The interview: What are you listening for?

Recruitment builds businesses, but not if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

The interview

The interview is the most human part of any recruitment process, but too often employers and prospective employees rely on the same old tropes: clear speech, eye contact, a firm handshake. Dependence on these qualities, whilst no doubt important, can lead to subjectivity errors. So, what is it that interviewers should be listening for?

Have a plan, first and foremost. This might sound basic – patronising even – but think about the responses you want to hear in advance. Interrogate why it is that you ask the questions you ask and what it is that you are looking for in a candidate. Don’t be reflexive in interviews, be programmatic.

A proper interview process feels especially necessary in the world of online video calls. It is harder than ever to ‘judge’ or ‘sense’ who might be best suited for a role – people are stressed, Wi-Fi problems and home-schooled kids can intrude at any moment. Consistency in questioning and judgement makes the job of interviewing fairer and the results more reliable.

How to interview

But none of this answers the question: what is it that interviewers should be listening for? And that’s because the answer is: whatever the research tells you.

Ultimately, the key is creating a research based interview process that informs recruitment by drawing from the culture of your organisation. Using focus groups and semi-structured interview sessions, you can better understand your workplace; understanding the workplace is the first step in understanding who it is that you should want to enter it.

The strength-based interview is the ideal resource for this process, allowing a fuller psychological picture of the candidate to emerge, and enabling the interviewer to match the work-place specific qualities required with those candidates professing to possess those same qualities.

Whilst your interviews should be programmatic, the idea is to get the candidate answering questions instinctively. A candidate who really is competitive will not hesitate when asked to rank their competitiveness on a scale of one to ten. If competition is an important part of motivating your workplace, the super-competitive candidate might ideal, if they are potentially entering a more team-based environment, then perhaps not.

The spontaneity of the question and answer flow reveals a more honest appraisal of the candidates’ passions, strengths and weaknesses. The traditional competency based interview is more rehearsed and stilted, with greater space for the candidate to tailor responses to what they perceive the interviewer wants to hear.

Positive psychology

Much of this is grounded in the positive psychology movement, which came out of the American psychological profession around the turn of the millennium. Pioneered by figures such as Martin Seligman (former President of the American Psychological Association) and Christopher Peterson, senior fellow at the Positive Psychology Centre, positive psychology has sought to provide a theoretical framework for understanding and engendering happiness.

Happiness is, for Seligman, inseparable from meaningful engagement, positive relationships and personal productivity. Accordingly, in 2011 he pushed David Cameron to pursue well-being as a form of financial wealth that should be central to any functioning economy.

These insights may seem common-sensical, but they are less widely applied in the workplace than they should be. A coherent recruiting policy should seek to incorporate Seligman’s notion of well-being as connected to the creation of a meaningful environment, thus matching suitable personality types to the relevant workplace culture in order to secure future engagement.

Listen up: the interview can undoubtedly be the first step in this process, but not if you don’t know what it is you’re actually listening for.

Give us a call at PACC on 0161 883 1149 to see whether we can help create the right interview for you.