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Are traditional interviews dead?

Published: Wednesday 21st June 2017

Male being interview by a panel

Traditional, ‘structured’ interviews have been the mainstay of the interview process for a long time. But what other types of interview formats can a hirer use? And are reports of the demise of the standard interview accurate? We’d argue no – what has changed dramatically is the process that leads to the traditional interview scenario. Nevertheless, whatever the process, it has led to having a pool of a few likely candidates. What should the next step be?

The structured interview

The classic structured interview is one in which the same set of questions is asked of each candidate. The ‘same questions, same order’ format allows for an interviewer to assess each candidate by the same set of impartial criteria. The standard job interview is also good for a candidate since while they can’t know the exact question they’ll be asked, they can prepare answers to standard interview questions – about themselves, their skills and their experience. Classic questions like ‘what are your strengths & weaknesses’, ‘tell me about a difficult work situation and how you overcame it’ and ‘what are your goals for the future’. Or you might want to throw in some brain-teasers like Google interviewers used to do. Far from dead, structured interviews have changed. Asking a candidate to make a presentation is a good way to get insights into their presentation skills as well as their knowledge set.

Panel interview & one-on-one interviews

The value of a panel interview, even if it’s just yourself and a colleague, is that you can, post-interview, share thoughts on the candidate, especially if your colleague has more technical insights into the role.

Telephone interviews

Because they are such time-savers, these are often the first point in the interview process – and are used to gain an overall idea about candidate suitability. If you are having a conference call with the candidate make sure your phone is suitable – there’s nothing worse from both sides of the coin to struggle with the conversation.

Video interviews

These offer several advantages over phone interview. Foremost has to be that they take place at the convenience of the candidate, and reviewing the interview is at the convenience of the ‘interviewer’, so all the hassle of scheduling is removed. Video interview software is usually priced for the larger business and often requires a monthly commitment.

Competency interviews

These are more ‘scripted’ structured interviews in which the focus is on the candidate’s competency for the position. Questions asked of a candidate are specific to the role or relate to traits required of the role

Assessment centre interviews

This type of interview still has a value especially for the larger recruiter. We cover this type of interview in depth here.

The second interview

You’ve whittled the list of applicants down to the top two or three candidates. The second interview is a chance to reinforce your preliminary decision about a specific candidate. You may again bring in a colleague, or set the candidate a task such as a presentation. Despite all the different interview formats that have passed before, the second interview is frequently as traditional as an interview gets, just a bit more incisive. Also bear in mind throughout the entire interview process you are also selling your company to a potential employee. Job description detail the task, but it’s your job to impart on a potential employee what a great company they might be working for. Second interviews are points at which the candidate will have a chance to ask searching questions about your company; this is your turn to be prepared. Also follow up on any commitments you’ve made to the candidate, for example about letting them know your decision by a certain date. Whatever the interview type, the best approach is to be very clear about the skills you are looking for. Think about how these will benefit a company; employers need to find candidates who will bring tangible benefits to the position.

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