Volume 85, April 2008: Interviewing

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2008 ISSN # 1545-8873

“An interview is a conversation between two or more people (the interviewer and the interviewee) where questions are asked by the interviewer to obtain information from the interviewee. Interviews can be divided into two basic types, interviews of assessment and interviews for information.” — Wikipedia

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” — Ben Franklin

“If I was given six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first four hours sharpening the ax.” — Abraham Lincoln

“I’ve learned Windows 3.1, Windows 95, and Windows 98. I’m not sure I have another Windows in me.” — Tom, a 50-something executive


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Creating a complementary talent pool.
  • Using accurate and efficient hiring processes.
  • Asking open-ended questions to solicit more information.
  • Posing real-life dilemmas to tap judgment, character and emotional intelligence.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

A bad hiring decision can be immensely expensive for an organization – through cost of the hire, training, severance pay, loss of productivity, impact on morale, unemployment insurance, cost of re-hiring, re-training, down time, etc. (The Gallup organization states the cost of a bad hire as 3.2 times the individual's salary; others say as much as five times the job salary). Leaders must learn to hire well.

Interviewing is an acquired art, not only for selection, but for learning in general. An interview is not an interrogation, it’s a conversation. Interviews are useful for getting the story behind a person’s experiences.

Hone your skills by practicing the many types of interviews below.

Frequently Asked Questions

“How do you determine what you are looking for?”
Determine what you are hiring for, through job analysis – which feeds the job description (part of the written contract that governs the relationship). Information can also be obtained from subject matter experts, such as job incumbents, supervisors, job analysts, and customers. You can also learn about jobs through Observation, Interviews, Questionnaires, and Diaries kept by the incumbent. Process flow charts are very helpful.
Outside of the organization, there are government guides, such as the Functional Job Analysis (FJA) and the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). There are also standardized job analysis questionnaires, such as the Position Analysis Questionnaire, the Job Element Inventory, and The Management Position Description Questionnaire.
“What do I need to ask about, besides skills and knowledge needed to do the job?”
The typical old-style interview is biographical in nature.
A competency-based interview goes further by asking additional questions about character and personal attributes that can better determine the candidate’s ability to deal with the real situations posed by the job, and whether they fit into the corporate culture. These are called “behavioral competencies."
Questioning can either be hypothetical (“how would you deal with situation X?”) or based on historical examples from their current or previous experience (“when situation X arose, how did you deal with it?”). You are attending to their thought processes, values, and the outcomes they achieved.
“Are there other types of interviews?”
  • A screening interview allows a company representative to determine if a candidate meets minimum requirements.
  • A structured interview is the most common, where predetermined questions about experience, skills, and personality traits are asked of every candidate.
  • A targeted interview is a briefer, more focused structured interview.
  • Unstructured interviews give the interviewer the freedom to follow an open-ended line of questioning, but run the risk of inconsistency.
  • Multiple interviews use a series of interviewers, who meet after and compile impressions. These can be used to successively weed out candidates.
  • Group interviews save time and redundancy by having a group of employees interview a candidate.
  • The stress interview attempts to make the interviewee uncomfortable, such as asking them how they think the interview is going or to tell you their weakest point.
  • A situational interview simulates common problems the interviewee might encounter on the job.
  • A case interview is similar, in that it presents a case situation or problem and asks the interviewee to solve it, either alone or with other candidates.
“How about other selection tools? ”
  • Work samples
  • Written tests (personality, interests, knowledge, abilities)
  • Absence of pathology (see On the Dark Side of Leadership)
  • Biodata tests (past experience)
  • Reference and background verification
  • Work simulations
  • Assessment Centers
  • Medical and physical tests
  • Genetic screening for sensitivity to work hazards
  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • Precertification with local colleges/universities
“What are the questions I can’t ask?”
To stay strictly legal according to the EEOC guidelines, you may not ask questions that directly or indirectly probe for answers about almost any demographic information:
  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Disability

This includes asking for photographs, names that might reveal origin or marital status, age-related questions that might place them as 40 years or older, height and weight, arrests and convictions, what professional organizations they belong to and other and affiliations, residence or physical health.

See Illegal Questions for wording on legal and illegal questions.

Exercises and Action Items:

  • Conduct a group interview, with those who are most impacted by the position. Include customers.
  • Train interviewers to improve their discriminatory powers.
  • Flowchart your selection process, to utilize multiple methods and strengthen your decisions, plus to inform potential candidates of the process.


Common job interview questions and answers: Job Interview Questions and Answers.

Behavioral interviewing questions: Interviewing Questions.

Key Associates offers leadership training, including “Interviewing Skills.” Contact us for customized training packages

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Types of Interviews.

The pioneering Microsoft interview: Microsoft interview.

General guidelines for conducting an interview: General Guidelines for Conducting Research Interviews.

Keyzines on related topics: Keeping Good People, Organizational Culture, Joy in the Workplace, Evolving Workplaces: Telework, Pride in Work, Valuing Diversity, Strength-based Organizations, On the Dark Side of Leadership, and Spanning the Generations.



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