The setting in which you conduct an interview, as well as how you arrange the scene, can have a significant influence on the outcome. In fact, the role you are interviewing for may very well influence that setup. Before you begin you will need to be clear in your mind what you want to achieve in order to set the landscape that best provokes the outcome you are looking for.
Initially you will need to determine the interview process and who is to be involved. If you are conducting candidate testing and scrutinising an applicant’s performance under role play conditions before concluding with a relaxed face-to-face interview, perhaps several interview settings at multiple sites is in order. And these may be carried out across time as you seek to cull the number of would-be hopefuls. It is common to engage in this process when a professional recruiter is assisting you to narrow the field. A micro business looking to expand for the first time may be looking for a relaxed environment such as a coffee shop as their end goal is not to see if the candidate is capable, but rather able to click well with their potential employer.
Yet what if the job you are looking to fill is a high pressured role? You will want to know before hiring the candidate how they perform in a stressful situation. Would you take them to a coffee shop for a casual chat? Absolutely not! Sales roles are carried out in competitive environments, emergency service workers and surgeons are often faced with traumatic scenes, and kindergarten teachers are managing more than a handful of children with short attention spans. How and where would you conduct a job interview for these roles?
The ‘how’ is another point for consideration. Is your candidate currently living overseas? This factor will limit how you conduct the interview. Do you start with a phone call and proceed to a Skype interview with a panel of interviewers? Regardless the setting needs to be private and free of distracting noises and activities. Yet despite the logistical parameters, you can still create an interview setting that either relaxes a candidate or challenges them. Keep in mind too that it is wise to explain to candidates in advance what they can expect in the interview so that they may prepare.
Getting the setting wrong can have a devastating effect. A friend once attended an interview with her employer for a role that would result in her receiving an internal promotion. The conversation did not take place in one of the many conference rooms on site, but rather comprised of three chairs pulled in a tight huddle in a dark, pokey office where a series of questions were fired at her. The setting was unprofessional, it was not representative of the role she was being interviewed for and only sought to make my friend feel very uncomfortable. Focused on an escape plan and not the interview, she cut the interview short and left not wanting the role. The two interviewers who thought the process a mere formality were left contemplating how to proceed after an all-round very unprofessional and bad interview performance. Ultimately someone of lesser quality was hired, the highly experienced and long term employee left the organisation for a promotion elsewhere, and staff morale and productivity levels plummeted. It all cascaded from a failed interview setting, a factor only realised when they begrudgingly conducted an exit interview with her. It was an unexpected yet hefty price for the organisation to pay.
The goal when interviewing is to ensure the atmosphere assists the candidate to communicate freely. Most interviews conducted are open and collaborative, reflecting the culture, ethics and type of people the hiring organisation is looking to attract. To set the scene right, put yourself in the interviewee chair. Try to look at things from the interviewee’s perspective and feel what they are likely to feel. If something is not quite right, adjust or relocate the environment until you are confident that you have created an atmosphere that will incite the right outcome for both you and the applicant.