5 Ways A Recruiter Can Improve Their Interview Technique

Last week I had a very interesting debate with Hung Lee of Wise_Man_Say regarding the relevance of face-to-face interviews as a credible assessment tool in the selection processes of today.


One of Hung’s arguments is that, for technical roles at least, a face-to-face interview is pointless.  They’re conducted because it’s a case of, “we’ve always done it this way”.  Again, with technical roles at least, Hung is of the opinion we should do away with face-to-face interviews all together and have solely role related tests / practical assessments in their stead to assess a candidate’s suitability for a technical position.


I argued, technical role or not, the face-to-face interview, if done well is still, and will always be a vital piece of the selection puzzle – if only at a very basic, elementary level of checking team, cultural and or ethical compatibility.  An IT programmer could be the best coder on the planet.  If he / she doesn’t have the skills and attitude to compliment the team and proceeds to negatively impact the group’s dynamics – motivation, moral and productivity of the individual and / or team could be disastrously impacted.  This is just one element a face-to-face will always help you get closer to understanding.  It’s not the be-all-and-end-all of assessing team / cultural suitability but combine this with behavioural profiling and other group assessments and you’ll significantly improve the probability of recruiting someone who helps the teams dynamics as opposed to hindering it. 

I won’t go into further details of the conversation I had with Hung as he’s in the processes of publishing the recorded Skype conversation.  I’ll let you know when it’s up and where to find it. (unless I come across as a complete arse. In which case I’ll deny any such  interview ever took place… What interview? [*eyes shifting left to right*])


It has got me thinking though.  A face-to-face interview is one of many instruments availble in your selection tool kit.  Like many tools, if you’re not trained on how to use it or don’t use it properly the results are usually pretty shoddy.


For many it’s a case of picking up a CV two minutes before walking into an interview, sitting in front of a candidate, ask them some BS questions along the lines of strengths and weaknesses and instantly making a clear cut judgement about whether that individual is suited to the role they’re recruiting for. (*shuddering at the thought*).  The chances are that by using this method you’ll probably strike it lucky and make a decent hire now-and-again but this will be mainly down to luck than anything else.


I’m not going to sit here and preach about all the different interview methodologies, techniques and theories one could adopt to improve their interviewing skills.  There are literally thousands of books and blogs etc on the subject.  What I am going to do though is preach about ahem, share some tips and disciplines that, if followed, could increase not only the objectivity of your face-to-face interviews but the probability of you looking for / assessing the right things when a candidate is sat in front of you:


  • Always be mindful of the fact there are candidates who are very good at getting a job.  Then there are those who are very good at doing the job.  Ideally you’ll find someone who’s both but they’re much rarer then someone who excels at one or the other. If you do you’ve made a great hire.  Similarly,  If you recruit someone who’s the latter then again, excellent.  From what I’ve witnessed over the years many recruitment decisions are based on the former (and yes, I include myself in that observation).


I’m sure we’ve all had experiences we’re we’ve hired someone because we got on with them at the interview stage.  Then, six months into the role, he or she were still great people but couldn’t / struggled to achieve what was required of them in the first place.

1) Getting the job traits – articulate, amiable, assertive, appearance, good hand shake etc.  

2) Doing the job traits– leadership, drive, time management, hitting targets and objectives, organisational, and planning skills, problem solving, motivating others etc.


Be conscious of this and ensure you’re not basing you’re recruitment decision purely on the former.  If you do the chances are you’ll employ someone solely based on their presentation skills.  Which is great if you’re looking for a presenter but i’m guessing, on most occasions, you’ll be looking for someone with more strings to their bow.


  • Very much linked to the above, too many candidates are assessed based on the relationship / rapport they are able to strike up with the interviewer.  Many of us have heard of Horns vs Halos, Fight or Flight etc.  If first impressions are positive the interviewer becomes chattier, the questions potentially become easier.  A decision on whether to accept the candidate is based on the “Getting…” factors mentioned above.  Conversely, if first impressions are poor the barriers go up. Questions may become harder and the interview goes out of their way to find evidence to support their initial perception that the individual sat before them lacks the necessary competencies.


My challenge to you? Be really disciplined on this one. Take those first impressions (we’re all human after all and can’t switch off this natural reaction) but park them.  Write them down somewhere at the beginning of the interview and refer to it again at the end to compare with your final thoughts.  Unless the candidate is a complete and utter no-no, don’t make a decision about them until after the 1st half-an-hour of meeting them.


  • Hypothetical questions are good for one thing and one thing only.  They could show an interviewer if a candidate has good problem solving skills.  They do not prove a candidate will act or behave in a certain way in a certain situation at some point in the unknown future. Just because a candidate says they will do something in 5 weeks time if X Y or Z happens doesn’t mean they actually will.  Instead of asking them what they would do if something happened simply switch the question around.  Ask them for specific examples where they’ve encountered that situation and what they actually did. What were the results? What were the challenges? What were the biggest lessons and how did they change as a result? Etc etc.


  • A “no” will always carry more weight than a, “yes” in the decision making process.  Think about it.  If there are 3 stages or several interviewers in a room the candidate will need 3 “yes” votes to be successful but only one “no” will blow them out of the water.  Because of this demand greater justification for a “no” verdict.  A “no” can soemtimes be the easy option – it encourages laziness and is a very easy get-out for people with poor / lazy interview skills.  Shift the focus towards greater justification for a, ” no” and you’ll make it harder for poor interviewers to hide behind it.


  • The dreaded “gut”.  I don’t know about you but the worst feedback I can get from a hiring manager is,” I can’t quite put my finger on it but my gut’s telling me he / she isn’t right”  Nooooo! Have you ever tried going back to a candidate with that crappy feedback? How would you feel if you were on the receiving end?  Look, I appreciate the gut will always play a part but let it be 10 -15% of the decision making process, not 80 – 90%.  Again, as with the “no” above, demand evidence before accepting someone’s gut feel – positive or negative.  For example, instead of settling for, “my gut tells me this person won’t fit into the culture here,” get something along the lines of, “based of evidence obtained during the interview I don’t believe the candidate will be able to cope with the time pressures, restrictions in resources (financial and / or human) and lack of direction they’ll have to work with to successfully achieve the objectives of this role.”


Obviously there are many other ways to improve the quality and objectivity of your interview but for me, keeping these select few front of mind really helped step-change by ability to conduct more robust, objective interviews and make some excellent hires. I’ll admit, I’ve made the odd clanger as well. Show me a recruiter who hasn’t but when I have it’s usually because I’ve dropped one of the balls described above.


What are the techniques you use to ensure your interviews are assessing the correct qualities in the candidates you meet? Let’s share best practice, ideas and tips in the comments section below.


Also, do you agree with Hung? Do you believe interviews are rather passe’ and don’t have a place in today’s recruitment society or, like me do you believe they still play an integral part in the process.  Again,  you know where to go.  Leave your comments below.


Hungry for more?  Check me out at www.trecknowledgy.com - training and coaching through recruitment complexities.  Follow on Twitter @TRecKnowledgy

Views: 2515

Comment by Alan on June 10, 2011 at 11:19am
Statistically if you were to line up all the candidates, single file and randomly choose the candidate to hire the odds are you will produce the same results as any method or integration/combination of selection methods you choose. I believe 3rd party recruiters should advocate for the candidate and the corporate recruiter/hiring manager should assess the candidate. This can never be the best system nor will it be the worst. But it's use by the legal and academic systems has been time/evidence tested and has been accepted at least by Western society.   
Comment by Jon Kaspszak on June 15, 2016 at 1:54pm

Thanks for the wrap up on interview techniques. I came across this interview app at http://interq.io. It's really helped me break the ice during the interview. Something to check out. 


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2021   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service