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Effective interviewing skills are not part of the curricula of the vast majority of undergraduate or graduate business education programs. 

It is a subject that is rarely discussed in internal corporate management
development courses.  

It is not uncommon, especially in healthcare, for executives to report that the majority of directors and managers in a facility lack the experience or the skills to lead a successful interview. This lack of experience and skills creates a weak link in the hiring process that
could lead to costly mis-hires.

Some executives or managers are too busy “selling” the job (or themselves) to ask any probing questions that provide useful insights.  In the end, lack of experience, poor preparation, or an unwillingness to ask tough questions less they offend the candidate, are all commonly cited reasons for ineffective interviews.

While effective interviewing may not be rocket science, it is not an innate skill that comes with a title or increased supervisory responsibilities.  

The resume is the first step in the interview process.  It is commonly called the first interview. Executives or managers who lack insight into a resume review or who fail to take the time to study the resume are seriously compromising the employment process right out of the gate.

Here are some pointers and hints for a successful telephone interview:

  • Review the resume in advance. Ask to see the resume two or three days before the
    candidate arrives for the interview.  For a staff position this may not always be possible, but it is important to take 10-15 minutes to review the document before beginning the interview.

    HINT:  Do not review resumes with candidates in the room.  Have them wait outside. Be sure they are comfortable while they wait.  Very few executives can effectively review a resume with the candidate staring across the desk. If the resume has not been printed for you, do so.  You do not want to be staring at a computer screen with the resume while youinterview the candidate. Look for formatting errors and grammatical or spelling missteps. Check to see if theresume consistently organizes the information in the same manner for each job entry.  If it does not, it may reflect a lack of attention to detail.

  • Be prepared — Carefully review the summary paragraph, if one exists, noting years of experience and accomplishments.  Do those statements tie with the rest of the resume?  Look for dates of employment.  This is one of the most commonly “fudged” entries.  When candidates are only listing years, not month and year, they may be covering for a failed tenure or a short time of service.  Why?  You have a right to know.  Do not be intimidated. Trust but verify.

    HINT:  When a candidate lists the term of his or her tenure as 2009 to 2010, you need to ask whether this is one year, two years, or a shorter period of time.  To a recruiter trying to establish a threshold for qualifying years of experience, this approach to documentation may indicate a deliberate attempt to be vague. Do not assume.

  • Common sense rules.  Look for tips of embellishment or misrepresentation.  If a candidate claims a major accomplishment, improving quality or turning around the financial performance of an organization, but the term of employment is very short, it is appropriate to develop questions, in advance, that will force the candidate to specifically address what is either a great accomplishment or an amazing resume enhancement.  If the candidate’s title history looks like a yoyo, ask about those title changes in the face-to-face interview and follow up that question with an effort to verify whether their base salary moved upward, and  not up and down as well.  

    HINT: The resume will telegraph whether you should be prepared to ask questions regarding salary history.  Although title structure, job responsibility and salary can vary according to the organization, generally, there is almost always a relationship between the salary and true scope of responsibility.  A salary history that is up and down, along with the titles, may indicate that the candidate’s interviewing skills far exceed talent, the ability to execute, or both. Candidates whose most recent base salary is significantly below the minimum for the job for which they are applying are probably not sufficiently experienced to produce the best results. Candidates, especially early careerists or those who are “blatantly upwardly mobile”,  are just as likely to misrepresent their salary history as their successes.

  • Focus on the detail.  Yes, the devil does live in the detail.  As you review the resume, think about  developing questions — I call them truth serum questions — that are framed around the premise of what former employers, employees or colleagues will tell your reference investigators about their performance, their leadership style, personality or behavior.  This can be applied to specific claims of performance or accomplishment.  “When we talk with your former colleagues, what will they tell us about this success?” is a great question when it is based on issues within the resume.

    HINT:  Never accuse.  Never confront. I have found that a slightly apologetic approach works well, especially in the face-to-face interview.  The candidate does not know whether you will or will not call past work associates, but you want them to think about it, and it tends to produce a more realistic response.

© 2010 John Gregory Self