The Common Traditional Interview

Usually this interview method is focused on the candidate and conducted by one person. The interviewer usually starts the interview with a question like “please tell me about yourself” and follow-up with other common questions like, “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”; “what do you hope to achieve in five years time?” and “why are you interested in working with us?” This interviewing method is commonly used by small-medium size organisations (with no recruiting department), and it’s not uncommon in large organisations and government offices. This traditional method of interviewing is totally outdated and not consistent with the rapid growth of new business methodologies and technologies. Most advance organisations no longer use such method of interviewing.

Here are some characteristics of the traditional interview: usually, the questions are often vague, unfocused and theoretical; candidates are allowed to theorise and generalise about their back-ground and experience; very few questions have follow-up probes to obtain more specific information; candidates who have become skilled at interviewing often gain control of the interview and tend to redirect attention to areas of their choice, which will totally change the purpose of the meeting; the interviewer may take some notes during the interview, but note taking is not tremendously important, furthermore, the interviewer will eventually miss out certain important answers when he/she is taking down notes, moreover if the interviewer uses an electronic recorder, he/she will look unprofessional, and it’s illegal to record the interview without prior permission from the candidate, because some questions or answers could be personal related; and interviews can easily drift into rapport-building sessions where the interviewer could end-up hiring the candidate based on same personal interests.

Have you noticed that there are some employment and placement agencies providing accessible interview guidelines on the internet & books to job hunting candidates, on how to answer common interview questions? That’s why the traditional interview questions are often predictable and most candidates have rehearsed and memorised the answers in advance. To them is just like taking an oral examination test, and personally this method of interviewing have always bothered me. Some managers might disagree with me, but I am convinced that only an expert interviewer is capable and able to detect well rehearsed answers. Frankly, averagely, how frequent does an operational manager conducts interviews. Probably none in a year, this makes him/her an unskilled interviewer. Yes, I agree that there are expert interviewers hired to conduct interviews, but are they rightfully qualified to judge the candidates, moreover ask the most specific questions relating to the job-tasks? Moreover, how can they constructively judge? Do they know whether the answer is acceptable when they have no direct relationship with the job-tasks? I believe the most appropriate person to conduct the interview is the operational manager based on his/her knowledge on the job-tasks, but the down fall is, the manager lacks interviewing skills.

Then, too, there’s the matter of honesty. Using the traditional interview format, there’s absolutely no way of knowing whether a candidate is telling the truth or engaging in pure fantasy. Furthermore, the traditional interview offers the candidate who’s well rehearsed or proficient in the art of interviewing a tailor-made opportunity to eclipse those who are better qualified for the job.

But the worst part of this method is the contribution it makes to poor hiring decisions. Because interview of this type often lack substance, “gut feeling” frequently replaces solid, objective judgements based on the candidate’s strengths and competencies. It’s more like taking a gamble. Personally, I know a person who hires based on the candidate’s looks and his own “gut feeling”. But after a few days, he would come complaining to me that he made the wrong decision and don’t know how to amend his mistake. In some countries, employees are protected by the industry and government agencies. It’s easy to hire, but it’s hard to sack an employee. To overcome this issue, he had to re-hire another more capable person, and now he has two person to do the same job, which will eventually create conflicts, confusions and wastage.

Never confuse the quality of an interview with the quality of a candidate. A good interviewer seeks to match the skills and competencies of an applicant with the mandatory success factors of the job; a good candidate is one who closely matches what is being sought. A candidate with great interviewing skills is not necessarily a great candidate for the job. So beware!

The advantage for this method of interviewing provides an opportunity to engage in a rapport-building exercise that may be enjoyable and the disadvantages are numerous. In my opinion, the traditional interview and the poor hiring decisions that it inspires, is a sure-fire way for an organisation to guarantee itself a high percentage of hiring mistakes. The fact is, the traditional interview no longer works and probably never did. The only tip I can provide is, if you need to conduct such an interview method, make sure you combine another method of interviewing.

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