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The Importance of the Interviewer
William E. Miller

There is no substitute for a skillful interviewer who understands your company’s culture and the human characteristics that the job requires…no substitute! Managers always seem to be looking for the hiring panacea… the pre-employment test, the latest hiring process fad, the web-based application center, or the high priced recruiting firm… but nothing can replace the benefits of a good interviewer.

Companies would be well advised to not to spend a penny on hiring aids until they have established the internal competency of effective interviewing. To avoid terrible and costly hiring mistakes, your hiring process should be staffed by effective interviewers who know what they’re doing.

Good hiring decisions depend on open candid discussion, relevant facts, and accurate information. Getting those facts isn’t easy. It takes skill. Organizations that hire well create an environment that facilitates open conversation between job candidates and interviewers. Their hiring process fosters a sense of trust and security that facilitates the candid flow of information.

Employee Turnover: Performance Enemy Number One

Peak performance begins with surrounding yourself with talented people who are compatible with your company’s culture and who have the skills needed to succeed in the job. Excessive employee turnover ends all hope of developing peak performance. Two major reasons for people quitting is 1) they hate the job and can’t perform well or 2) they hate the person they work for. An effective hiring process is your best defense and firewall against both of these problems.

Most of us have left jobs. We’ve seen employees come and go. Most of them liked their job when they started out. But something happened that caused them to quit, especially if they quit a short time after they were hired. Why do people leave?

Research has provided us with some answers…

  • Some people leave because they felt that they were not appreciated.
  • People leave because they think the job is too difficult and they couldn’t perform as well as other employees.
  • Some leave because they never felt accepted and didn’t fit in.
  • People leave because they think that they have better opportunities elsewhere.
  • But many times they leave because they were poorly hired and shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Employee turnover is an expensive proposition. According to research by Cornell University and The American Management Association, direct turnover costs range from one third of an hourly employee’s annual income to 150 percent of a manager’s annual salary, depending upon the complexity of the job. The costs of turnover impact all of us. It impacts the profitability and value of the company. Turnover impacts quality and customer relations. It is a huge inconvenience to active employees causing them to work longer and harder to make up for the loss. Excessive turnover destroys the spirit of teamwork.

Performance Leadership Hiring Discipline

We have developed a very simple model that explains what a good hiring system looks like. It isn’t “rocket science”. Hiring effectively involves doing two things very well… 1) a thorough understanding of the job and … 2) a thorough assessment and understanding of job candidates. It boils down to knowing what you’re looking for and knowing whether the candidate measures up to those requirements. Like we said, it isn’t rocket science.

Companies that hire well take time to identify the skills and attributes that they’re looking for. I’m always amazed when I talk to managers with interviewing responsibility and they actually have no idea what they’re looking for in successful candidates. They rely on their instincts, pet theories, or some quick-fix hiring tool they picked up along the way. It’s like they’re driving to a distant vacation resort without a road map. I think you can predict the outcome.

Good hiring depends upon a thorough job analysis that defines the human attributes needed to succeed. Then that knowledge is distilled down to a small list of the most important job requirements that we call “hiring standards.” Hiring standards form the foundation of the entire hiring system and help you identify candidates compatible with your company’s culture and values, and the specific skills and attributes that the job requires. When we know what we’re looking for, good hiring depends upon good hiring processes staffed by managers with solid interviewing skills and tools to support them. Through dialogue with candidates, they can accurately predict a candidate’s probability of success.

The Objective of the Interview

Too many interviewers misunderstand the real objective of interviewing. A disconnect exists between what the interviewer thinks he should be doing and the outcome we should expect from a good interview. I think that this misunderstanding is a root cause of bad interviews and a serious flaw handicapping the interviewer’s judgment. Too many interviewers approach their assignment believing that their role is deciding who should be hired. They approach the interview through the eyes of someone with the power to make a hiring decision, which is a big mistake.  

The objective of the interview is not to decide who you will hire. Some interviewers are vested with the authority to reject candidates from consideration. This is not the same as deciding who you will hire. But all interviewers are vested with the authority to investigate and gather relevant facts. The true objective of interviewing is gathering relevant information, facts, and data to help the hiring manager make an intelligent hiring decision.

The art of conducting a good interview is like the art of conducting a good investigation. It’s a discovery procedure designed to get the facts and the truth. It’s a time to separate fact from fantasy. But getting the facts straight isn’t as easy as it seems. The hiring situation is working against you.

First, there is always tension in the air. Do you remember your last interview? Some interviewers and candidates handle it very well. But nevertheless, the tension is still there. Interviews are not fun. While we are grateful to have them, they are not something we look forward to. If I were a candidate, I’d compare it to a trip to the dentist for a root canal. I know that it might be painful, but I’ve chosen to go through it anyway. It’s a very intense situation.

But there’s good reason for the tension. Interviews are important and should be taken very seriously by both you and the candidate. Job changes are life-changing events for everyone involved, whether the candidate is desperate for the job or you are desperate to fill it. People’s lives are affected, families are affected, and there is always the risk of failure. Everyone is putting their best foot forward in a job interview – or at least they should be. The candidate wants to impress you, and you want to impress the candidate – or a least you should be. But if you’re not careful, making good impressions by putting your best foot forward could cause everyone to trip over their own feet.