In my experience, some companies underestimate the benefits of a dynamic interview versus a more conventional one based largely on the candidate’s CV.
Reviewing a CV
Certain interviewers have a natural and perfectly understandable tendency to focus their interview almost exclusively on the applicant’s CV (resumé).
That’s because, to some extent, the CV is relatively easy to use as a framework or even agenda for the assessment meeting. You can check that the candidate meets the broad requirements of the post in terms of education and employment history. It’s possible to see things such as their age and an apparent success profile over time.
In other words, a CV can be dissected in the interview on an almost ‘tick-box’ basis. That’s fine but unfortunately, it is only part of the story and there are dangers associated with building your interview entirely based on the CV in front of you. In Europe and North America, the risks of becoming over-focused on the CV and ‘tick-box’ checking are now causing some employers such concern that many are asking their HR departments to redact things such as educational qualifications and even past employment detail from CVs before they’re passed to interviewers. That’s to avoid too heavy an influence being generated by apparently stellar CVs.
The nature of the problem
The difficulty is, the CV is only a story the candidate wishes to share with you. It is essentially cosmetic in nature.
It is extremely unusual to find a CV which objectively highlights career glitches or activities that were less than successful in their outcomes. Such things need to be teased out in discovery through interviews. Additionally, a CV never tells you about the applicant’s personality and cultural fit for your organisation. This dimension in particular is often far more important than what class of university degree the candidate might have achieved say 20 years previously or what was the nature of their role 7 years ago. It’s important to also realise that there is a very high probability that the candidate has extensively rehearsed their CV and will be prepared for potentially all possible questions relating to it. It is their comfort zone and they will be very happy if the interviewer uses it as a virtual script for the session.
Top interview technique tips
Entire libraries have been filled with books on “how to interview”, so here I can only pick out a few key pointers – specifically related to dynamic, as opposed to passive CV-based interviewing.
My approach essentially is designed to move candidates out of their comfort zone and to force them to perform:
- Develop a strategy for the interview and plan your approach. Avoid trying to improvise ‘in-flight’ during the interview itself. That can lead to needing to lean too heavily on the CV as your base;
- Spend 80% of the time listening and only 20% talking. Yes, answer questions and clarify the nature of the role but let the candidate do the talking;
- Ask open-ended questions that require the candidate to discuss, rather than just provide CV-based facts. For example – instead of “how long were you in that role?” try “what were the best and worst aspects of your last role?”;
- Keep in mind that knowledge and delivery capability are not the same thing. Structure your questions to explore not just what they have done but CVs usually talk only about the “what” to try and appear more attractive. However, detailed questions about the “how” tell you just how much the candidate was really involved;
- Always interview with someone else present to assist. This permits you to compare your impressions afterward with someone else’s. This is called “triangulation on the candidate”. If you are the primary decision-maker, let your colleague ask most of the questions while you observe;
- Put the candidate under pressure by asking them to deal with hypothetical scenarios. Examples might include “how would you deal with a difficult situation where...”;
- Be prepared to also make statements that are highly debatable or even wrong, to see if the applicant will be strong enough to push back and challenge you. This gives some insight into an applicant’s attitudes, mindset and character. If they struggle under interview pressure which is mild, they may struggle even more in real life;
- Guard against your own prejudices. Be aware that you may like a candidate by instinct but that does not mean they’re necessarily the best person for the job – and vice-versa.
It is a matter of opinion but some would argue that an interview’s questions should be split perhaps 30% based upon the CV and 70% on more dynamic question scenarios. Ultimately, you should adopt whichever structure will encourage the candidate to display their capacity to deliver.