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The Lost Art of Conducting Intentional Interviews

If you’ve been around a toddler lately, you are likely aware of their go-to question – “why?”. Can you blame them? It’s a good question. Knowing “why” helps to add purpose and motivation to whatever task we are facing. As adults, we settle into our routines and habits, forgetting to ask this surprisingly sage question. 

Throughout our careers, we apply to jobs and attend interviews because that’s the way things are done. As talent acquisition professionals, we spend much of our time arranging, conducting, scoring, and thinking about interviews. Though it’s the norm, how often do we ask why?

Why do we interview candidates?

Each organization is unique in its values and, as a result, has differing motives and priorities when it comes to interviewing. For better or worse, these priorities determine who proceeds or not through your recruiting funnel. Similarly, many large organizations place a premium on culture fit. No matter how qualified, a candidate lacking this elusive quality will not receive an offer. 

The “why” can also vary substantially depending on the field or type of role in question. Broadly, interviews serve to determine whether candidates have the hard and soft skills needed for the job and gauge their level of interest or commitment. But your “why” is unique. 

When we forget our “why,” interviews can quickly become a formality and a checkbox instead of a fair and unbiased opportunity to consider candidates. Conducting interviews out of habit is a waste of your own time as well as candidates’. Without a guiding purpose, interviews can work against candidates who have diverse backgrounds and experiences. 

1. Define the Core Competencies

Interviews can be plagued by a number of problems: 1) a lack of intention or design behind the interview process 2) natural subjectivity in questions, 3) underprepared interviewers with hidden biases and preferences. 

Before you kick off the interview process, clarify the core competencies for the role. Remember that competencies are demonstrable characteristics, such as skills and values. Skills are something a candidate can do; they assess domain experience for the job. Values are something that aligns with how a candidate may fit with the company culture. This exercise will prevent you from asking generic questions and scoring candidates based on abstract and arbitrary measures. Stay focused on what is needed for the role.

2. Attach Weight

Next, after you have identified your core competencies, decide how much weight each competency holds. Essential skills and values will vary from role to role. Take the time to rank these attributes and score all candidates against the same weighting system to provide a fair assessment. Consciously assign weightings and avoid arbitrary assignments based on interview answers. Doing this upfront ensures a conscious decision to emphasize competency. 

Generic interview questions and scenarios fail to assess candidates in a holistic light. Using a predetermined weighting system ensures equal consideration of candidates from different backgrounds and different perspectives and experiences. Having clear and objective metrics enables interviewers to mindfully listen and consider what unique attributes a candidate has to add.  

3. Ask the Right Questions

With the required skills and their attached weights in mind, take the time to curate questions that speak to those skills and core competencies you have identified. Thoughtfully preparing questions ahead of time will help to eliminate subjectivity from the scoring process. Avoid stale and generic questions and instead, ask specific and dynamic questions that allow you to get to know the candidate rather than assess their ability to spit out a five-year plan or list out their five biggest strengths or weaknesses. 

Keeping in tune with why we conduct interviews allows us to offer a fair and inclusive review of candidates’ competencies, streamlines decision-making, and helps you hire talent that will add to and strengthen your organization. Invite structure into your interviewing process to remain intentional and consciously inclusive.