clueless businessman in dark suit sitting at office desk being confusedFor many office idiots, conducting a job interview is an opportunity to demonstrate a shocking lack of understanding of even the most basic aspects of pre-employment screening. These are the cadres of screeners who fail to prepare for the interview, ask personal and arguably illegal questions, become easily sidetracked, and ignore what the candidate says.

Fortunately, there are well-documented steps and strategies that will keep you far from the world of office idiocy when you’re interviewing applicants. Importantly, the process starts well in advance of the interview itself. Prior to meeting any candidates, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the position to be filled, especially in terms of the knowledge, skills, abilities, training, experience, and certifications that are required for a person to successfully do the work. Some interviewers instantly flip into interviewing mode, but they don’t know what to do with the information they gather because they don’t know enough about the position itself.

Another essential step before interviewing an applicant is to briefly review his or her resume. As you look over a resume, there are two key questions to ask yourself. First, “Can this applicant do the job?” Specifically, does he or she have the expertise, training, skills, and experience that are required for the position? The second question to ask yourself is, “Will this applicant do the job?” In other words, does the candidate’s work experience demonstrate the energy, persistence, interpersonal skills, and leadership abilities required on the job? At the same time, while you are reviewing the resume, it’s equally important to look for gaps, inconsistencies, and signs of covering, such as when a resume indicates that the candidate worked at a given company from 2008 – 2010. Those dates can mean as many as three years or as few as one year and two days. When you conduct the interview, that’s a point you’ll definitely want to clarify.

Not surprisingly, the interview itself is often the arena where office idiocy runs rampant. One of the most important ways to prevent this from happening is to focus your questions on the candidate’s work history. This is best accomplished by discussing every job he or she held, from the earliest positions through his or her current employment. All of your questions should be job-related, focusing on such topics as the candidate’s responsibilities, accomplishments, challenges, likes, dislikes, and reasons for making a job change. You should not ask any questions that directly or indirectly focus on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disabilities, age, marital status, living arrangements, or other aspects of the candidate’s personal life. These types of questions open the door to possible legal claims, and they generate information that is useless when it comes to predicting job performance. And further, they can easily lead to the loss of outstanding candidates.

At the same time, it’s important to structure your questions so that they encourage interviewees to talk, rather than asking questions that generate a one-word response. The idea is to avoid questions such as, “Did you like that job” or “Did you have a lot of responsibility?” These types of questions should be replaced with open-ended queries that focus on same subjects while generating more of a response, such as by asking, “What did you like about that job,” or “What kinds of responsibilities did you have?” The easiest way to avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no is to open each question with who, what, where, when, why, and how.

At the same time, it is critical to listen carefully to what the interviewees say, while paying extra attention to the nonverbal side of their responses as well. What kind of a message is their volume, tone, pitch, and body language sending? Unfortunately, some interviewers ignore what a candidate says and how he or she says it, and focus instead on making their own comments and hearing themselves talk. Importantly, many applicants are familiar with the finding that interviewers tend to like interviewees in direct proportion to the amount of time that the interviewers talk. As a result, some interviewees intentionally draw an interviewer into a prolonged explanation, and some idiotic interviewers take the bait. There will be a time for you to field an interviewee’s questions, but only when you’re sure that he or she is in the ballpark.

There are plenty of additional mistakes that office idiots make when interviewing candidates, such as allowing stereotypes to taint their thinking, permitting interruptions and distractions, and jumping to conclusions about the interviewees. If you’re unsure as to whether you’re letting office idiocy creep into the interviews you conduct, take a second look at the way that you’re treating job applicants and then ask yourself if this is how you’d like to be treated.

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