Strategies for Interviewers:Some considerations [Archives:2003/675/Education]

October 9 2003

Dr. Ramakanta Sahu
Interview is a bipolar activity. It presupposes a positive attitude, an open mind and a friendly personality on the part of the interviewer to get the best out of the candidate. The right approach of a judicious interviewer is not to expose what the candidate doesn't know, but to instill confidence in him so that he comes out with the best resources he has. As such, the interview becomes a pleasant experience for the candidate, not a grueling ordeal for him.
For effective role playing the interviewer should be clear as to what he is looking for in a suitable candidate and prepare his stance accordingly. It's an enterprise where the interviewer maximizes the time in order to achieve the desired goal. This essay is an attempt to remind the actual and potential interviewers about certain practical techniques in the best of their as well as the interviewee's interest.

1. Build a friendly atmosphere
As the candidate takes his seat, a conscientious interviewer builds up a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. He puts relatively simple, open-ended questions like “How would you . As the interview proceeds, the candidate finds himself emotionally stable to take the other questions by the interviewer.

2. Don't dominate the interview
An experienced interviewer doesn't dominate the interview, but lets the candidate come out with his responses and, in the process, gives him/her the optimal chance to reveal himself/herself.

3. Plan the interview well in advance
It is essential that the interviewer plans the questions well in advance. He should not put the candidate in a tight corner by putting unexpected, unwarranted questions. Questions that are not relevant are likely to discourage a candidate and give him a feeling that the interviewer is not interested in him. On the other hand, relevant questions from the candidate's areas of specialization put him at ease and help him do most of the talking which is the goal of the interview.

4. Give supportive remarks
The interviewer should keep up the spirit of the candidate by occasionally giving encouraging remarks such as 'that's interesting', 'would you tell us more abut it'. Some interviewers have an uncanny fascination for pulling the candidate's legs by making curt remarks or cracking cruel jokes. This is an extremely baneful strategy as it disheartens the candidate.

5. Use positive body language
The interviewer's facial expressions are very important. He should look interested, wear a smile or give a nod where necessary. This builds up a congenial atmosphere and enlivens the candidate. The interviewers' job is to augment, not sabotage, the candidate's self esteem.

6. Be alert, decipher the non-verbal messages
Sometimes the candidate is on the defensive. He falters and fumbles for words. He looks down, avoids eye contact or looks vacantly at the ceiling. These are some of the weakest or most vulnerable moments when the interviewer should be empathetic, considerate and compassionate. He should bail the candidate out from such critical junctures by asking an easy question which he can answer.

7. Allow breathing space
Rather than bombarding the candidate with a barrage of questions, the interviewer should allow a pause between questions so that the candidate quickly prepares himself for the forthcoming question.

8. Be patient and informal
If the candidate makes a comment or gives an opinion that is not acceptable to the interviewer, the latter should not raise an eyebrow or frown or react very strongly. He should accept the candidate's opinion and not put him off by a condescending remark.

9. Don't subscribe to extreme views and opinions
The interviewer may have certain political or religious biases or prejudices. If the candidate doesn't seem to subscribe to those, he should not be penalized. In fact, the candidate's overall performance should be assessed in an objective manner.

10. Ending an interview
Whether or not the candidate is considered suitable for the job, the interviewer should end the interview on a friendly note. He should thank the candidate for his responses and say that the results of the interview would be communicated soon, not forgetting, of course, to wish him/her good luck.

An interview is a veritable learning experience for both the candidate and the interviewer. From the latter's standpoint it is a valuable pointer to the skills and strategies of interaction. It is sometimes observed that even if the candidate does not get through, he loves to cherish the memory of the interview.
So the next time we sit on the interview board, let's try and be a sensible, judicious, balanced and conscientious interviewer.