Are you a job applicant participating in, or an employer conducting, an interview?  Do you understand what you need to do to conduct an awesome interview?  Many applicants and clients that I work with benefit from discussions focused on improved interview skills.

Depending on which side of the table you sit the dynamic is usually the same – to start anyway.  When an employer decides to hire an employee there are several activities that should precede this decision.  Employers and job applicants benefit when they pay attention to these activities.

What Function Will The Position Fulfill?

First, we need to understand that every function within a company is the result of a focus to produce or deliver a product or service.  The company has most likely developed a mission, a vision, a series of goals, and a purpose; along with strategies to achieve these goals and an action plan that implements those goals.

Define The Position

Next, as part of an action plan certain functions will be grouped into categories that develop into a job, perhaps even a job description.  Once the job is defined and the employer understands how it relates to the achievement of company goals the company then needs to recruit someone to perform the job.

Determine Desired Attributes, Talents, Values, and Behaviors 

Before the recruitment process occurs, however, a smart hiring practice determines the type and kind of attributes, talents, values, and behaviors the employer needs in the position to make sure that the position is effectively accomplished.

As the employer develops these functions and categories they can identify, for example, that a particular job will require applicants to have an empathetic outlook, accurate listening skills, freedom from prejudice, and a talent for developing others.  The position may require someone who is persuasive and inspiring as well as stable and consistent.  Finally, the position may require someone who values helping others and seeks balance and harmony while seeking a moderate level of order and structure.

Once the talents, values, and behaviors, and occupational skills are understood the employer can devise a series of behavioral and competency-based questions and dialogue to use in the interview process.

Similarly every applicant can benefit in the interview process by understanding his own talents, values, and behaviors so that he can present his capabilities and interests in a position effectively.  If an applicant, along with the requisite occupational skills, has talents, values, and behaviors that match those required by the position chances are that there will be an effective position – person match.

Seeking Alignment – Person-Future Fit

A central focus to the interviewing process is to seek alignment between a company’s needs and an applicant’s current needs and future interests.  We advise clients to ask a series of questions that are geared to identify an applicant’s future position responsibilities as well as asking the applicant what talents she believes she has that will enable her to achieve her future vision, and what talents does she believe she is strong in.

Six Types Of Questions

Job interviews typically use six types’ of questions.  We encourage use of these questions on the application form as well as during the interview process.  For certain positions we suggest that the applicant should write out the response so that you can go over it in the interview. These questions and this process will help to identify their behavioral tendencies, their values, and their talents.

Here are the six common interviewing questions –

  1. Credential verification – ask and expect accuracy.
  2. Experience verification – this verifies experiential features of his background for instance position responsibilities.
  3. Opinion – these present the opportunity to subjectively analyze how he would respond to a scenario.
  4. Dumb Questions – yup, these get past his pre-programmed answers to find out his capability of original thought.
  5. Behavioral –these questions anticipate predictable future behaviors based on his past responses.
  6. Competency – these identify alignment of his past behaviors with specific competencies required for the position (problem solving, leading, initiative, etc.).

For their part applicants need to understand how their own talents, behavioral preferences, and values fit (or not) a job position’s talent, behaviors, and values requirements.  Similarly an applicant should understand that they will be most effective when they are maximizing the use of their dominant talents, their behavioral preferences, and their values.

When companies and job applicants have not paid attention to the activities listed above the results of the interview process usually is less than optimal.  Employers may look for a personality fit and not focus on whether an applicant has the required talents.  An applicant may tell the employer that he can do everything – when in fact – he cannot.  Mismatches usually result in frustration experienced – by the employer and the employee.

Try to avoid these typical interview mistakes by following the activities suggested, make the effort to compile a complete job description, ask effective questions, and learn how to conduct awesome interviews.  Better yet – retain an executive search firm.