Interviewing 101 -- For Managers

SAN MATEO (03/27/2000) - If you're charged with hiring top talent to keep your organization humming, you need to make some savvy decisions. Do you know how to make the best use of an interview? You should.

WHEN YOU WERE A TEAM CAPTAIN in gym class, did you ever choose the tall, athletic-looking kid over the short one, only to find that the big guy was uncoordinated and the little guy had fast feet and killer aim? Losing a game due to a bad pick is not the end of the world, but hiring the wrong employee can be costly. Following are some tips to aid you as you sit down to interview potential MVPs for your company.

1. Get down to business

Avoid using small talk to make a candidate comfortable, says Michael R. Neece, president and CEO of Tri-Point, a builder of Web-based hiring automation tools, in Hopkinton, Mass. "Some interviewers believe they can make someone's nervousness go away just with a little small talk," he says. "A candidate is going to be nervous no matter what you do." Instead, first outline the format of the interview, then move on to the questions.

2. Dig deep

Ask for specific stories about what a candidate has done, but don't stop there, Neece says. Proceed with a series of questions to assess how strong the candidate's experiences are. "Probe until you're convinced. You could be convinced that they suck, or that they're great," he says. The ritual may follow this format: What did you do? How did you approach it? What did you learn? How have you applied that learning to a different situation? Why did you do it that way?

3. Know your biases

You need to be aware of your own biases, says Dr. Robert K. Smith, chairman and founder of Kinsel Enterprises, a consultancy in Dallas. "We gravitate toward people who share our biases and away from people who have the opposite biases.

It's really important to have an accurate self understanding," he says. "I know that I have a bias in that as I get to know a person personally, I start to lose my objectivity. I start believing in them, even if it's contrary to the evidence."

4. Seek positivity and success

William H. Stoller, co-founder and vice chairman at Express Personnel Services, in Oklahoma City, looks for positive candidates with a success-oriented attitude. "When they are talking accomplishments, or about some of the things that went wrong, get an idea of what kind of perspective they have," he says.

"Is the water glass half full or half empty?"

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