Everyone claims to listen to others; indeed, many people make such a statement and truly believe it. But how often are the complaints you hear about one person from another about their perceived inability to listen? Or, it may simply be an attitude problem. Equally, a lack of skills may be a cause; it’s amazing that we spend so much time teaching kids to speak, yet never to listen!
You might be wondering whether this recruitment blog post is aimed at those being interviewed or the people conducting such interviews. The answer is both. Let’s look first at some of the barriers to effective listening.
What gets in the way of serious listening?
There are two keys areas here: environment and attitude. The first should be dealt with quite easily. When effective online recruitment processes deliver candidates for a face-to-face interview, it should be held in a private place – sight and sound – with no interruptions. Sight is included here because a location where the outside can be seen, and can be seen into, easily distracts as much as any noise factors.
Moving on to attitude, the question could easily be: ‘Where do we begin?’ From the interviewer who doesn’t really want to be undertaking the role, to the individual who is simply seeking answers that confirm their beliefs, feelings or even prejudices, it’s an extremely large ball-park! For the interviewee, often nerves play a part, or an eagerness to be heard making what they consider to be the ‘right’ noises.
Each party to a recruitment interview should have a positive attitude to it, they should appreciate exactly what they want to achieve from it. A joint intent, if you like, is to achieve ‘matching’ – where a candidate for a position fits the bill, and that person sees the organisation as one they are keen to work for. Such an intent places clear responsibilities on both sets of shoulders.
Let’s sweat the small stuff
So far, we have focused on the bigger interview picture, its objectives and processes. Yet, as it progresses, interview listening is equally about recognising the smaller signals that are offered. It’s also worth remembering here that you should listen with your eyes just as much as your ears. Matching the attitude and behaviour to the actual words allows signals to be identified and acted upon.
Using these skills, you can start to identify ‘sort of’ answers – ones that obviously don’t tell the full picture. Here are some examples of phrases that highlight this: ‘I don’t usually…’ ‘Most times I would…’ ‘Well, it’s not normal for us to…’ and even ‘Well, I prefer to…’ If you were a police officer interviewing a suspect, these answers would be the dodgy alibi that needs to be fully checked! In interview situations, this doesn’t mean that people are being obtuse or deliberately misleading; it simply means that there is more of a story still to be told about this area or subject.
A complete post about listening skills in recruitment interview situations could probably be of Old Testament length. This one should help you to set an effective environment to enable listening, and also to be that little bit more aware of what is said – and may not be.
Here’s a controversial statement:
Interviews are scarier for interviewers than interviewees.
Not only do you have the responsibility of structuring the interview, knowing exactly what you want and bringing the best out of a candidate, you have some pretty tough decisions to make at the end of it. Life-changing decisions, in fact.
But, before you go into interviewer meltdown, here are some tips to make sure you are fully prepared for the task ahead.
1. Know your business.
Not just your job.
That moment at the end of every interview when you ask the candidate if they have any questions? Make sure you can answer them. Whatever they may be. What skills does the business need long-term? Be ready to spot talent and think outside the box. They may not be right for this precise role but if you know the entire business inside out, you will be in a position to refer them, develop them and potentially hire someone who has the ability to make an impact in a way you never thought possible. So, re-learn your business in the same way that your potential candidate will be learning it for the first time. And don’t get caught out.
2. The last minute CV print-out.
A cursory glance over a candidate’s CV five minutes before they walk in the room just isn’t going to cut it. Prepare for the interview in the same way your candidate will have. If they knew your name in advance, presume they have researched you on Linkedin (maybe on Facebook too, god forbid) and do the same back. That way you can tailor your questioning to a real understanding of that person, getting the most out of your time together. Remember, you are both on trial here.
3. Start as you mean to go on.
Make the beginning of the interview as positive as possible. Putting your candidate at ease is going to help you analyse their suitability far more easily than if they are stressed or on edge. So start by giving information, rather than with the hard questions. Talk a little about your role, the vacancy, how it fits in with the business as a whole. Make them feel excited about the position and ease them into questions based on your knowledge of their experience. Remember when you’ve been on the other side and make this interview memorable for the right reasons.
4. Be specific.
This is where your knowledge of the candidate’s experience will really come into play. Dig deeper into their CV. What did that project return for the business? How did they create company buy-in for that campaign? A good candidate with a robust CV will relish these opportunities to share their expertise and knowledge. A bad candidate will expose themselves. An easy decision for you.
5. Culture first.
The last thing you want to do is be responsible for bringing in ‘that guy’ to the business. The one that simply doesn’t fit in, is difficult to work with and, no matter how extensive their experience, just never feels part of the team. Leave time in the interview for finding out about the person behind the CV. What do they do out of work? Generic answers won’t do here, do a bit of digging, where were they last weekend? Does that resonate with how your business or department operates? It’s not just about do you like them: will they bring that something extra to your company that it needs? And, from their point of view, will this be an enjoyable place for them to work? Only you can answer that one…
We can help you prepare for the task of interviewing. Just give our team a call and we will talk you through the process from start to finish. Or follow us on twitter for more interviewer insights.