Conducting a job interview is a prime opportunity for office idiots to demonstrate their shocking lack of understanding of even the most basic elements of pre-employment screening. They are totally unprepared, easily distracted, ask questions that are personal and arguably illegal, and then fail to listen. And that’s just in the first ten minutes.
Fortunately, there are some proven steps that will keep you out of the domain of office idiocy when you’re interviewing applicants. Before the interview, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the job to be filled, especially in terms of the knowledge, skills, abilities, training, and certifications that are required for a person to perform successfully in it. Some interviewers simply start interviewing, but they don’t know how to evaluate the data they gather because they don’t understand the position.
Another key step prior to the interview is to take a few minutes to review the applicant’s resume. Have you ever been in a job interview where the interviewer read your resume for the first time while interviewing you? That’s a sure sign of an amateur manager and a professional office idiot. While looking over the resume before the interview, the idea is to focus on two key questions. First, “Can the candidate do the job?” Namely, does he or she have the expertise, training, skills, and experience required for the position? Secondly, “Will the candidate do the job?” Does his or her work experience demonstrate the persistence, drive, interpersonal skills, leadership, and energy to do the job? At the same time, as you review the resume, be sure to look for gaps, inconsistencies, and signs of covering, such as when the resume indicates that the individual worked at a given company from 2009 – 2011. Is that three years or is it one year and two days? It could be either. The interview is the place where you will find the answers.
Then there is the interview itself, a place where office idiocy can come into full bloom. The best way to prevent this from happening is to ask questions that focus on the interviewee’s work history. You should go over every job he or she held, from the earliest positions through today. All of your questions should be job-related, and you can gain a great deal of insight by asking what the individual liked and disliked on every job, along with his or her reasons for making a change. Questions that focus on work samples and job knowledge are also very useful. There should be no questions that directly or indirectly focus on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disabilities, age, marital status, living arrangements, or the like. Such questions open the door for possible legal claims and generate information that is useless in predicting job performance. Also, they are a great way to lose outstanding applicants. In a word, it’s totally idiotic to ask them.
At the same time, it’s important to ask questions that encourage interviewees to talk, rather than questions that generate a one-word response. For example, instead of asking, “Did you like that job” or “Did you have a lot of responsibility,” ask open-ended questions along the same subject lines that generate more of a response, such as by asking, “What did you like about that job,” or “What kinds of responsibilities did you have?” Questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no are the way to go, and you can do this with questions that start with who, what, where, when, why, and how.
It’s also essential to listen to what the interviewees say. Some idiotic interviewers cannot contain themselves during the process and simple babble away. Importantly, many applicants are aware of the finding that interviewers tend to like interviewees in direct proportion to the amount of time that the interviewers talk. With that in mind, some interviewees will intentionally draw an interviewer into a prolonged explanation, and some idiotic interviewers willingly take the bait. There will be a time for you to field an interviewee’s questions, but only when you’re sure he or she is in the ballpark.
Other mistakes that office idiots make when interviewing candidates include 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, simply look at what you’re doing and then ask yourself if this is how you’d like to be treated.
About the Author
Ken Lloyd, PhD, is a nationally recognized Southern California management consultant, author, speaker, and newspaper columnist. He has taught numerous MBA classes at The Anderson School at UCLA and lectures at many other universities. He is the vice president of planning and development at Strategic Partners, Inc. and a frequent television and talk-radio guest, as well. He has authored several books, including Jerks at Work and Performance Appraisals and Phrases for Dummies. A member of the American Psychological Association and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, he graduated from UC Berkeley and received his MS and PhD in organizational behavior from UCLA.