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Staffing Management: Interviewing: The Final Frontier

William C. Byham and Michael A. Haid   10/1/2005

Vol.1, No.3  

Technology has changed the face of the selection process. Now, it can even make your interviews better.

Technology has revolutionized how organizations hire people, from simplifying the posting of available positions, to building large candidate pools online, to electronic scanning of resumes, to automated screening, testing and applicant management.The interview, meanwhile, has remained much the samepeople sitting across a desk or conference table talking to one another.

But now technology has begun to reshape interviewing as well. And while the interpersonal dynamic of the interview promises to remain largely untouched, many facets of it will change in very real ways.

Which is not to suggest that the interview will go away. To the contrary, as the single remaining high-touch point in the selection process, the interview will be more important than ever. Technology is presenting opportunities for recruiters and hiring managers to conduct better, more efficient interviews than they have in the past, while also benefiting from a whole host of unanticipated improvements and innovations.

The Interview Still Matters

In an age when electronic resumes are at least as common as their paper counterparts, when candidates can troll the web and apply for jobs in locations thousands of miles awayin a matter of secondsand organizations can quickly and accurately screen application materials and conduct online tests, the interview may seem like a costly afterthought. The problem with this line of thinking is this: Information can be gathered during an interview that cant be gathered any other way.

Interviews provide an opportunity to gauge candidates interpersonal skills, adaptability and initiative, as well as how they will dress and carry themselves in a work-related setting. The value of interviews cant be underestimated. Just ask any hiring manager about those candidates who looked good on paper but failed to impress during a face-to-face discussion.

Whats more, in todays environment, when the best talent is always in short supply for certain types of jobs, interviewers must be as concerned with selling the job to the candidate as they are with gathering information about the candidate. The interview remains an unsurpassed opportunity for building rapport, making a good impression on the candidate and addressing the candidates questions.

Four New Ways To Use Technology

So, what stands to be the impact of technology on your organizations interviewers? Technology can be applied in four waysright nowto make your interviewing more effective and efficient: It can determine up-to-date criteria for screening and interviewing, make your interviewers better prepared, help interviewers make the best possible hiring decisions, and leverage the data gathered during the interviewing process to get new hires up to speed faster.

All of the innovations described here are currently available. Those organizations that have implemented them into their selection processes now find that they have a significant edge over their competition for the best available talent. They can hire faster and they can hire betterall because they are able to get more out of the interviewing process. Lets take a closer look at the four ways in which technology can improve your organizations interviews.

1. Determine up-to-date criteria for screening and interviewing.

Most organizations that are savvy about selecting good people have success profilesa combination of competencies that are critical to success in the positionas the foundation of their selection processes. These success profiles are the criteria against which tests are administered as part of the screening process. They also shape the behavior-based interview questions included on interview guides and distributed to the recruiters, hiring managers and others charged with interviewing candidates.

But as jobs change more rapidly than ever before, too often success profiles have a short shelf life and need to be updated frequently.

The interconnectivity of the web has made possible the ability to survey on a regular basis those most familiar with a position to confirm that its existing success profile is still accurate, or to identify how it needs to be updated. For example, a customer service position that now entails cross-selling will require a modified set of competencies for success. A survey of those individuals knowledgeable about the newly defined positionincluding supervisors and those already in the jobmakes it possible to pinpoint the new competencies that need to be incorporated into the success profile. This capability allows success profiles to remain current by transforming their creation from a static, reactive step into a dynamic, ongoing process that ensures that success profiles accurately reflect the fluid nature of most jobs today.

2. Make your interviewers better prepared.

Over the years, behavior-based interviewing (first developed by Development Dimensions International in 1970) has come into common use. As part of the behavior-based interviewing approach, interviewers are provided with guides that list specific interview questions that are to be asked in a structured format.

Now technology is making it easier than ever to provide your organizations interviewers with everything they need to prepare for and conduct effective interviewsincluding information they likely have not had ready access to in the past. Among the resources that can now be gathered into a virtual packet of candidate information and conveniently accessed electronically by interviewers: electronic resumes; work records and other related documentation; results from tests, inventories, simulations and work-preference questionnaires; and interview guides.

As for the interview guides, the capability now exists to tailor the questions included on the guides according to the specific responses that were provided during the screening process (tests, online simulations, etc.). For instance, if the results of an online test indicate that a candidate may not work effectively in a team environment, these results trigger the addition of interview guide questions about past experiences working with others. What's identified as a potential shortcoming can then be properly explored through the gathering of additional data from the candidate during the interview. In addition, the questions related to the target competencies can be automatically divided up among various interviewers, to avoid redundancy and to make sure that all of the competencies identified in the success profile are covered during the interviewing process.

It's also now possible to keep interviewing skills optimally sharp by providing interviewers with justin- time coaching and refresher tips that they can access close to the time they will be conducting an interview. In situations when interviewers may not have interviewed for a while or are preparing to conduct a behavior-based interview for the first time, this represents an especially smart and valuable application of "e-learning."

3. Help interviewers make the best decisions.

While technology makes it easier for interviewers to prepare for and gather candidate data during the interview, it also now makes it easier for multiple interviewers to combine, organize and evaluate candidate data to reach the right hiring decision.

Using a single interface, interviewers can input their ratings for their assigned competencies. The combined ratings are summarized on a screen that guides the data integration discussion (either a live or virtual discussion). In addition, the computer provides expert advice on issues that should be covered in the discussion and expert help with the selection process (for example, the definition of the competencies).

Also, the computer facilitates and guides the comparison of multiple candidates. The data on the candidates interviewed for the position can be sorted, to allow for clear comparison of candidates across the various competencies. This data can be easily shared with others, bringing together the perspectives of multiple interviewers and decision-makers to facilitate a consensus-building discussion. As with the previous steps in the process, the computer provides expert hints and guidance to the decision-makers.

The ease of sharing information and the expert information provided mean that "data integration," a key step in the decision-making process, can be completed online -- in some cases even eliminating the need for all interviewers to meet face-to-face, which can help accelerate the decisionmaking process.

An important extra benefit is that electronic data gathering and integration allows for the establishment of a complete data trail, which minimizes legal exposure.

4. Get new hires up to speed faster.

The selection process ends when the position has been filled. But the hire date should not mark the end of the line for the treasure trove of rich data gathered during interviews with the successful candidate.

When all of the candidate data has been captured and combined electronically, it can then be tapped to create an individual development plan to help the new employee get up to speed faster and begin contributing sooner -- reducing the costs associated with the selection process.

This interview data "portability" expands the utility of the interview, making it an important development diagnostic tool as well as a critical step in the selection process.

The Future of Interviewing

Despite the growing role of technology in selection, there is little danger of the interview becoming a relic of hiring's past. Instead, interviews are becoming more efficient, as interviewers are spending more quality time with higher-quality candidates, and more productive, as interviewers are able to gather better information -- and information that is more valuable -- and to thoroughly collect and integrate data on the competencies most important to job success. In fact, interviews are becoming more important than ever.

The future of interviewing is here. Are you giving your interviewers the best available tools to select the best people? The benefits of doing so are too compelling -- and too numerous -- to ignore.

 

William C. Byham is cofounder, chairman and CEO of Development Dimensions International (DDI).

Michael A. Haid is a senior consultant in selection solutions with DDI.


 

 

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 High-Tech Interviewing Tools

 


Here is just a small sample of some of the companies that make software products related to interviewing:


SelectPro is a web-based program that helps interviewers design and deliver behaviorbased selection interviews. It allows the interviewer to create an interview guide, a document that can be used in the interview. For more information, visit www.selectpro.net.

The BDI Guide Generator is a computer program that quickly builds a complete job description containing behaviorally described tasks/skills and competencies. These definitions are then stored in a database and can be used to create performance management tools. Visit www.BDT.netfor more information.

The HRO Performance Development Smart Suite has seven modules, including a position profiler that helps you create, manage and define characteristic responsibilities of a position and identify the competencies and performance expectations associated with the position. Visit www.hroline.com.

DDI has a number of products in its AcqHire suite of selection solutions, including competency profiling and online interviewing skills training. Visit www.ddiworld.com.

Job.interview.net has a series of interview guides. Visit www.job-interview.net.

SmartHire has a rating system for your interviews, as well as an interview question database. Visit www.4expertise.com/smarthire.html.
Linda Thornburg