I am a career coach specializing in the interview process. Recently, I was approached by a company for help in improving its interviewing practices. Toward that end, I prepared the necessary instructional material. But because it’s a first for me, I thought that—before I go live with it, and to see how it would go—it would be smart to test the procedure on members of a job-search networking group I’ve been leading for the past ten years.
The primary premise behind the idea of a uniform and structured interviewing system is that all interviewers use the same, predetermined, selected questions. Once a candidate interview is over, the members of the interviewing team get together for a consensus meeting at which the decision makers talk over what they heard the candidate say, what their individual interpretations are, and the team conclusion they wish to come to.
This is a very powerful exercise because it contributes to the creation, shaping, and carrying out of the organizational culture. From what the interviewers heard, they can determine whether the candidate has the required communication and job-specific skills for the job, the required level of motivation, and the required amount of fit with the corporate culture. Nowadays, corporate-culture fit is one of the most crucial components of the hiring-decision-making process.
So, at a recent group networking meeting, we role-played mock interviewing. One of the members took on the role of the candidate, and eight other members took turns asking the preselected interview questions. The interviewers paid close attention to the candidate’s answers and took notes based on their personal interpretations. The mock interview lasted about an hour, after which we held the consensus meeting and compared notes. The first question we asked ourselves was whether we should call the candidate back for a second interview. And here’s where I became utterly shocked: First, may I say that I am known as a tough grader. My standards are very high, and it is difficult to please me. In this particular case, I rated the candidate relatively high. However, four out of the eight interviewers concluded that the candidate did not meet their expectations and should not be called back for the second interview.
What we can learn from this experiment is that even if job candidates themselves and some of the interviewers conclude that an interview went well, some others of the interviewers have very different vantage points: what seems logical and obvious to one can turn out to seem the very opposite to someone else. So then, what is it that can help the candidate? Luck—and lots of it.