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Techniques and methods of interviewing

Irina Kostenko


We have previously considered the topic on organizing and conducting interviews, which disclosed incremental steps in this process. Now we propose methods and techniques of conducting interviews with the candidates in detail, that is, on how to use right questions to determine eligibility of candidate profile with vacancies and vice versa - does your position correspond with candidate’s expectations. Conversation structure during interview defines correctness of decision on hiring applicant to work or rejecting, especially if interview is the only tool for selection between candidates.

In practice of human resource management there are four main techniques of recruitment:

1. British - based on obtaining information on biographical data of candidate, as follows: where and which family the candidate comes from, which traditions and values it has, where he lived and studied, etc. Qualifications commission conduct interviews. On the basis of these data, decision on hiring is taken.

2. American - emphasis is on candidate having intellectual and creative abilities that are tested through psychological testing and monitoring candidate in an informal setting (behavior at presentation, corporate event, lunch, etc.).

3. German - characterized by increased bureaucracy. Before candidate falls for personal interview, he takes a considerable amount of necessary procedures and collects a large set of documents with recommendations of well-known personalities from spheres of education, politics, science, technology (scientists, politicians, heads of well-known companies, etc.). Selection process involves not only a responsible representative of employer, but a whole group of experts that reviews submitted documents.

4. Chinese - a basic value for employers is knowledge of applicant about history of country and culture, its literary classics, as well as written literacy. To check this, candidates write corresponding compositions. The final step is selection of essay on topic of future work. If positive result of qualifying stages listed candidates are invited for a personal interview.

Along with using different tests, questionnaires and analysis of recommendations, an interview with candidate is the most important tool. In order that it does not become a regular conversation about life, issues, weather, etc., you need to plan structure of interview and think, with help of some questions you will be able to assess whether candidate profiles for job. Now in public domain there are a lot of articles about how to behave in interview, how to answer questions, answers to the most desirable match for recruiters. Therefore, candidates often come prepared for interview, having previously memorized answers. Recruiters, in turn, develop new approaches to structure and procedure of interview, without giving candidates an opportunity to use prepared answers to standard questions.

Format of interview can be:

- Structured. Is conducted strictly according to the plan drawn up in advance. They discuss prepared questions and they usually concern only professional competencies. At the same time, personal characteristics and motivators of candidate are almost of no attention;

- Unstructured. Is in the form of free conversation, only the main topic of conversation is marked in advance. Danger of this format is that laid-back tone and nature of interview can draw conversation away from its main theme. For recruiter in this case it is necessary to be able to properly stop interlocutor and return conversation in constructive way;

- Combined. The most appropriate format, in which following with prepared plan, professional qualities of candidate's skills are estimated as a free conversation clarifies values, priorities and motivations.

Next, we consider the most common methods of conducting interviews with candidates.

Interview on Competency. This method consists of conversation, during which they analyze candidate’s behavior in real work situations: how they make decisions, how coming out of conflict situations, whether they know how to smooth out, able to operate in a frequently changing environment, tight deadlines, under pressure and so on. Applying this method is preceded by development of a competency model, that is, those characteristics (skills, abilities, personality traits, behavioral characteristics) that are needed to perform a specific job. Competence must be measurable and succinctly articulated, it must be possible to evaluate them on a certain scale, and not just say "yes" or "no." To do this, each competence must be disclosed and described. For example, a "delegation" may be interpreted as "ability to efficiently allocate responsibility for decision-making and related duties appropriate to this subordinates or colleagues". To assess each competency behavioral indicators are developed - standards of behavior that are inherent in actions of person with specific competence. Indicators are: style and manner of behavior, response, action in any given situation. Candidate is also asked to talk about the past experiences, asking questions and making emphasis on those points that serve as indicator of presence or lack of competence, degree of their development.

Here is an example of assessing competence of "customer-oriented".

Description: ability to identify and meet client’s needs.

Behavioral indicators:

- Ability to respond promptly to all requests and inquiries of clients, respecting due dates;

- Knowledge of client's business, a complete picture of situation on market, knowledge of competitors;

- Ability to realistically assess client needs and propose alternatives, creating conditions for successful implementation of project;

- Ability to convincingly defend each point of project budget, propose solutions to efficiently optimize it;

- Ability to hold meetings with customers and consolidate results (pre-compile and sent to client a list of questions for discussion, a list of persons present at the meeting, summed up meeting and outlined next steps, report prepared within 24 hours after meeting).

Examples of questions to assess this competence:

A) Describe a situation where you had to work with a difficult client, what happened or whether or not there was a mutually positive outcome.

B) Are there clients with whom you are friends? Do you think that this has contributed?

B) Think of a situation where client refused to work with your company because you have not been able personally to find a common language with him.

D) Describe a situation when you went against wishes of customer contrary to rules adopted by company. What was your decision justified with and what were consequences?

And other questions alike.

 Length of interview is on average two hours and depends on number of competencies considered. This technique is most appropriate for assessing managers.

Situational or Case interview. Built on use of case studies. You describe for candidate a work situation that has already happened or could happen in your company/department and propose to solve it or to describe his behavior. Using this method, we can estimate not only qualifications of candidate, but also his potential. That is, applicant’s answers help determining whether he is able to cope with a situation, which previously did not happen, able to find optimal solution quickly, would this decision be consistent with behavior adopted by company, which tools he will need, etc. Of course, there is a risk that, being in real situation, candidate will behave differently under influence of emotion on new project, new environment, etc. Anyway, direction and his thoughts are the same.

Information obtained when using this technique, can be used to:

- predict candidate’s behavior;

- evaluate his strengths and weak sides requiring development;

- Assess whether applicant is able to analyze and see the cause and not just what is on surface of situation;

- To determine his moral, ethical, business principles that guide candidate, making decisions, and availability of leadership and managerial instincts.

 Projective interview. In this case, projection is perceived as a man's inclination to transfer his experience, values and beliefs for explanation and justification of actions of others, fictional characters, situations. Questions are formulated in a manner which involves assessment not you, but people in general, or some characters. Thus, candidate behaves more relaxed and liberated in atmosphere of light and easy communication on stepping topics that, in his opinion, does not belong to candidate directly. As part of this procedure by asking the right questions, recruiter knows about: motivation of applicant (tangible or intangible), relationship "manager - employee", values "honesty – loyalty”, interaction in team (especially dealing with people), behavior in conflicts, and interaction with customers. Questions are to be asked at a rapid pace, not giving much time to think. Candidate may provide a few options, but the first thing he would say, will be the primary motivation, a significant factor. Questions should assume full answers. Also, do not set them in thematic clusters, for example, few questions in a row to assess motivation, they need to be alternated.

Advantages of this technique are that it implies less likely socially desirable responses (candidate thinks he is not talking about himself but about the situation in general, so does not try to please recruiter), makes it possible to correlate expectations of applicant from working with real activity and analyze motivation of future employee.

The following are examples of projective questions and evaluated factors.

projective question

assessed factors

What makes people work?


Why do some people work with pleasure?


Why do people return their debts?

Honesty, integrity

Why in absence of director the staff works in normal rhythm?

Independence, responsibility

In what situations lies is justified?

assumption of deception, values, morality

Why do people want to make a career?

Motivation in career development, commitment

Stress interview. Perhaps the most difficult method from a technical point of view. Its essence is to create in course of interview as much psychological tense atmosphere and assess candidate’s reaction, his self-control, style and manner of behavior in unusual situations. Difficulty for recruiters is that this method is very close to limits of tactlessness and rudeness. In conversation with candidate it is very important not to go beyond the correct and appropriate. You can create necessary atmosphere in different ways, for example:

- You have a constantly ringing phone, and you decide with loud tone your work issues or get a candidate to wait long for interview;

- You are constantly interrupting candidate with new questions on half of his answer to the previous question;

- An interview there is a large number of representatives from employer, which in itself is uncomfortable for candidate;

- You ask provocative questions such as: Why should we hire you? Why you're better than the other candidates? Why should we pay you the exact amount that is listed in CV? What salary do you deserve? Why? Do you consider yourself a qualified worker for our position? etc.

Only highly trained specialists with extensive experience in recruitment should use this technique. Beginners and untrained recruiters can only harm the reputation of company. This technique is not appropriate for all candidates, but only for those whose work is substandard and is associated with permanent emotional and psychological stress (sales experts to work with clients, insurance agents, operators of call-centers, etc.). At the end of interview an applicant must necessarily make it clear that it was conducted in format of a stress interview, justify need for this procedure, and apologize for incorrect questions, thus removing accumulated tension and negativity. Risk of this technique is ability to get an employee with a very low self-esteem, who agrees to do all you like, but he would have a job, or alienate potentially interesting candidates.

Analysis of meta-programs holds a special place in selection of staff, ie, internal characteristics, ways of thinking, which is built on basis of human behavior, dividing information into meaningful and secondary. This technique deserves special attention in this article will focus only on its basic characteristics. Here are some examples of meta-programs for diagnosis of candidates:

- Type of reference (internal, external, mixed): ratio of own and other people's opinions when making decisions, and self-esteem of person;

- Process - outcome: that is focused on employee: on procedure of work or on achievement of results;

- Aspiration - Avoidance: focus on search for positive assessment of issue, positive characteristics and advantages or error negativity;

- Procedures - possibilities: which way people used to solve problem: typical, familiar, everyday, or search for new solutions to typical problems;

- Single - Manager - Team player: shows nature of human interaction in team work, with whom he identifies result (my merit (I suggested implemented), and we have been successful (our result - result of team work).

Starting point for determining the type of interview is profile of position. Depending on which set of skills are to be assessed, they selected method when it is possible to use as a technique and combine elements of different techniques. The main thing - to interview in such way as to determine suitability of candidate with profile of position.

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