Key Interview Techniques for Managers (Especially in a COVID Workplace)
Right now, many employers are finding they need to start hiring. Perhaps they need to replace team members who have left (for reasons related to the pandemic or not) or they’re expanding their team (even despite a tough economy). In any hiring initiatives, it’s important for any employer to use the best HR strategies for the process. The hiring process can expose an employer to potential claims of discrimination and lawsuits. Hiring is also one of the most important investments an employer can make: finding the right talent. Below are some time-tested interview techniques for managers from MP’s HR services experts. These tips will keep a business or organization safely in compliance, while facilitating hiring the best possible talent.
Interview Techniques for Managers: Preparation
The most effective interviewing is done with solid preparation. Preparation ensures that every interviewer is on the same page and ready to identify the best candidate to do the job. The first place to start is with the job description. Hiring managers should begin by discussing and updating a job description. They should specifically consider what are the essential and non-essential functions of a role, as well as how this role will contribute to larger organizational goals. Another thing to evaluate is how this role will be affected by COVID. Will remote work be required, and for how long? Lastly, hiring managers need to establish the criteria they’ll use for selection.
As managers review applications and resumes, they should focus on the criteria they’ve already selected. Additionally, they should also be looking for other applicable work experience, training, education, and special skills. On the negative side, it’s important to note long gaps in a resume and if a candidate has done a lot of job-hopping– or anything else that looks like a red flag. A best practice is to keep resumes in an HR management system for one year.
As they prescreen, managers should take steps to ensure they’re able to accurately compare candidates and aren’t discriminating. This can be avoided by asking every candidate the same questions. Asking all candidates the same questions can also help companies mitigate discrimination and work towards diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Questions about past behavior at jobs, achievements, etc. should be saved for during the job interview. (Hiring managers should also refrain from asking if a candidate has been convicted of a crime or asking about salary history. Both can be problematic. In fact, this is illegal in some states like Massachusetts.)
Ideally a pre-screen is very short, just 10-15 minutes. This also shows respect to the candidates. Very few people are ready for a phone interview on the spot. A short prescreen, however, is usually fine. Lastly, hiring managers should make sure they keep candidates informed of next steps. This helps build trust and a positive relationship.
When they schedule interviews, employers should consider who will be the best people to conduct them. Managers and coworkers that the role will be working closely with are good options. If the employer is operating out of their workplace, a private place that’s free of distractions should be reserved for the interview. It’s also required by law that the interview location be accessible to individuals with disabilities. If the employer is doing the interview remotely, they should do their best to aim for the same. It’s best for hiring managers who are interviewing remotely to pick a quiet place where there won’t be interruptions. They should make sure their background is professional. This means, for example, picking a blank wall and removing things like bottles of alcohol or family photos from the frame. Technology should be tested before the interview and the interviewer must have a strong internet connection that won’t cut out or lose audio or video.
Interviewing Techniques for Managers: The Interview
Making the candidate feel comfortable: When people recount interview tips for managers, they frequently talk about making the candidate feel comfortable. This can be done remotely or in-person. The candidate should feel like they have some privacy and they’re not being watched or listened in on by other members of the team. Interviewers should make sure the candidate feels like they have plenty of time to answer questions and think about what they’ll say. An interviewer can help create a positive rapport by using non-verbal gestures to show attentiveness. Nodding, maintaining eye contact, etc. can be powerful. They’re also subtle enough that they don’t convey promises. While the candidate should feel comfortable, it’s important not to make any promises or to give them any clues that they have definitely landed the job. Making promises is obviously problematic when the hiring process isn’t anywhere near complete. Managers can also make the candidate feel more comfortable by clearly sharing next steps, whether that be another interview or a response in a week or two. Clear communication helps ease a candidate’s anxiety and begins to build a positive rapport with them.
Virtual tips: When it’s a virtual interview, the hiring manager should dress appropriately and operate out of a quiet place with no distractions. In-person interviews will allow the employer to show off their company culture as the candidate walks through the building. To give the employee a good idea of company culture in a remote interview, the interviewer should dedicate some time to talk about it directly, or even introduce the candidate to other team members. During virtual interviews, a hiring manager can ask a few questions to gauge if a candidate is ready to work partially or fully remotely. These are:
- Have you ever worked remotely? If so, what changes have helped you adapt to an at-home work environment?
- What aspects about working from home do you enjoy, and which do you find most challenging?
- When working remotely, how do you organize your day?
COVID: In today’s world, COVID is a concern in the interviewing process, too. Employers may require a candidate to get a COVID test, but only after making a conditional offer. So if they’re concerned about exposure to the virus, they should do an interview remotely. If a candidate does receive an offer and accepts, it’s fine for any employer to delay their start date if the new hire has COVID-like symptoms or a positive COVID test. If the new hire needs to start immediately but are positive for COVID (or likely to be positive for COVID), an employer can terminate the hiring agreement. Whatever the case may be, employers must remember that any medical screening, whether a temperature check or a COVID test result, must be treated like a confidential medical record.
Evaluate interviews: To make the most out of interviews, it can help to establish a formula for rating applicants and their responses before conducting interviews. Systems for evaluation also help avoid bias because everyone is operating off objective evaluation criteria. Throughout the interview, hiring managers should take notes, recording what they like about a candidate and what their concerns are. In evaluating candidates during the pandemic, some employers might wonder if they can choose not to hire somebody because they refuse to work onsite. The answer is yes, as long as the employer is consistent in this criterion. Employers should also watch out for situations in which the ADA might apply. If a candidate could perform the job, but they may just need a reasonable accommodation during the pandemic, that’s worth noting.
Behavioral interviewing: This tactic is about truly understanding how an employee will perform when on the job. The best predictor of performance is past behavior. Hiring managers can obtain this data by asking questions about an employee’s previous jobs. These questions are meant to replace closed-ended, hypothetical, cognitive, and personality questions—all of which don’t reveal much useful data anyways. Interviewers should use their list of required skills and personality characteristics for the job, then base their questions around them. They should ask how a candidate handled real situations in the past. If a candidate doesn’t provide much detail, hiring managers can use follow-up questions to dig deeper into a candidate’s response. These are some examples of questions:
- Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
- Give me an example of a time when you made an error. How did you handle it?
- How comfortable are you with change? Give an example.
- Describe a difficult time you have had dealing with an employee, customer, or coworker. Why was it difficult? How did you handle it? What was the outcome? This is big if they need to work collaboratively.
- How do you determine priorities in scheduling your time? Give me an example. Right now, when you’re managing remotely, can they keep themselves on track and prioritize?
The ‘STAR’ approach: This tactic goes together with behavioral interviewing. STAR stands for ‘situation, task, action, result.’ The interviewer asks a candidate what they did in a certain situation, requestion details on what the candidate did and what the result was. An example of a STAR question is, “Describe a situation when you had to deliver excellent customer service following a complaint.”
Interview Techniques for Mangers: Next Steps
After a candidate has been selected, hiring managers should take a few steps.
- Social media checks: Decide what the company wants to know from social media. Usually the most helpful information is just corroborating that the candidate did indeed work the jobs they said did, and for as long as they did. A party that is NOT affiliated with the hiring process should then be assigned to look at the candidate’s social media and report back only on the predetermined information. This practice helps the hiring committee avoid discriminating based on anything a candidate might share on their social media, such as political or religious affiliations, age, etc.
- Reference checks: These are important for the hiring process and to protect the company from accusations of negligent hiring. A reference check will quickly reveal if a candidate might be likely to do such things as sexually harass coworkers, become violent, etc.
- Background checks: When extending a candidate an offer, it should include language indicating that the offer is contingent upon a clear background check. This can an include drug tests, criminal background checks, and credit checks.
Interview Techniques for Managers: Mitigating Risk
The hiring process can increase risk for lawsuits, complaints, and tarnishing an employer’s reputation online. Here are a few considerations to watch out for.
Work with your HR consulting team to make sure you’re not violating these laws
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
- Uniformed Services Employment and reemployment rights act (USERRA)
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
- Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA)
- Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Illegal or inappropriate interview questions for managers
Some of the questions listed below may not even seem problematic. Even those that do look concerning might be easy to accidentally ask. Often, hiring managers mistakenly ask illegal or inappropriate questions when they’re very comfortable with the candidate. If they’re connecting well with them, they may let their guard down and forget the boundaries between professional and personal. These questions (and similar iterations) should all be avoided.
- Are you married? Do you have kids?
- Where were you born? What country are you from?
- How old are you? When did you graduate?
- Which religious holidays do you observe?
- What are your childcare arrangements?
- Do you have any medical conditions?
- Have you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim?
- What type of transportation do you use?
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