How an interview begins, how it is conducted and ended are all critical success factors in finding the right candidate. The interview can heighten a candidate’s interest and enthusiasm when it begins with HR or the hiring manager sharing information about the organization, its position in the industry, its products/services, employee benefits and career development opportunities.
Interviews should extract evidence of ability to accomplish tasks and demonstrate associated behaviors in various situations as they relate to the core competencies required in the open position. In order to compare multiple candidates to the job requirements, it is important to follow a consistent process and utilize standard evaluation criteria when conducting each interview.
Behavioral Event Interviewing (BEI) is a technique that asks the candidate to describe a situation they had in a previous job. Using behavioral interviewing prevents the candidate from expounding on his/her philosophical views and focuses them on sharing real-life experiences. The interviewer gathers valuable information from experiential responses because past performance predicts future performance. Responses to behavioral questions may not be as quick and polished as traditional ones because they cannot be rehearsed. For example, the interviewer will receive all kinds of interesting responses when asking a veteran candidate to share a time when he/she had to question orders, especially in a war zone. One begins to learn about the veteran’s character really fast when seeking information in this manner.
It is always beneficial to have more than the hiring manager take part in the interviewing process, particularly when veterans are included in the mix of candidates being interviewed. Having other interviewers participate provides the hiring manager multiple perspectives prior to making an offer, and can heighten veteran interest when giving them an opportunity to speak with employees who have military backgrounds. Including interviewers who can help veteran candidates translate and transfer their military skills/experience to civilian work is highly recommended. Engaging a cross-functional interview team of internal/external suppliers/customers of the open position can provide the candidate and future colleagues an opportunity to assess whether there is a good match. For example, an open sales position might include interviewers from sales, operations, finance and engineering because the position interacts with all of these functions on a day-to-day basis.
Interviewers should use standard questions and assessment criteria to ensure consistency in evaluating each potential candidate. To ensure organization learning and consistency, document and share with interviewers how various military roles can successfully convert to civilian positions, the types of skills/experience which can be transferred to civilian work, and examples of questions to best assess veteran skills.
It’s easy to get lost in military acronyms and jargon when interviewing a veteran. As a result, it may take additional effort to draw parallels between military experience and the skills needed in the open position. One way to help bridge that gap is to ask the veteran candidate to share the tasks they performed on a daily basis. For example, if they were working in supply chain management, pursue what they purchased, what challenges they faced when interacting with vendors, what methods they used to manage inventory, and what they learned from that experience.
Ensure questions are worded properly and relate to the position and the candidate’s skills/experience. Inappropriately worded questions can cause a liability risk for the interviewer and the company. Whether they have a military or civilian background, it is inappropriate to probe into the candidate’s personal life or physical characteristics. Following are ways to properly address sensitive topics:
|It’s OK to ask …||It’s NOT OK to ask …|
|Tell me a little about yourself.||Are you married? Should we call you Ms, Miss or Mrs? Who is your spouse? Is your spouse employed? Would your spouse be willing to move here with you? Do you have kids or planning to have them in the future?|
|Please tell me about your military service. What specific education or work experience you acquired during military service would be useful on the job for which you are applying?||Have you served in the military in another country? Did you see any action out there? Did you receive an honorable or dishonorable discharge?|
|Can you perform the functions of this job with or without reasonable accommodation?||Are you disabled? Do you have PTSD? How much time off from work will you need because of your disability?|
|Can you meet the attendance requirements of this job?||Do you have or ever had a serious illness? Do you have regular doctor appointments because of your illness?|
|Do you have the legal right to live and work in the US? If hired, can you provide proof of U.S citizenship or legal right to work?||What nationality are you? What country were you born in? Were your parents born in the U.S.?|
|Do you speak any languages other than English? How proficient are you in English?||What is your native language? How did you learn English?|
|Are you older than 18? (Only if you suspect the candidate is not yet 18 years of age.)||How old are you? When were you born? Are you between the ages of 20 and 40?|
|Sometimes we have to work on Saturdays and Sundays. Is there any reason you would be unable to work these days?||What religion are you? What religious services do you attend? Is there anything in your religion that would prevent you from working Saturdays or Sundays?|
|Have you ever been convicted of a felony or, during the past two years, of a misdemeanor that resulted in imprisonment?||Have you ever been arrested?|
|Explain how your education and work experience have prepared you for this job. Do you have any hobbies related to the job you’re applying for? Are you a member of any organizations related to the job? While in school/service, did you participate in any activities or clubs?||What are your hobbies? What clubs, associations or churches do you belong to? What do you do on your time off?|
Several additional guidelines for successful interviewing and evaluation of candidates follow:
- Interviews should take place in a comfortable setting, free of distractions. Sitting next to a candidate, versus across a desk, provides the candidate an immediate perspective about the interviewer’s personal style and the culture of the workplace.
- Take into consideration a veteran candidate reentering civilian work life from a combat situation. It is beneficial to provide seating such that the veteran has clear site of the entry into the interview space.
- Put the candidate at ease. An interviewer’s tone of voice, eye contact, facial expression and body language should make the candidate feel welcomed and convey enthusiasm.
- Prompt the candidate to speak freely. Veterans are trained to communicate quickly and succinctly so they may need additional encouragement to expand on their responses. They also may have a difficult time selling themselves due to military emphasis on team versus individual accomplishments.
- Recognize that formal military style may cause a veteran candidate to appear cold or distant. Interviewers may erroneously interpret their verbal and non-verbal responses as being too rigid or parochial. Leverage internal veterans to help understand a veteran candidate’s behavior, comments, accomplishments or commendations mentioned during the interview.
- Be aware of your own subtle biases in assessing responses, particularly candidates who have a different communication style or cultural background. Eye contact, voice tone and formality of personal style can convey different messages in different cultures. Recognize a veteran candidate’s formal military communication style might erroneously suggest poor social skills.
- Responses to candidate questions should adhere to company policies. Remember the interviewer is representing its organization and all of its policies. Remain honest at all times.
- To ensure assessment of the candidate is based on a diverse set of information, manage the interview time carefully. Try to keep each discussion point to no more than five minutes, using probes that follow the initial question.
- Focus the candidate on their actions and experiences (“I” not “We”). While it’s helpful to understand who they interacted with and what their previous team or organization did, the goal is to explore what the candidate personally did and accomplished.
- Reserve judgment and don’t assume! Avoid drawing conclusions from a single statement made by a candidate. Use follow-up probes to better understand and gain clarity before judging him/her.
- Be watchful of a “Halo Effect” candidate – one who seems to have all the right experience, answers and “look.” Using BEI questions and follow-up probes will help determine whether the candidate’s responses are consistent with past behavior and performance.
- Although it is important for employees to share similar qualifications and experiences, be open to diversity when filling an open position. Research has proven that a diversified work environment promotes free exchange of unique ideas/methods, opens up potential avenues for new business, and enhances synergy within an organization.
- Ensure referral information is coming from an accurate and credible source; never rely on hearsay or gossip.
- Be aware that generalization of a person based on a specific characteristic (stereotyping) such as ethnicity, religion, age, marital status, disability or sexual orientation can lead to a more positive or negative impression than is true of a candidate. Furthermore, hiring a person based on their disability, race or nationality is a violation of federal law.
Before bringing the interview to closure, it’s important to allow time to answer the candidate’s questions and to share what your organization has to offer. Be prepared to answer questions about career paths and benefits (medical, retirement, education, vacation, absenteeism, etc). If an interviewer is unable to answer a question, he/she should commit to getting the answers to the candidate as quickly as possible.
Inform the candidate of the next steps in the hiring process, and share future expectations (e.g., a decision will be communicated via e-mail within the next two weeks). Thank the candidate for their interest and time spent exploring the open position.