Interviews are widely seen as this nebulous ether that are often a necessary evil. This comes through people either having no clue what to do and always feeling like they are being tasked with making a relatively impossible decision, or using their pseudo-magical time-honored interview techniques that they think will provide secret insight to a person's soul like asking, "If you were a zoo animal, what would you be"? Folks, I'm just going to say it - this question might as well be replaced by asking the candidate if you can read their palm!
I was recently on an interview panel where my role was mostly as an observer. The team all assembled around the conference table with the candidate sitting at the head "hotseat". Pleasantries were exchanged, a few moments of awkward silence, then the breaking of the silence by one of the hiring managers launching into a description of the role and history of the company. This isn't necessarily a bad way to open, but it was followed by a round-table explaining why the company needed the role, and no guided questions from the panel. Luckily, the candidate was well prepared and led the conversation with several open-ended questions that got the panel talking and led to a few mildly relevant questions about the candidates background.
Think about the impact of the time spent with that highly-qualified candidate. Because of their lack of preparedness and coordination they missed what may likely be their only opportunity to determine if this is a person that would bring value to their organization. Additionally, the candidate's ability to evaluate the company was at best inaccurate; at worst they precisely pinpointed a wider inability to coordinate team effort.
I've seen widely varying degrees of this type of thing happening in most every industry. Fortunately, this is an easy problem to solve with a document I call the Interview Success Guide. With just this one tool, your company's whole culture around interviewing will be dramatically transformed for the better in about 20 minutes spent preparing for each open position.
What is an Interview Success Guide
Imagine now that same interview, but this time the candidate came in knowing exactly how to demonstrate how their background can add value to the organization. Additionally, the interview panel knew exactly what to expect and received structured answers from each candidate that give them the ability to compare apples to apples. The interview success guide does exactly this.
Essentially, the Interview Success Guide (ISG) is a set of questions that will be asked to every candidate and is provided to them two days prior to the interview. Ideally, the ISG will start with a paragraph about what to expect in the interview and sets the candidate at ease as much as possible. Remember that candidates are nervous and often need to be put at ease so that they are confident enough to share freely.
After that is accomplished, set out a list of questions that will be asked of every candidate. Explain that there will be other questions that aren't listed, but the listed ones definitely will be asked. Never phrase any of these questions in a way that could be answered with a yes or a no (unless the yes or no is specifically relevant to the job as a non-negotiable). Avoid opening phrases like "Do you think..." or "Is it acceptable to...". Rather, lean on opening words like "how", "why", "describe", "explain", and "talk about a time when...". One of my favorite things to do is to have the candidate prepare an activity that demonstrates their ability. For example if the role is for a position where the candidate will be involved in training employees, have them prepare a two-minute training class for the interview panel. Perhaps you would create a "problem" that is relevant to the they type of scenarios they might encounter in the role and have them demonstrate a "solution".
Ultimately, the answers to these questions can be compared between candidates effectively and provide robust information about their abilities, rather than simply talking about the other places they worked.
How an ISG changes your candidate experience culture
The most important component of an interview is effectively evaluating which candidate will be the most-perfect fit for the role and accomplish the organization's objectives in the most effective manner. Your role as the interviewer is to make it as easy for the candidate to do that as possible; not to put them in uncomfortable positions unnecessarily (trust me, preparing a class or solving a problem tells you plenty about how they react to discomfort).
If you work with your Human Resources department to develop an ISG for each role, interviews will start to be seen as highly productive time of collaboration, get the internal staff excited about meeting new candidates, and increase your team's confidence in their ability to add high-quality people to their team.
Finally, it's important to understand that your company is also being interviewed by the candidate. Often, these are candidates with options. If you come across as flippant, domineering, or unconcerned this will start the relationship off on the wrong foot. Even if they do accept the offer, they will go into every interaction with the company with the expectation of doing things by the seat of their pants. Sending an ISG to your candidate ahead of time is a very easy way to demonstrate that your company is prepared, demands excellence, wants their employees to succeed, and has the added benefit of setting you apart from all of the other potential employers they are interviewing with.