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    Selecting someone is something you can learn

    Almost every HRM professional has been in a job interview with an applicant who struggled to find the words to express him-/herself. A bad day, bad preparations or just a bad match: it happens to the best of us. However, not only applicants slip up. Mistakes can also happen on your side.

    It has become more common for HRM professionals to join in in a job interview. And you cannot make an omelet without breaking some eggs. Especially less experienced HRM professionals struggle to play their part in a job interview. Three aspects of job interviews in particular are the greatest pitfalls for inexperienced selectors.


    At the start of any job interview, you are supposed to introduce yourself. This seems like a given, but in practice it doesn’t always happen. Moreover, it is a good idea to inform a participant of the structure and purpose of the job interview right at the beginning. This will allow him/her to understand the expectations. It is important to give this information in order to make the interview go more smoothly. First, knowing the structure and purpose of an interview might calm the applicant’s nerves. Second, the applicant will know which aspects of the interview are used in the assessment, what is expected of him/her, and when there is room for questions. However, a good structure is not only important for the applicant but also for you. It increases the efficiency of the job interview, monitors the progress and direction of the interview and offers a good way to compare different applicants fairly.


    The purpose of a job interview is to assess whether the applicant in front of you is the right fit for the job opening in question. And vice versa, as a job interview should also give the applicant more information about the job opening and the organization in general. Therefore, make sure to paint an adequate picture of your organization during the job interview, allowing the applicant to make the right decisions for his/her future.
    In order obtain as much relevant information as possible, it is important to encourage the applicant to provide a concrete answer to your questions. People often tend to give a vague answer. Ask for concrete examples as proof of the applicant’s competencies or experiences, as previous performance is often a good indicator of future performance. If you do not ask precise questions, you risk receiving a simple and socially acceptable answer by the applicant, which makes you none the wiser.


    A third and frequent pitfall amongst (especially inexperienced) HRM professionals is asking closed-ended or suggestive questions based on assumptions. Such questions often result in a quick and anticipated answer, whereas open-ended questions often give more relevant and sometimes surprising information about an applicant. One explanation for this course of action is the fact that inexperienced selectors often what to hide their lack of experience from the applicant. By asking closed-ended question, they can pretend to already know a lot about the applicant, e.g. asking questions such as: ‘is it true you have worked a lot with the outdated system X?’. However, asking questions based on assumptions says more about you than about the applicant. Moreover, assumptions only stand in the way of making an unbiased assessment and often create a rather hostile atmosphere.


    A difference in experience is a logical explanation for the different results of job interviews; the field of HRM also requires experience. However, this fact is also part of the solution. By providing inexperienced HRM professionals with thorough supervision during interviews and giving personal and structured feedback, it is possible to train them to recognize and avoid pitfalls.


    Analysis of job interviews

    The pitfalls mentioned in the article ‘selecting someone is something you can learn’ are taken from research conducted by Metaview, an organization specialized in the improvement of data driven recruitment and selection. For two years, they recorded and analyzed tens of thousands of hours of job interviewing. The research mostly involved analyzing how long the participant and interviewer(s) were talking respectively, what questions were asked and what information what shared.

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