Directed Interviewing: Who Needs It?

  • Have you ever ended an interview uncertain if the candidate had the necessary qualifications to do the job?
  • Have you ever decided to hire somebody because you had a “Gut Feeling” that s/he was just what you were looking for in your next hire?
  • Have you ever spent the evening dreading the next day’s chore of firing a new employee because it turns out they just cannot handle the job?
  • Have you ever spent an unpleasant afternoon listening to your boss tell you how disappointed he is in your choice of a new hire — again?
  • Have you ever had to spend endless hours with a new employee explaining to them the process and procedures that you were so certain they had the “knack” to tackle?
  • Have you ever wondered why your new hire cannot do what s/he so proudly proclaimed they could do, on the interview?
  • Have you ever realized that you hired someone because you really liked them, but who had not the least qualification to perform any job within your organization that required talent, skill, intelligence, or a clue?

If the answer to the above questions is “Yes,” then the question posed by the title of this article is moot. “Directed Interviewing, who needs it?” Well the answer is we all do! However, since we do need it, what exactly is it? Well, first of all, for an interviewing professional, it is nothing to be intimidated or threatened by. Nor is it the answer to all your prayers nor is it the end to interviewing problems and issues. “Directed” is nothing more than a road map to help you keep your interview on track. Directed Interviewing is the art of predicting the future performance of a candidate based on their past experiences as well as their successes and failures. Nevertheless, it is not the beginning and the end. In fact, it is the middle of a good interview process. Many years ago, the Xerox Corporation formulized the art of selling to assist its sales force trainers in teaching what had always been revered as a skill you are either born with or without. Senior sales representatives laughed at the idea that you could take 10 years of tough selling experience out of the equation of developing a successful sales representative. To some extent, they were right, nothing beats experience (a.k.a.: Repetition). But, if your experience is in doing something without all the tools you require, then you are experienced at doing it the wrong way. Ultimately the Xerox Sales Method was packaged and sold to other companies and their sales trainers. It is still taught to many entry-level sales representatives to give them the tools to understand their new trade. In addition, it is also taught to experienced sales representatives to improve their knowledge base and to make them more productive. Directed Interviewing is the Human Resources version of the Xerox Sells Method. The first step in Directed Interviewing is the preparation. If you grab a resume as you head to the interview room with the intention of “winging it,” then do not even think you that you can become a Directed Interviewer, or even a good interviewer for that matter. With 15 years and 1,200 career hires, (assuming 10 interviews for each fill), I have conducted 12,000 interviews. But, I still prepare for each one. Maybe by the time I hit 20,000 interviews I can wing it, but that is still a goal on the horizon. If you are “winging it” and feel satisfied, check out your interview-to-hire ratio and your retention rate. Check out your bill rate. If there is no room for improvement, stay the course. Over the next three installments, we will discuss the elements of a complete Directed Interview process:

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  1. Skill Analysis and Skill Set Definitions.
  2. Developing Questions, Conducting and Controlling the Interview
  3. Directed Questions and Evaluating the Answers

The reader should not be fooled into thinking that reading the ten or twelve pages these articles will generate will eliminate the need to take formal training. In my career I have taken several external and internal courses on this very subject. I come away with new and useful information from each course. If you are an internal Staffing Specialist, improved technique means better hires and therefore better reviews and higher compensation. If you are a 3rd party agency recruiter, then improved technique means more successful interviews, which means more placements and higher compensation. So any time the downside is more revenue, there is no downside. To prepare I would like to recommend you select a specific resume and a particular job requisition to use as a “hypothetical” candidate. Do not use your own, spouse’s, co-worker’s, or friend’s resume. You already know too much about them. The candidate can be experienced or entry level, technical or non-technical, degreed or non-degreed. As you will see from our discussions, Directed Interviewing is not a fixed and rigid prerequisite. It is a process that can adapt to any interviewing situation.

Ken Gaffey (kengaffey@comcast.net) is currently an employee of CPS Personal Services (www.cps.ca.gov) and has been involved in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration project since its inception. Prior to this National Security project Ken was an independent human resources and staffing consultant with an extensive career of diversified human resources and staffing experience in the high-tech, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His past clients include Hewlett Packard, First Data Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Rational Software, Ericsson, Astra Pharmaceutical, G&D Engineering, and other national and international industry leaders. In addition to contributing articles and book reviews to publications like ERE, Monster.com, AIRS, HR Today, and the International Recruiters Newsletter, Ken is a speaker at national and international conferences, training seminars, and other staffing industry events. Ken is a Boston native and has lived in the greater Boston area most of his life. Ken attended the University of South Carolina and was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.

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