Matching the right person with the right job is incredibly rewarding for everyone concerned, but it can be an involved process! The interview plays an important role, particularly in ensuring a candidate’s culture fit, but in order to make the most out of it employers need to be totally clear about what they’re looking for, and ensure they ask the right questions to find out if the candidate can offer it to them.
An important thing to remember about the interview is that it is the finishing line of important groundwork already covered. In an ideal situation, both employer and candidate should know exactly what they’re looking for and what they can offer each other. The employer should already have a clear outline of the candidate’s profile, and ensure that their job advert has reached the ideal audience. The employer will have prepared questions that can see how a candidate thinks and reacts in real life situations and whether they can think on their feet. For candidates, it’s crucial that they’re prepared to think originally and not just rely on what’s written on their CV.
Seeing the real person and not just a polished front explains the increased role that behavioural questions play in many interviews nowadays. They enable employers to see whether a candidate has the skills required for a role, based on the logic that an individual’s past behaviour is a good indication of how they will act in the future.
Behavioural questions help in those situations as an employer when you have a candidate in front of you who ticks all the boxes on paper but you need to see how they’ll behave in real life. Here are just two examples of how to do this:
Stress management: If you want to see how your candidate deals with stress, ask them about previous situations where they’ve missed a deadline (as all employees do, even the best of them!) and how they coped. Both the experience they describe and how they deal with answering the question will give valuable insight into how the candidate manages stress.
Communication skills: To see their communications skills, ask them about a time when they tried to explain something and someone just couldn’t understand what they were trying to express. Both how the candidate responds to your questions and their description and understanding of the situation will give you a clear view of their ability to communicate.
On top of behavioural questions, as an employer you clearly want to see whether the candidate fits your workplace’s specific culture. A good way of doing this is by not giving the candidate too much information up front – don’t put words in their mouth, but rather let them get there first.
Candidates can prepare for interview knowing that they need to present the best version of themselves, but they must also be authentic. You need to be prepared to back up your answers with specific experiences. It’s easy to say you’re good at working in a team, but without evidence to back it up it’s a meaningless statement, and doesn’t showcase you as an individual.
Candidates also need to make sure they’ve done the research on their prospective employer and company so they can show how they are the ideal fit. A good way of doing this, while still showing the real you, is to pull apart the job description and relate your own experiences to it. Not only will this prepare you perfectly for many behavioural questions, it will also enable you to play a proactive part in demonstrating your culture fit with the employer.
Of course an interview is in some way an artificial experience, at least in the sense that an employer and potential employee can only really see for certain if they are suited to each other after real life experience of working together.
However, asking the right questions and preparing the right responses at interview, taken together with the CV, references and screening mean employers will have a very strong indication of both the candidate’s capabilities and potential culture fit.
The interview process can of course be nerve-wracking for candidates, but if they are well prepared then it’s a real opportunity for them to showcase their skills and hone their technique of presenting themselves in the best and, crucially, honest light; a valuable life skill applicable to many circumstances!