't worry about psychometric assessments and checking references, then I’m looking at a puzzle with pieces missing,” Simonyi says.
“Invest the time and effort to put the whole puzzle together, because you can always say no.”
Callow says using multiple assessment methods will give a holistic picture of candidates because you're making a more informed decision.
“It allows a normal human to get through the process. You're allowing people more opportunities to show themselves, and to be imperfect but still be successful.”
Psychometric assessment can reveal a candidate’s work style, their level of social confidence, communication skills and stress resilience. Use it as an objective tool to confirm or challenge the conclusions made during the interview, Callow says.
Don’t expect to find a perfect unicorn or a robot
An interview forces a candidate to sell themselves within the set time frame. “A lot of candidates are going to struggle with it because it's just not natural for a lot of people to talk themselves up,” Callow says.
A candidate might be having a bad day, be highly nervous, have had a terrible night with a small baby, or be returning from an extended absence from the workforce.
“You're essentially saying: ‘For the next 60 minutes we need you to be perfect. Make no mistakes, read our mind in terms of what we're looking for, and don't show any sign of weakness.’
“How realistic is that? Your benchmark is the Terminator or a unicorn. And realistically, they don’t exist,” Callow says.
“Are you looking for impossibly perfect, or are you looking for someone who is going to be a strong fit for you and the role?”
Other candidates might just be rusty at the interview process, Simonyi says.
“For somebody who is overly nervous in an interview because they haven't changed jobs in 10 years, does that make them a poor candidate? Not in itself.”
Don’t be schmoozed by charmers
Be aware of being swooned by candidates who can talk themselves up but don’t have any substance behind what they’re saying, Callow says.
One candidate might be a smooth talker and impress the interview panel with buzz words, while another candidate might be socially awkward or anxious.
“The first one might come in and bring this energy and sell you the dream, and the next comes through a bit vanilla on impact, but they're actually a stronger candidate.
“If you're just limiting it to how they perform at an interview, a highly persuasive personality will get through on any day of the week because they can sell themselves, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're the right fit for the job.”
Introverts can be great candidates too
An introvert who walks into a room to face an interview panel of senior managers will naturally feel intimidated, Simonyi says. It’s unrealistic to expect them to nail the interview.
Some professions may have candidates who may struggle to articulate their expertise but are actually geniuses.
“They don't perform as well in an interview but are in fact high performers.”
Look at a candidate’s track record
Once you’re clear on what the role requires, use the interview to find out whether a candidate can deliver in that position, Simonyi says.
“Look for evidence that they have a track record of delivering what it is that you need them to deliver and are motivated to do it again.”
Structure the interview to get the most out of it
Interviews are only effective if they are structured and you're asking the right questions to understand whether a candidate can perform in the role, Simonyi says.
“An unstructured, conversational, rambling ‘let's have a chat’ type of interview is no predictor of performance in a job,” he says.
“But a structured interview is a reliable indicator of performance.”
If you use an interview panel, diversify
If you’re chairing the interview panel, it can feel more comfortable to choose like-minded panellists.
But, Callow asks, “are you really going to get the strength of candidate or capability because you're assessing from the same perspective?”
Instead, set up a panel of people who have diverse opinions and challenge each other, because then you’ll get a broader perspective and greater diversity.
“You can end up with any mix of people coming through the door because you're not all biased towards the one type.”