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Effective Interviewing, Part One: Why This Matters

A bad interview can cause you to lose your best job candidate.

Published on: Sep 9, 2013

New college graduate Johnny walked into his professor's office and laid out a bombshell. He had dreamed of working at this one farm for years, and he finally had a chance to go interview for a job there. It would be his dream job – or so he thought.

"I will never work for that operation," he said, disappointedly. "They're going to make me an offer, but it doesn't matter how much they offer me. They don't know what they want. Everyone seemed to want to convince me that they were right and the person I just talked to was wrong."

Welcome to Interview Hell. Interviewing may be just one part of the hiring process, but it is probably the most important cog in that wheel. You can put together a great hiring plan and blow it with just a few minutes in a poor interview.

INTERVIEW BASICS: A bad interview can cause you to lose your best job candidate.
INTERVIEW BASICS: A bad interview can cause you to lose your best job candidate.

Nearly 100% of new hires in this country involve a face-to-face interview. Highly desirable applicants expect a well-done interview. "You are being judged as a place to work by how you interview, and how professional you are," says Bernie Erven, Ohio State professor emeritus and farm labor guru. "The strong applicants may refuse an employer's offer simply because of poor interview practices.

"On the other hand, a good interview gives you a chance to sell the opportunity to work for you."

So how do you do the job right? First, avoid shortcuts. It takes more than just looking at applications from candidates.

Here's another reason to vet out your best three to five candidates in person: good people like competition. Then when you do hire that best candidate, there's a special feeling you created – they beat the competition. That creates positive attitude coming into your business.

As we outlined in our September, 2013 issue cover story, gather applications for the best potential candidates; of those, pick three to five and do a ten minute telephone interview as a preliminary step, just to see if these mini interviews help your process – particularly if someone lives 100 miles away.

Based on your phone interviews you may decide to have one, two or all five come in for a face-to-face. If you have only one applicant, ask some internal questions among your senior management team: Why don't more people want to work for us?

Put one person in charge of the interviewing process. If it's a task you don't enjoy, let someone else do it. Make sure the person who will be the new hire's immediate supervisor is involved in the interviews, if not the lead interviewer. Whoever is in charge of the hiring process needs to learn the basics of interviewing. Several educational videos exist online to help.

"Most people who do not like to interview have never learned to interview well – they never had any training," says Erven. "So you need to really work hard to learn how to be a good interviewer, even if you only do this once every few years. That takes some time, some learning, and some discussions with others."

Coming in part two: Nuts and bolts of a good interview.