Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Craft of Interviewing

One of the most popular methods of selecting or rejecting candidates in a school whether for the post of a Principal, or the post of a teacher continues to be the Interview. Unfortunately this is also a most maligned tool. A high attrition rate of selected candidates or inability to retain them for more than a year might also point out to defects in the selection procedure which is based on the Interview method. Attrition might be attributed to inability to judge whether the candidate matches to the expectations of the philosophy of the organisation, or the inability to identify discrepancies in the eligibility of the candidate for the post. Unfortunately when a candidate who has passed through the rigours of the selection process leaves the organisation rather suddenly, it leaves a bad image not only on the organisation, but also has a traumatic impact on the candidate. During a training held recently, it was made clear that every candidate who goes through the interview should leave with a sense of fulfilment even if he is not selected, having due respect for the objectivity of the selection procedure.
It is true that many organisations subject the candidate to a battery of tests and processes of elimination which include Psychometric procedures, Aptitude tests and a thorough screening of the Curriculum Vitae before calling him or her for the interview. The traditional interview however has much that is lacking in terms of validity, and better form of the Interview is the Behavioural Event Interview or the B.E.I. The B.E.I. unlike the traditional method of interview has better chances of analysing behavioural manifestations of attitudes, mind-sets, skills, values, and motives. An accurate analysis of these traits in the candidate might help avoid embarrassment caused by a high attrition rate among selected candidates or inability to retain them for a justifiable period of time. If the Philosophy and Mind-Set of the candidate doesn’t match with those of the Organisation then it would be better to be forewarned and the Organisation could then look for another suitable candidate.
The key to the B.E.I. method of interviewing candidates lies in making the candidate feel as comfortable and at ease and then this is followed by asking him or her relevant probing questions that would attempt to analyse the relevant attitudes and values and mind-sets. The strategy of the B.E.I. is to probe for critical incidents in a persons earlier life and career which would have a future bearing on his or her ability to serve the organisation faithfully. One important assumption on which the Behavioural Event Interview is based is that past performances are suitable predictors of future performances. Thus, having  defined behavioural indicators are a necessity for an effective B.E.I.
It is true that the Interview is a craft learned through experience and development of skills of being able to make the candidate feel comfortable and not intimidated in any case. It is also an art that has to be cultivated painstakingly. The best interviewers could also be those who have undergone this process a fair number of times.The ideal Behavioural Event Interview is not an interrogation method such as many of my readers might have undergone. There was this interview that I went through sometime in the year 2010, and amazingly I had to face a panel of interviewers who kept firing questions at random. Some of the questions were as funny as, “Why are sewer covers or manhole covers round?”. This question was not connected to my professional profile, but still it was thrown at me at random. My reply that “not all manhole or sewer covers are round!” was met with amusement, and one of the panel members, a retired Principal appreciated my answer while the person who asked the question squirmed, although I later told them that the round shape was ideal for accessibility. An effective Behavioural Event Interview is all about careful planning, and trick questions should not be asked. It is also all about a one to one interview and not about be bombarded by question by a large number of panel members. Unfortunately the greatest mistake is to make the candidate feel intimidated! The workshop that I attended recently on the B.E.I. made it very clear that the Interviewer should sit at a tangent to the interviewee, and not directly opposite to him, without of course  being too close for comfort.
I am most thankful to the organisation which set up this workshop on the B.E.I. method and did a wonderful job of acquainting me further with the latest methods of assessing candidates.!
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