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Need Help re Interviewing!


I was recently involved in interviewing for new staff. I feel I lack the confidence, knowledge and skills required to do this well. Anyone got any info/tips on how to improve the skills of the interviewer, (me!), particularly in relation to paraphrasing/rephrasing questions and clarification of responses.
Ann Marie McKenna

10 Responses

  1. Need Help re Interviewing!
    Hi Ann Marie,

    As with many questions of this type, more information is required!

    The key areas to concentrate on, in my opinion, are communication skills – listening predominantly, effective control, time management, knowledge, questioning techniques and confidence.

    As I am unaware of your background and experience, I shall assume that you are inexperienced in this area.

    An interview is merely a process to determine suitability, on both sides, for a particular function or role. To this end, a series of open and closed questions are asked by the interviewer to ascertain knowledge, attitude and skill-set of the candidate. You are also seeking to ensure that you have the right fit, with respect to your company ethos. It is important that the candidate satisfies all these areas. It is of equal importance that you, as the interviewer, have a list of expected answers to all of your questions.

    As the interview is used to gather information it is important for you to have the ability to listen carefully to all responses. As a general rule, 80% of the interview is responses from the interviewee. If your questions are ambiguous, the response will be similar. If you use an example of…..’so tell me about your highest achievement in your last company’ this is a good open question, but the candidate will no doubt be nervous and may waffle on for 30 minutes! You need to control the response and then make a synopsis of the answer. If you like, put the response into bullet points (verbally). You may respond with…..’so you have sold £100K worth of training in six months’ and ‘you became head of department within two years of joining the company’. This technique gives the candidate the opportunity to agree or not, as the case may be. This avoids any misunderstanding. For your benefit, you now have the definitive answers to your listed questions. Be very careful with 50/50 questions. If you want to know if a person can drive a car, it is quite simple, on the face of it! Q. Can you drive a car? A. Yes. But can that person drive a manual car, or just an automatic? Closed questions are where you expect a specific answer, so some detail is required here.

    One issue that may require some thought is the type of role, for which you are recruiting. If you do not have a good job specification or knowledge of accountabilities and responsibilities, this will definitely affect your confidence.

    I would be happy to discuss any of the above in more detail, should you require further assistance, either by email or phone.

    I hope this helps.

    Kind regards,


  2. Help with interviewing
    As Clive has already said the answer to this depends on where you are starting from.

    Clive has given a very succinct outline of the types of thing that you need to be considering and I endorse everything he has written.

    One thing I would add would be to find a colleague or someone who is experienced in interviewing and ask if you can practice on them and receive feedback from them.

    Carol Fell
    Focussed Personnel Solutions
    07979 755534

  3. Anne Maria – Recruiting
    I have produced a short booklet (17pages) covering the area of recruitment. If you would like a copy just email me. [email protected] I have copyright so you can feel free to use it for personal development. It relates to worker rather than manager or graduate recruitment. If you are in the latter area it does make a difference.

  4. Need Help re Interviewing!
    Interviewing is the type of activity that you need to actually do when learning, rather than just read about or watch (a bit like learning to ride a bike – reading about the theory of balance may not help much!). I suggest that you attend a course run by a reputable training provider where you will receive in-depth feedback about how you interview. In my experience, the main difficulty new interviewers have is with getting, detailed evidence of what the interviewee did or didn’t do. So they rely on impressions (biases) to make their decisions rather than real information. If and when you go on your training focus on this. How to structure the discussion, how to set the room out and so on is fairly simple once you’re shown how – getting the ‘story’ out of someone is what’s difficult. Good luck!

  5. Alarm bells
    Ann Marie

    One quick way to enhance your listening and analytical skills is to recognise “alarm bells” – those words or phrases that the other person uses which need clarification or digging into.

    For example: lotsa, all the time, never, must, the problem was, greater, impossible.

    These words and phrases ring an alarm bell. You follow up with an immediate question that enables you to dig deeper and get to hard facts.

    I can let you have a list of these words and possible follow up questions if you want to contact me direct. (I’m not sure how the contact details appear at the bottom but hope it works.)

    The second thing I would say is preparation – the stages of the meeting, the purpose of each stage, the key questions you need to ask.

    Mike Westwood
    01608 676082

  6. Ther are 2 kinds of paraphrasing
    Two key paraphrasing skills are reflecting back facts and reflecting back feelings. Facts is easier – repeat back the factual content, as you understand it. Practice this in all kinds of situations and it will become easy to do in the stress of an interview. Feelings is harder and while this is a great skill in many situations it’s not essential for interviewing. I’d concentrate on learning to do open and probing questions first. And questions which ask for specific examples of behaviour. “Tell me about a time when you…”. Plan the questions in advance. Good luck.

  7. Tips for Interview questions
    I use questions which ask the interviewee if they have actually experienced a particular situation before. If they have, I ask them to visulise a specific example in their minds and then probe them on what they did, what results they achieved, what they learnt from the experience and what they would do differently next time.

    By focussing on one actual experience you can not only learn a lot about the individual but also about their problem solving, decision making and development styles.

    The questions should always be worded to ask what they ‘did’ as opposed to what they ‘would do’ in a particular situation to understand what actual experience they have.

  8. Internet Source
    The issue you wish addressed is very subjective and there are many answers – some apt for individuals and not others. Personality and experience are major factors.
    I’d suggest some research to source a bank of questions that you could begin to feel comfortable with and mould to your personality.
    The internet is becoming a wonderful such resource.I use a number of sites but one I recommend to begin with is:
    I hope you find this useful.

  9. Need Help re Interviewing!
    From experience of interviewing and being an interviewee, here are my thoughts.
    Questions: Make sure that you allow a variety of questions, open, closed and reflective (as suggested by another commentator).
    Reflective: Be a little careful with reflective, because they can come across as meaning “are you sure?” – “are you telling the truth?” – “oh surely not!” ; becomes a test or disbelief.
    Open: open questions – the What, Where, Why, Who and How questions – enable the interviewee an opportunity to have their say. That’s why I like them. I like to use these up-front, because this gives the interviewee an opportunity to talk, think, relate and even relax.
    Closed: closed questions – those that have one answer (usually) – are better left till later. Here you are truly testing knowledge and that person’s ability to perform the job. So if the role is for a Trainer in MS Word, you might ask “Do you know how Mail Merge works in MS Word?” If the answer is “Yes” then ask probing questions to ascertain whether that person really does know. Of course if they say “no” then don’t hire them! 😉
    I think finally it is important to make the interviewee know that who they are, what they do, is important, no questions and answers, just a simple discussion about them personally – what they like, hobbies etc. – just a friendly wrap-up.
    To summarise:
    1. Make sure everyone is at ease
    2. Allow the interviewee to get comfortable verbally: Open questions
    3. Introduce the job-role in some detail…..
    4. Then prod and probe: Closed questions – can the interviewee do the job?
    5. General chit chat about interviewee
    I hope that some of this is useful, if not a little outside your original question.

  10. Interview skills development
    This is a perennial problem for interviewers – the theory is simple enough but there is no substitute for practice with feedback.

    Very often there is what I call the ‘arc of distortion’ between the intended message and the perceived one. The skill is to get the two conguent.

    The way we do this is either one on one or small group coaching using actors trained in business. This means that the trainee can have very focussed feedback and repeat practice until the intended question or reflection and the percieved question are one and the same. This greatly improved the skill and confidence of the interviewer.

    Happy to discuss further.

    Bernard Stewart


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