Interview Preparation

CHAPTER 5 Interview Preparation

A commonly held but erroneous belief is that interviewing does not require any real preparation. The perception is that an interview is little more than two people sitting down together having a conversation. As they talk, one person—the interviewer—asks questions, while the other—the applicant—answers the questions. Whether or not a job offer is extended depends on just how well the applicant answers the questions.

Such an impression is largely based on observations of interviews being conducted by seasoned interviewers who certainly can make employment interviews seem like effortless conversation. It is, however, an inaccurate impression; these interviewers have actually put a great deal of work into this casual front and have completed a number of preparatory steps before meeting their applicants.

Do a Job Analysis

The process of interview preparation begins with a thorough job analysis. This includes a review of the position’s responsibilities, requirements, reporting relationships, environmental factors, exemption and union status, salary, benefits, and growth opportunities. This important task provides necessary answers to four key questions:

1. Am I thoroughly familiar with the qualities being sought in an applicant? 2. Are these qualities both job-related and realistic? 3. Can I clearly communicate the duties and responsibilities of this position to applicants? 4. Am I prepared to provide additional relevant information about the job and the company

to applicants?

Duties and Responsibilities

Job analysts (typically HR specialists) should make it a point to spend time in the department where openings exist, observing and conversing with incumbents as they perform various aspects of the job, as well as talking with managers in charge about their perspective of the scope of work involved. If possible, they should also seek out people who previously held the position to shed light on how the job may have evolved. Visiting on more than one occasion will enable the job analyst to observe a typical day. If personal visits aren’t feasible, lengthy conversations with several departmental representatives will suffice.

In reviewing the duties and responsibilities of an opening, job analysts will want to determine if the duties and responsibilities are realistic in relation to other factors, such as previous experience and education. Equally important is determining if they’re relevant to the overall job function and if they overlap with the responsibilities of other jobs.

Job analysts should review the duties and responsibilities of a job each time a position becomes available. Even if an opening was filled six months ago and is now vacant again,

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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assessing its current status will ensure that no major changes have occurred in the interim. This, in turn, will guarantee up-to-date job information and accuracy when discussing the position with potential employees.

Education and Prior Experience

The process of job analysis continues with identifying appropriate educational and prior experience prerequisites. This can best be accomplished when managers and HR representatives join together to ask these key questions:

• What skills and knowledge are needed to successfully perform the primary duties and responsibilities of this job?

• What makes these skills and knowledge necessary? • Why couldn’t someone without these skills and knowledge perform the primary functions of this job?

• Are the requirements consistent with the job duties and responsibilities? • Are we influenced by the background of the present or last incumbent? • Are we subjectively considering our own personal expectations of the job? • Are we compromising because we’re in a hurry to fill the job? • Are we unrealistically searching for the ideal applicant? • Are we succumbing to pressure from others, e.g., senior management, as to what are appropriate job requirements?

• Are the requirements in accordance with all applicable equal employment opportunity laws?

Arbitrarily setting high minimum standards in the hope of filling a position with the most qualified person can backfire. For example, suppose you’re trying to fill a first-line supervisor’s spot and you decide on someone who not only has a great deal of hands-on experience, but is also well-rounded. To you, this translates into someone with at least five years of supervisory experience and a four-year college degree.

If asked some of the questions just suggested, you would probably conclude that these requirements are too stringent for a first-line supervisory position. You would also want to modify them for reasons of possible discrimination. But even if there were no applicable employment laws, there is a good reason for setting more flexible standards: If you came across an applicant who fell short of this experience and educational profile but who met other intangible requirements and came highly recommended, you would not be able to hire him. It would be difficult to justify hiring someone not meeting the minimum requirements of the job, especially if you also rejected applicants who exceeded them.

In addition to asking yourself these basic questions regarding experience and education, there is a way of setting requirements that doesn’t paint you into a corner and still allows you to be highly selective. By using carefully worded terminology you can choose the applicant who best combines relevant concrete and intangible requirements. Suggested phrases include:

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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• Demonstrated ability to__________required. • In-depth knowledge of__________required. • Extensive experience in__________required. • Knowledge of__________would be an advantage. • Proven ability to__________required. • We are looking for an effective__________. • Proven track record of__________needed. • Substantial experience in__________essential. • Familiarity with__________would be ideal. • Degree relevant to__________preferred. • Degree in__________preferred. • Advanced degree a plus. • College degree in__________highly desirable. • An equivalent combination of education and experience.

These sample phrases all provide employers with latitude to select someone who may be lacking in one area, such as formal education, but compensates with additional experience. The use of such terms does not mean compromising hiring standards; rather, it means taking care to avoid setting requirements that cannot be justified by the specific duties of the job, while at the same time offering the widest range of choice among applicants.

Intangible Requirements

To lend balance to a lack of specific educational or experiential requirements, or to round out the concrete requirements of a position, job-related intangible criteria can be helpful. Depending on the job, these intangibles may be relevant:

• Cooperative working relationships • Decision-making ability • Effective time-management skills • Even disposition • Flexibility • Organizational skills • Problem-solving ability • Self-confidence • Successful delegation skills

These intangible factors can be significant, but only when examined in relation to the requirements of the opening. That is, in addition to determining any relevant education and

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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experience prerequisites and examining the scope and degree of responsibilities, you should explore the question of what type of individual would be most compatible with the position. This may best be determined by learning as much as possible about such factors as the amount of stress involved, the extent of independent work permitted, and the overall management style of the department. The combined information should translate into a profile of the person who will make the best fit.

Keeping this profile in mind as job seekers are considered can be helpful, particularly if two or more applicants meet the concrete requirements of the job. You can then compare intangible job-related criteria to help make the final decision. Intangibles can also be helpful in evaluating applicants for entry-level jobs for which there are few, if any, concrete educational and experience prerequisites.

Be careful when making comparisons based on intangibles, since the meaning of certain terms can be highly subjective. For example, some of the more popular applicant evaluation phrases—the person has a bad attitude, a winning personality, or a nice appearance—may not translate the same way for everyone. Furthermore, such descriptions really do not tell anything substantive about what the person can contribute to a job. So be careful not to weigh intangible elements too heavily or select someone solely on the basis of any of these factors. If considered at all, such factors must be job-related, not based on personal bias.

Reporting Relationships

Another facet of job analysis has to do with reporting relationships. In this regard, ask yourself the following questions:

• What positions will this job report to, both directly and indirectly? • Where does this job appear on the department’s organizational chart? • What positions, if any, report directly and/or indirectly to this job? • What is the relationship between this job and other jobs in the department in terms of level and scope of responsibility?

• What is the relationship between this job and other jobs in the organization?

These questions all pertain to positions, as opposed to specific individuals. Once you’ve determined the nature and level of a reporting relationship, you can factor in any relevant personality traits of the person to whom the opening reports. For example, if the department head with an opening for an assistant is known to have a short fuse, you would be wise to seek out someone who has demonstrated in past jobs the ability to effectively deal with such outbursts.

Work Environment

A job’s work environment consists of four distinct areas: physical working conditions, geographic location, travel, and work schedule. A work environment checklist appears in Appendix D.

Physical Working Conditions Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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Physical working conditions encompass such factors as working in areas that may not be well- ventilated, exposure to chemicals or toxic fumes, working in cramped quarters, working in a noisy location, and sitting or standing for long periods. If working conditions are ideal, few interviewers will hesitate to inform prospective employees. After all, this helps sell the company and the job and perhaps even compensates for areas that fall short, such as the starting salary or benefits package. If the working conditions leave something to be desired, however, the tendency is to omit reference to them when discussing the job in the hope that once employees begin work and discover flaws in the work environment, they’ll opt to adjust rather than leave. Unfortunately, what frequently happens is that new employees resent the deception and either quit, develop poor work habits, or harbor feelings of resentment over being had.

Problems of poor morale or high turnover as they relate to unsatisfactory working conditions can easily be prevented. Ask applicants to describe past and current physical working conditions, then accurately describe the working conditions of the available job. If an unpleasant condition is temporary, by all means say so, but don’t make anything up. Again, ask applicants to compare experiences with similar conditions. As they talk, watch as well as listen to their answers. There may be a contradiction between an applicant’s verbal and nonverbal responses. Skilled interviewers are able to separate and evaluate both. Issues of actively listening and nonverbal communication will be developed in subsequent chapters, but for now, suffice it to say that if an applicant verbally states that she doesn’t mind standing seven hours a day, but you sense hesitancy through her body language, pursue the subject until you’re more certain of the truth.

Another way of assessing potential employees’ reactions to less-than-ideal working conditions is to show them where they would be working if hired. Unless it’s logistically impractical, a quick trip to the job site should be part of the interview. This way there will be no surprises and a new employee knows exactly what to expect.

Geographic Location

As stated, when possible, show potential employees where they would be working if hired. If recruiting from a central office for positions in satellite branches, be specific in the description of the job site and offer visual depictions, realistically illustrating the location where an opening exists.

Sometimes a position calls for rotation from one site to another. As with physical working conditions, ask the applicant about any prior experiences they’ve had with job rotations before describing the working conditions of each location and how long each assignment is likely to last. Through your questioning, determine if they would prefer to settle into a work routine where they’re familiar with the environment, the commute, and the other workers, or if they would prefer the variety offered by a rotational position. It’s important that you know so you can determine the best fit for the job.

Travel

Talk with applicants about whether they travel for their current employer or did so in former jobs. Then discuss the geographic span and expected frequency of job-related travel. Tell

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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applicants, too, how much advance notice they can generally expect before having to leave. In the case of local travel, applicants will want to know whether they will be expected to provide their own transportation. They will also want to know how reimbursement for job- related travel expenses are handled.

Work Schedule

Employees, especially at the nonexempt level, need to know what days of the week they’re expected to work, how many hours they’re being paid for, when to report to work each day, and when they may leave. If alternative work arrangements are available, applicants need to know their options. They will also want to know how much time is allotted for meals, as well as other scheduled breaks throughout the day.

Exemption Status

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines the term “exempt” to mean precluded from overtime compensation; that is, an employer is not required to pay exempt employees for time worked beyond their regularly scheduled workweek. This generally pertains to executives, managers, and some supervisors. The term “nonexempt” means not precluded from overtime compensation. Full-time nonexempt employees, such as clerical workers, must be paid for any time worked beyond their regularly scheduled workweek.

To assist with exemption classification, the Department of Labor offers a series of requirements that must be met before someone can be classified as exempt. These requirements were revised in 2004, replacing the long-standing dual Salary and Duty Tests with the singular Standard Test. Revisions include an increase in the minimum salary for determining exemption status to $455 per week and revising stipulations for the executive, administrative, and professional duties tests.

The Standard Test helps employers determine the exemption status of their workforce. The actual work or duties performed by employees, not their job titles, determines exemption status. With most positions there is no question as to whether they are exempt or nonexempt: employees earning less than $455 per week, regardless of duties performed, are considered nonexempt. Some jobs, however, fall into a gray area and are not as easily categorized. Fact sheets are available at www.dol.gov.

Union Status

The National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) clearly states, “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively, through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities, for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”

If you’re interviewing applicants for union positions, be prepared to tell them if they’re required to join, information relative to initiation fees or required dues, and, essentially, what being a union member entails. Do not express your personal opinions regarding unions or try to influence them, either for or against. Also avoid inquiries about their present views toward unions or questions about past union involvement. Your job is to be informative and descriptive only.

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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Salary Ranges

Whether this information is disclosed to an applicant at the initial interview is a matter of company policy, but interviewers should certainly know what a job pays so they can determine if an applicant warrants further consideration. If, for example, there is an opening for a benefits specialist offering an annual salary of between $55,500 and $63,750, and an applicant is currently earning $57,900 a year, there’s no problem. On the other hand, if there’s an opening for a purchasing manager with a salary range of between $83,500 and $97,500, and an applicant is currently earning an annual salary of $96,500, there’s cause for concern. What’s your company’s policy when it comes to starting a new employee so close to the maximum of the salary range? If you offer the maximum, will this person accept an increase of up to $1,000? What about subsequent salary increases? Does your company “red circle” employees who are at the ceiling of their ranges so that they remain frozen until either the salary structure is re-evaluated or the position is reclassified?

Other salary-related issues may arise. An applicant may currently be earning considerably less than the minimum salary you’re offering for what may be considered comparable work. It could be that the applicant is currently underpaid or not being altogether forthright about his actual duties and responsibilities. This calls for a more thorough line of questioning during the interview regarding the level and scope of tasks he is presently capable of performing.

Applicants sometimes indicate that they are currently earning considerably more than the maximum for an available position, but are receptive to taking a pay cut. This doesn’t automatically translate into being overqualified or that, if hired, they’ll get restless and leave the job. There are a number of explanations as to why someone would be willing to take a reduction in pay, such as the opportunity to work for a specific company, the desire to learn new skills or enter a new field, or an inability to find suitable work in one’s own profession.

Related to the issue of salary is the sign-on or hiring bonus. Previously reserved for executive-level, highly specialized, or hard-to-fill positions, the bonus is now becoming a means for attracting talent at all levels. It is generally calculated at 5 to 20 percent of the base salary, depending on the scope and difficulty of the job. Some companies tie the bonus to an agreement with the employee not to leave the company for a specified period.

Benefits

Describing your company’s benefits package can be an excellent selling point, especially for hard-to-fill positions. Recruiters are advised to prepare a forty-five- to sixty-second summary of company benefits, such as medical and disability insurance, dental coverage, life insurance, profit-sharing plans, stock bonus programs, vacation days, personal days, leaves of absence, holidays, and tuition reimbursement.

Be careful not to give the impression that a discussion of your company’s benefits means the applicant is being seriously considered for a job. Make it clear that providing this information is part of the interview process and that the selected applicant will receive more comprehensive benefits information if a job offer is extended.

Growth Opportunities

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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Most applicants are interested in whether they will be able to move up in an organization. It is therefore helpful to know about the frequency of performance appraisals, salary reviews, and increases; policies regarding promotions; relationship of a position’s level and scope of responsibilities to that of others within a job family; policies governing internal job posting; likelihood of advancement; tuition reimbursement plans; and training.

It’s important to provide an accurate account of growth opportunities to preclude the possibility of morale problems developing later on. For example, if an applicant is applying for a position that is one step removed from the top position in a given job family, and that position has been occupied by the same person for the past ten years, the opportunity for growth by way of promotion is unlikely. There are, however, other ways to grow, such as an expansion of responsibilities that could, in turn, lead to the creation of a new job classification.

Prepare a Job Description

The primary purpose of a job description is to identify the essential function of a job, that is, those tasks that are fundamental to the position. It clarifies the role of the job and what the incumbent is expected to accomplish. Essentially, a job description forms the groundwork for an agreement between an employer and the incumbent as to expected job performance results. Accordingly, the language should be concise, straightforward, uncomplicated, and easily interpreted.

Every position in an organization should have a job description, whether it’s generic or specific. Generic job descriptions are written in broad, general terms and may be used for several similar positions in different departments of the same company. For example, there may be one generic job description for “administrative assistant,” rather than a separate administrative assistant job description for each department. Specific job descriptions define the duties and tasks of one particular position, such as “vice president of human resources.” They are written when a position has unique responsibilities that distinguish it from other, similarly titled jobs.

Job descriptions are multipurpose tools that can be used in virtually every aspect of the employment process:

Since job descriptions can be used for many different purposes, employers should take care to write them as comprehensively as possible. Initially, this will require a fair amount of time, but it will prove well worth the effort.

Here are fifteen guidelines for writing job descriptions:

1. Arrange duties and responsibilities in a logical, sequential order. Begin with the task requiring the greatest amount of time or carrying the greatest responsibility.

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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2. State separate duties clearly and concisely. This way anyone can glance at the description and easily identify each duty. Identify each task as essential or nonessential—a requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

3. Avoid generalizations or ambiguous words. Use specific language and be exact in your meaning. To illustrate: “Handles mail” might be better expressed as “sorts mail” or “distributes mail.”

4. Don’t try to list every task. Use the phrase “primary duties and responsibilities include” at the beginning of the job description, and close with the phrase “performs other related duties and responsibilities, as required.”

5. Include specific examples of duties wherever possible. This will enable the reader to more fully understand the scope of responsibility involved.

6. Use nontechnical language. A good job description explains the responsibilities of a job in commonly known terms.

7. Indicate the frequency of occurrence of each duty. One popular way of doing this is to have a column on the left side of the list of tasks with corresponding percentage representing the estimated amount of time devoted to each primary duty.

8. List duties individually and concisely rather than using narrative paragraph form. A job description is not a novel.

9. Don’t refer to specific people. Instead, reference titles and positions. Incumbents are likely to change positions long before the positions themselves are revamped or eliminated.

10. Use the present tense. It reads more smoothly. 11. Be objective and accurate. Describe the job as it should be performed, not as you

would like to see it performed. 12. Stress what the incumbent does instead of explaining a procedure that is used. For

instance, use “records appointments” rather than “a record of appointments must be kept.” 13. Be certain that all requirements are job-related and are in accordance with equal

employment opportunity (EEO) laws and regulations. This will preclude the likelihood of legal problems developing later on.

14. Eliminate excessive verbiage. Most job descriptions can be completed in a page or two. The length of a job description does not increase the importance of the job.

15. Use action words. These words describe a specific function, such as organize. One word should stand out within a sentence as most descriptive, a word that could readily stand alone. Action words will also convey to the reader a degree of responsibility. For example, compare “directs” with “under the direction of.” Try to begin each sentence with an action word; the first word used should introduce the function being described. Here’s a list of sample action words that employers can refer to when writing job descriptions:

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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After writing a job description, ask yourself a series of questions to confirm its contents:

• What is the purpose of the job? • Will the jobholder supervise the work of others? If so, can I provide job titles and a brief description of the responsibilities of those supervised?

• What duties will the jobholder perform regularly, periodically, and infrequently? Can I list these in order of importance?

• What degree of supervision will be exercised over the jobholder? • To what extent will instructions be necessary when assigning work to the jobholder? • How much decision-making authority or judgment is to be allowed the jobholder in the performance of required duties?

• What are the working conditions? • What skills are necessary for the successful performance of the essential functions of the job?

• What authority will the jobholder have in directing the work of others? • At what stage of its completion will the manager in charge review the jobholder’s work?

• What equipment will the jobholder be responsible for operating? Am I able to adequately describe the equipment’s complexity?

• What would be the cost to management of serious errors that the jobholder might make Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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in the regular performance of required duties? • What employees within the organization, and customers or clients outside the organization, will the jobholder interact with on a regular basis?

The exact contents of a job description will be dictated by the specific environment and needs of an organization. What follows provides the basic categories of job information required for most positions:

Date Job analyst Job title Department Reporting relationship Location of the job Exemption status Salary grade and range Work schedule Job summary Job requirements, including education, prior work experience, and specialized skills and knowledge

Duties and responsibilities, distinguishing between those that are essential and nonessential

Physical environment and working conditions Equipment and machinery to be used Other relevant factors, such as degree of contact with the public or customers and access to confidential information

A job description form reflecting these categories appears in Appendix E. A database of well-written job descriptions provides any organization with an

understanding of how the job contributes to the achievement of company-wide goals, as well as offering a solid legal base with respect to employment-related decisions made relative to that job. Once a job description is written, review it each time that position becomes available or on a semiannual or annual basis to make certain the content or requirements of the job have not changed.

Find the Best Fit

Jack had just interviewed three applicants for a customer service representative opening at the large retail store for which he worked. All three met the basic requirements of the job and appeared capable of performing the essential functions of the job as identified in the job description. But something bothered Jack about each of them:

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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• The first applicant had a great deal of relevant experience and demonstrated a thorough understanding of the job duties. There was no doubt in Jack’s mind that she could do the job. What bothered him was a nagging sensation that she would resist adjusting to a new environment and would fail to work in concert with the other representatives.

• Applicant number two was the least experienced but indicated a great willingness to learn and work hard. He was pleasant enough, but Jack had a troublesome image of him reporting to Eliza, the manager in charge of the department. During the interview, the applicant had indicated that at his former job, there had been a slight verbal altercation between himself and another employee—a woman; his boss, also a woman, had “taken sides” against him. He felt there may have been some gender bias involved.

• The final applicant had a sufficient degree of experience. Jack had no trouble picturing her working alongside the other representatives and taking direction from Eliza. What troubled him was that she didn’t seem interested in doing anything beyond what was expected. There was no willingness to help the other representatives, as was often needed during the company’s peak holiday season.

What should Jack do? He knows there is no ideal employee, but each of these applicants fell short in areas critical to the successful performance of the job. Should he keep looking?

The answer is “yes.” Jack should keep looking, but not before he clarifies what he’s looking for. The requirements and areas of responsibility identified in a job description are excellent indicators of the skills connected to a job. However, they cannot unveil what a person is willing to do once on the job or how well his bank of intangible skills will enable him to fit within a new organizational culture. It’s these elements together that produce the best possible employee: that is, the best fit.

The best fit begins with identifying what someone has accomplished, either at past jobs or through the performance of relevant non-job-specific tasks. By asking questions that will yield specific, measurable, and verifiable responses (Chapters 7 and 8), and comparing the answers with the particulars identified in the job description, recruiters can largely determine what a person is capable of doing. In other words, they can isolate someone’s tangible skills and abilities.

The next stage of determining the best fit has to do with what a person is willing to do with these tangible skills and abilities. Recruiters can relate past performance to the future by asking competency-based questions (Chapter 7). When doing this, always bear in the mind an important question: What is the likelihood that a person will approach a task in a new work environment the same way as in a former job? Since we are essentially creatures of habit, it’s likely that an applicant will approach a problem, make a decision, or communicate in essentially the same way. Therefore it is important to ask for specific examples of how past performance relates to the performance of specific job-related tasks for the available position.

The final stage of identifying whether a person will be the best fit concerns a host of intangible qualities. Depending on the job and the work environment, these could include:

• Ability to adjust to sudden changes in direction • Ability to work as an integral member of a diverse team

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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• Capability of functioning effectively in a different work environment • Degree of flexibility • Disposition toward working with others whose approach to problem solving may differ from their own

• Interest in learning from those whose work style differs from their own • Knack for multitasking • Outlook on accepting direction from someone whose communication style differs from what they’re accustomed to

• Tolerance for working with individuals of varying degrees of effectiveness • Willingness to accept criticism

This combination of what a person can do, is willing to do, and relevant intangible factors will result in the best fit.

Review the Application and Resume

Always review the applicant’s completed application and/or resume prior to the interview. There are two main reasons for doing this. First, you will begin to become familiar with the person’s credentials, background, and qualifications as they relate to the requirements and responsibilities of the job. Second, you can identify areas for discussion during the interview.

Whether paper or electronic, the application should reflect each organization’s own environment. For example, the application form for a highly technical company will differ from one used by a nonprofit organization. Some companies have more than one form: one for professional or exempt positions, another for nonexempt positions.

When designing an application form, it’s important to remember that all categories must be relevant and job-related. This is critical from the standpoint of compliance with EEO laws. In this regard, familiarity with federal laws is not sufficient since many state laws are more stringent, and where there is a difference, the stricter law prevails. Oversight or ignorance of the law does not provide immunity. Appendix F contains a generic sample job application form with categories that are applicable to many positions in most work environments.

While resumes differ from applications in terms of format and appearance, the same basic information should appear. This includes work history and educational accomplishments. Career objectives are also typically cited.

Following are ten key areas to consider when reviewing a completed application or resume. Each of these categories should be considered if relevant to the responsibilities of a particular position:

1. Scan the overall appearance of the application or resume. Is it easy to read and navigate? The handwriting on applications should be legible, paper resumes should be printed and generally no longer than two pages, and electronically generated resumes should comply with stipulated requirements. The contents of applications and resumes should be grammatically correct and the language easy to understand. Cover letters should demonstrate

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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added interest on the part of the applicant. 2. Look for any blanks or omissions. This is easy with an application form; with a resume,

check to see that basic information relating to work and education has not been excluded. Make note of anything that’s missing so you can ask the applicant about it during the face-to- face interview. Some employment application forms are poorly designed, as are some electronic resume formats. This can cause applicants to inadvertently overlook certain questions or categories. Or it may be that an applicant purposely omitted certain information. If this is the case, it’s up to you to find out why and to determine during the interview the importance of what’s missing.

3. Review the applicant’s work history and make a note of any time gaps between jobs. If an applicant indicates that he took some time off between jobs to travel throughout Europe, make a note of it, but avoid passing judgment. Fill in the gaps and worry about drawing conclusions after the interview process is completed.

4. Consider any overlaps in time. For example, the dates on an application may show that the applicant was attending school and working at the same time. Of course, this is possible if the person was taking online classes, but you still need to verify the accuracy of all dates, especially if the places of employment and school were separated by hundreds of miles.

5. Make a note of any other inconsistencies. To illustrate, say there is an applicant with an extensive educational background who has been employed in a series of nonexempt jobs. This may be because she has degrees in a highly specialized field and cannot find suitable work, or it may be that her educational credentials are misrepresented. It’s up to you to find out.

6. Consider the frequency of job changes. People voluntarily leave jobs for many reasons, including an inaccurate description of the work at the time of hire, an improper job match, personality conflicts on the job, inadequate salary increases, limited growth opportunities, and unkept promises. Some employees, knowing that they’re doing poorly, voluntarily terminate their employment just prior to a scheduled performance evaluation. Then there are instances when employees are let go for reasons unrelated to performance: a company shuts down for economic reasons, major organizational changes result in the deletion of positions, or a contingency assignment is completed and there is no additional work to be done. Of course, employees are also terminated for poor performance.

When reviewing an applicant’s employment record, avoid drawing premature, negative conclusions regarding the frequency of job changes. Determining what constitutes a frequent change is highly subjective and often driven by the economy. Too often interviewers set arbitrary guidelines, sometimes patterned after their own work history. You may decide that changing jobs more often than once every two years is too frequent and that this translates into unreliability. At this stage of the interview process, though, you simply do not have enough information to make such a decision. After all, you haven’t even met the applicant yet. Make a note that you want to discuss his pattern of job changes and move on to the next category.

7. Be objective when evaluating a person’s salary requirements. In our society it’s assumed that everyone wants to make more money. While money is one of the most commonly cited reasons for changing jobs, you will undoubtedly come across applicants who are willing

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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to take a job at a lower salary than they were previously or are currently earning. The reasons for this, as cited earlier, vary. The message here is not to draw premature conclusions.

It is significant to note that factoring in information relevant to salaries earned in past positions may be a violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits paying women less than men for performing substantially equal work. This could occur where an employer learns that a woman has been earning considerably less in previous jobs than has a man with comparable skills. If both are hired for the same type of job to perform substantially equal work and are offered starting salaries that are, say, $2,000 above their previous salaries, and they both perform at comparable levels of effectiveness during their respective terms of employment, the pay differential between the two will widen that much more with each performance review. Consider, for example, a man who is hired as a database administrator at a starting salary of $70,000 and a woman who is hired to perform comparable work at a salary of $63,500. Both receive an “excellent” evaluation at the time of their first performance evaluation, resulting in a 5 percent increase. The original $6,500 gap between their respective salaries has just increased to $6,825, as the male employee’s annual earnings rise to $73,500 and the woman employee’s salary increases to only $66,675. If their performance levels remain comparable at the time of their next review, warranting another 5 percent raise, the gap will increase to $7,166, since the man will now be earning $77,175 and the woman will only be making $70,009 (essentially what the man was offered at the time of hire). Over time, presuming continued comparable performance, this pay gap will continue to widen. Such a pay difference based on past earnings could be a violation of the Equal Pay Act if it is perceived to be a differential based on sex.

Remember, too, not to hire anyone below the minimum range for a job. 8. Carefully review the applicant’s reasons for leaving previous jobs. Look for a pattern.

For example, if the reason given for leaving several jobs in a row is “no room for growth,” it may be that this person’s job expectations are unrealistic. While this explanation could be perfectly legitimate, it could also be a cover-up for other, less acceptable reasons. This is a key area to explore in the face-to-face interview.

9. Make a note to ask for elaboration of duties that are not clearly described on the application or resume. Job titles may also require explanation. Some titles are not functional or descriptive and therefore fail to reveal their scope of responsibility. Examples of such titles include “administrative assistant” and “vice president.” Sometimes titles sound quite grand, but upon probing, you discover that they carry few substantive responsibilities.

10. Review the application or resume for “red-flag” areas. This is any information that doesn’t seem to make sense or leaves you with an uneasy feeling. Here’s a classic example: The application asks for the “Reason for Leaving Previous Jobs.” The popular answer “personal” should alert you to a possible problem. Many interviewers assume that they have no right to pursue this further, that to do so would be an invasion of the person’s privacy. This is not true. You have an obligation to ask the applicant to be more specific. If people begin to volunteer information about their home life and personal relationships, then you must interrupt and ask them to focus on job-related incidents that may have contributed to their decision to leave. Also note that “personal” is frequently a cover-up for “fired.”

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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Set the Stage

Allowing sufficient time for meeting with an applicant and conducting that meeting in an appropriate environment are two critical components to successful interviewing.

Allow Sufficient Time for the Interview

When determining how much time to allot for each interview, think about the entire process, not just the portion devoted to the face-to-face meeting. Time is needed before the interview to review the application and/or resume; during the interview for both you and the applicant to ask questions and for you to provide information about the job and company; and after the interview to write up your notes, reflect on what took place, set up additional appointments, and check references. Additional time may also be required before or after the interview for testing.

Considering all that must be done, just how much time should be set aside for each interview? Much depends on the nature of the job, that is, whether it is nonexempt or exempt. Generally speaking, more time is needed for interviewing professionals, usually a total of 90 to 120 minutes, with 60 to 90 minutes for the face-to-face meeting. This amount of time should be sufficient for you to gather the necessary information about an applicant’s qualifications and to get a good idea of job suitability and applicant interest. If the actual face-to-face interview runs much beyond 90 minutes, it’s likely to become tiresome for both the applicant and the interviewer. A 60- to 90-minute interview leaves approximately 30 minutes to be divided between the pre- and post-interview activities, including reviewing the application and resume, rereading the job description, preparing key questions, conducting tests, and arranging subsequent interviews.

In the case of interviews for nonexempt positions, approximately 45 to 75 minutes should be allotted, with 30 to 45 minutes for the face-to-face meeting. More concrete areas are usually probed at this level, such as specific job duties, attendance records, and the like. These take less time to explore than do the numerous intangible areas examined at the exempt level, such as management style, level of creativity, and initiative.

These time frames should be used as guidelines only. Be flexible in the amount of time allotted, but also be aware of these general parameters because they can help you acquire sufficient information and avoid discussing irrelevant factors. For example, if you find that your interviews are over within fifteen minutes, you may not be phrasing your questions properly; that is, you could be asking closed-ended questions as opposed to competency or open-ended questions (Chapters 7 and 8). It may also be that you’re not adequately probing suspicious areas, or perhaps simply don’t know what questions to ask. If, on the other hand, your interviews last much beyond forty-five minutes for a nonexempt position or ninety minutes for an exempt position, it’s likely you’re either talking too much or that the applicant has taken control of the interview. It’s not unusual for applicants lacking sufficient job-related experience to steer interviewers away from questions regarding their job suitability. By diverting the interviewer’s attention and talking a blue streak about irrelevant matters, applicants hope to cloud the real issue of whether they’re qualified for the job. Of course, some people simply like to talk a lot and don’t intend to be devious. Regardless of the motive,

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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however, interviewers are cautioned against allowing applicants to take control of the interview. This is less likely to happen if you’re aware of the recommended time frame for an interview.

To help maximize the time set aside for meeting with applicants, consider these scheduling guidelines:

1. Interview during the time of day when you’re at your peak. If you tend to slow down around midmorning, but then pick up again around 1 p.m., it would be best to schedule interviews during the afternoon hours. Likewise, if you’re at your best first thing in the morning, late-afternoon appointments would be unwise.

2. Take a five-minute break between interviews. The time can be used for just about anything, including taking a short walk, getting a cup of coffee, stretching, responding to a few e-mails, or doing other work. The break will help you feel more in control of your interview schedule and allow you to focus fully on your next applicant.

3. Avoid conducting more than four or five interviews in one workday. While this may not always be possible, you can space your interviews with other work in between. In so doing, you’ll find that your attention level during the interviews, as well as during the other work, is likely to improve.

Plan an Appropriate Environment

If applicants are expected to talk freely they must be assured that others can’t overhear what they’re saying. This is particularly important when discussing sensitive matters, such as why they’re leaving their present jobs. Hence, interviewers are obliged to ensure privacy. While not everyone has his own office, everyone has access to privacy. This may mean borrowing someone else’s office when it’s not being used, using the company cafeteria or dining room during off-hours, or sitting in a portion of the lobby that is set apart from those areas receiving the most traffic. Such options may be preferable if your own office has partitions instead of full floor-to-ceiling walls. Sounds can easily carry over and around partitions, and people can peer over the top if the walls are short.

Interviewers should ensure that there are a minimum number of distractions. Obvious distractions include your phone ringing, people walking into your office during the interview, or papers requiring attention left exposed on top of your desk. Some interviewers claim that such distractions are actually beneficial in that they allow for an assessment of how the applicant handles interruptions. This is unlikely. Distractions and interruptions waste valuable time for both the applicant and the interviewer. Moreover, the applicant may be left with an unfavorable impression of the interviewer in particular, and possibly the organization overall.

A more subtle distraction, but one that can interfere as much as a phone ringing or a person barging in, is the interviewer’s own thoughts. Thinking about all the work that needs to be done may not only prevent you from focusing fully on the applicant but may even result in resentment toward this person for keeping you from it. To guard against this tendency, remind yourself just prior to meeting an applicant that the sooner you fill the opening the sooner you can move on to other tasks. It might also help if you cleared off your desk and turned off your computer before the job applicant sits down for the interview.

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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Interviewers should also ensure that the applicant is comfortable. It’s a simple fact that if the applicant feels comfortable, you’ll be assured of a more productive meeting. Comfort level is not determined by how much furniture there is in your office, whether you have rugs on the floor, or if your office overlooks a scenic view. It’s your behavior and general approach to the interview that will largely determine the comfort level of the applicant. If you come across as friendly, appear genuinely interested in what the applicant has to say, and have made an effort to ensure privacy and prevent interruptions, then the interview surroundings are not going to matter a great deal. Ideally, offer the applicant a choice of seats. If space is limited, however, and there’s only one chair in addition to yours, that’s all right too. What matters is that the applicant feels welcome.

The most common office seating arrangements between an interviewer and an applicant include:

• The applicant and interviewer seated on either side of a desk • The applicant’s chair on the side of the desk • The applicant and the interviewer sitting on chairs across from one another, away from the desk

• The applicant and the interviewer seated at a table, either next to or across from each other

There is no one proper relationship between your seat and the applicant’s seat. Some interviewers feel that desks create barriers between themselves and the applicant. If this is how you feel, then desks do indeed become barriers. Also, some interviewers want to see as much of the applicant as possible so they can better assess nonverbal communication. If you’re comfortable seated behind your desk, though, then by all means sit there.

Plan Basic Questions

Plan a handful of questions that will serve as the foundation for your interview. The job description is an excellent source for this. By reviewing the job description, you can easily identify what skills are required, and then proceed to formulate the questions you’ll need to ask to determine whether applicants possess these skills and are likely to be the best fit. Hypothetical situations can also be developed and presented to applicants to enable them to demonstrate their potential.

Be careful not to prepare too many questions or become too specific during this stage of preparation. If you have an extensive list of detailed questions, the tendency will be to read from that list during the interview. This will result in an overly structured session, which could make the applicant feel ill at ease. In addition, with a lengthy list of questions, interviewers are likely to feel compelled to cover the entire list and will often end up being redundant. Again, this can result in the applicant feeling uncomfortable and wondering whether you are really listening to her responses.

Limit yourself to preparing about a half-dozen general questions. Once you get into the interview, the other questions that need to be asked will follow as offshoots of the applicant’s

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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answers. In fact, if your first question is broad enough, the applicant’s response should provide you with numerous additional questions. An example of an effective first question might be, “Would you please describe your activities during a typical day at your current (or most recent) job?” As you listen to the applicant’s response, note any areas that you want to pursue further.

This one question alone could yield enough information to fill an entire interview if you listen closely to the applicant’s answer and use portions of it as the basis for additional questions. Consider, for example, the applicant who is currently working as a customer service representative. Suppose you asked him the question, “Would you please describe your activities during a typical day at your present job?” and he provided a scant response: “Well, let’s see. Each day is really kind of different since I deal with customers and you never know what they’re going to call about; but basically, my job is to handle the customer hotline, research any questions, and process complaints.”

If you were to leave this answer and go on to another question, you would be overlooking a wealth of information. The applicant has handed you four valuable pieces of information worthy of exploration:

1. His job requires dealing with a variety of people and situations. 2. He “handles” a customer hotline. 3. He “researches” questions. 4. He “processes” complaints.

Here are some additional questions you can ask, based on the applicant’s own comments: “What is the nature of some of the situations with which you are asked to deal?” “Who are the people who call you?” “What is the process that someone with a complaint is supposed to follow?” “What is your role in this process?” “Exactly what is the customer hotline?” “When you say that you ‘handle’ the hotline, exactly what do you mean?” “What do you say to a customer who calls on the hotline?” “What do you say to a customer who calls with a specific question?” “Has there ever been a time when you did not have the answer being sought by a customer? What did you do?”

“What do you do when a customer isn’t satisfied with the answer you’ve given him? Give me a specific example of when this has happened.”

“Tell me about a time when a customer was extremely angry. What happened?” “Tell me about a time when a customer demanded to speak to someone else.” “Describe a time when you had to handle several demanding customers at the same time.” “Describe a situation in which a customer repeatedly called, claiming his problem had

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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still not been resolved. How did you handle it?” “How much of your time is devoted to researching answers?” “Describe the research process, including the resources you use.” “How do you prepare for each day, knowing that you will probably have to listen to several people complaining about a variety of problems?”

These are just some of the questions triggered by the applicant’s vague response to one broad, open-ended question. The answers to each of these questions are also likely to result in further inquiries that will ultimately provide you with a clear picture of the level and scope of this individual’s current bank of responsibilities.

This single open-ended question is so comprehensive that it alone could suffice as the only prepared question you have before beginning the interview. Most interviewers, however, feel better prepared if they have additional questions planned; furthermore, applicants lacking prior work experience cannot provide information about a typical workday. Here, then, are some additional questions that may be prepared before the interview. Note that all are broad enough so that the answers will result in additional questions.

For Applicants with Prior Work Experience

• “What (do/did) you like most and least about your (current/most recent) job?” • “Describe a situation in your (current/most recent) job involving________. How did you handle it?”

• “What (are/were) some of the duties in your (current/most recent) job that you (find/found) to be difficult and easy? Why?”

• “Why (do/did) you want to leave your (current/most recent) job?” • “How do you generally approach tasks you dislike? Please give me a specific example relative to your (current/most recent) job.”

For Applicants with Formal Education but No Prior Work Experience

• “What were your favorite and least favorite subjects in (high school/college/other)? Why?”

• “Describe your study habits.” • “Why did you major in ________________?” • “How do you feel your studies in ________________ prepared you for this job?”

For Applicants without Formal Education or Work Experience

• “Here are a series of hypothetical situations that are likely to occur on the job. How would you handle them?”

• “What has prepared you for this job?”

Summary

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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Even the most seasoned interviewer prepares prior to meeting with an applicant. The process begins with a thorough job analysis, including a review of the position’s responsibilities, requirements, reporting relationships, environmental factors, exemption and union status, salary, benefits, and growth opportunities. Job descriptions aid in this process by identifying the essential functions of a job, that is, those tasks that are fundamental to the position. A database of well-written job descriptions provides organizations with an understanding of how the job contributes to the achievement of company-wide goals, as well as offering a solid legal base with respect to decisions made relative to that job.

In addition to reviewing the particulars of a job, employers seeking a match between a job and an applicant need to determine the best fit, that is, what a person has demonstrated he can do in terms of tangible skills, whether he’s willing to apply those skills and knowledge to your organization, and what intangible skills and attributes he has that will benefit the job.

Interviewers should always review the applicant’s completed application and/or resume prior to meeting with him. This will ensure familiarity with the person’s credentials, background, and qualifications as they relate to the job, so that interviewers can identify areas for discussion during the interview.

Interviewers are advised to allow sixty to ninety minutes for the actual face-to-face meeting with exempt applicants, and thirty to forty-five minutes for interviewing nonexempt applicants. Additional time should be allocated for reviewing the application and/or resume, testing, writing up notes, reflecting on what took place, setting up additional appointments, and checking references. Employers should provide a private and comfortable environment for interviews. They should also prepare a half-dozen or so questions in advance to serve as the foundation for the interview.

Arthur, Diane. <i>Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting and Orienting New Employees</i>, AMACOM, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/capella/detail.action?docID=931154. Created from capella on 2019-09-30 19:18:54.

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