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Interviewing Candidates

Interviews play a critical role in determining whether a candidate has the technical, behavioral, and motivational fit to be successful in a position. An interview must be a two-way exchange of information to be effective in an evaluation process. During an interview process, the candidate is also determining if they want to work for West Virginia State University. There are multiple approaches and structures to interviewing candidates to ascertain what a candidate brings to the table. Below there are two types of interviews and associated resources to assist you in a successful interview process.

Behavioral Interviews

There are advantages to incorporating behavioral interviewing in your evaluation and selection process.  Behavioral interviewing is based on the principle that past performance is the best predictor of future performance.

If developed accurately, behavioral interview questions are designed to demonstrate the candidate’s core characteristics or competencies desired by the hiring supervisor. This approach is more specific than traditional questions and is geared to exploring the demonstrated behaviors in their previous experiences.  

Behavioral Interview Tips
  1. Review the position description

  2. Identify and determine the behavioral characteristics/competencies to be successful based on the position description

  3. Develop interview questions related to the characteristics/competencies that you determined in Tip #2 (refer to the Behavioral Interview Questions Sample questions)

  4. Develop a scale for rating the interview answers of the candidate such as "Unsatisfactory", "Meets Expectations", or "Exemplary"

  5. Be consistent in your interview questions of each candidate.  This will allow you to make comparisons between the various answers and approaches of the candidates that are interviewed

Behavior Interview Question Generator (State of Kansas)

Situational Interviews

In situational interviewing, job-seekers are asked to respond to a specific situation they may face on the job. These types of questions are designed to draw out more of (the candidate's) analytical and problem-solving skills as well as how (they) handle problems with short notice and minimal preparation.

Situational Interview Questions

A superior candidate will demonstrate professionalism in attitude and communication style when dealing with others. Problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills are key. Good candidates don't need to like everybody, but they must be capable of working with everybody. Solid candidates will show that they achieved a workable outcome in the face of any coworker-related difficulties. Bad candidates will blame others and shirk accountability.
The answer can reveal a candidate's behavior toward authority, communication, and problem-solving. The person you want to hire will not allow personal feelings or disagreements to get in the way of working relationships inside the company. A good candidate should demonstrate emotional maturity and professionalism above all else.
This is another situational question exploring soft skills such as communication and relationship building. A candidate should demonstrate empathy and listening skills that allow him or her to understand the other side of a situation but also help bring about a change of opinion. Candidates should show how they negotiate and generally develop and strengthen relationships with others.
Don't just look for what candidates did; ask for the thought process behind their actions and how they like to approach problems in general. Being collaborative is one strength you might look for here. Did the candidate seek out feedback from others in understanding the problem, developing possible solutions, and implementing a workable solution?
We're all human, and candidates should be able to admit that they've made mistakes at certain times. This situational question is really more about finding out how a candidate learns, reflects upon mistakes, and takes lessons learned into the future. If a candidate refuses to admit to any past mistakes, then it's a sign that he or she isn't willing or able to learn anything from difficult situations.
Here, you are asking interviewees to tell a success story that demonstrates how they organized their workflow, dealt with pressure, and navigated through competing priorities. It's a good opportunity to hear a candidate's planning process, how they communicate with others, and how they collaborate with colleagues toward a common goal. Did the candidate try to extend the deadline if possible? Did the candidate ask for additional help? Most importantly, did they fully commit their own time to meeting the deadline and ask others to commit, too?
Like the mistake question, this illustrates a candidate's ability to learn. While being open to feedback is never easy, the best candidates will take it in, analyze it, and potentially make changes based upon the criticism. Of course, good candidates never take criticism personally. A good answer will show emotional maturity, adaptability, and leadership potential.
A good answer should show off the applicant's proactivity. The situation should be a case where the candidate recognized a problem that nobody else was resolving and took the initiative to attack the issue. The action should show a willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty when required. Proactivity and problem solving are rare traits that firms should be looking for; this question can go a long way toward revealing these attributes in a candidate.
You are trying to gauge how a candidate adapts to change, especially when working with new people. This is obviously relevant for all new hires, who need to fit into a company climate and hit the ground running. Top candidates will show that they are adaptable and open to change, that they'll focus on building relationships inside the company, that they know how to seek help when necessary, and that they don't judge people or processes too fast before knowing all the relevant facts.
Similar to the last question, this one asks candidates to demonstrate how adaptable they are when interacting with various personalities. Explore whether candidates can change up their style of communication for different people. This question allows you to evaluate emotional intelligence and people skills.

Inclusion and Diversity

West Virginia State University has a commitment to an inclusive and diverse work environment for our faculty, staff, and students. To assist you in your ability to make a decision regarding a candidate’s experience and/or commitment, please review the following examples of Inclusion and diversity questions that you may ask during the interview process:

  • We empower each other and value our diversity, celebrate and reward our success. What is your model of success and how will you fit into this culture? 

  • Please describe how you would work to create a campus environment that is welcoming, inclusive, and increasingly diverse. 

  • What opportunities have you had working and collaborating in diverse, multicultural, and inclusive settings? 

  • What is your definition of diversity?  How do you encourage people to honor the uniqueness of each individual?  How do you challenge stereotypes and promote sensitivity and inclusion? 

  • Tell us about a time when you had to work with someone who had the direct opposite personality of yours? 

  • Describe a situation in which you encountered a conflict with a person from a different cultural background than yours.  How did you handle the situation?  (Please be specific) 

  • Describe a time when you needed to work cooperatively with someone that did not share the same ideas as you. 

  • How would you work with people under your supervision to foster a climate receptive to diversity in the department, staff meetings, printed materials, initiatives, etc.? 

  • When interacting with a person from a different culture than your own, how do you ensure that communication is effective? 

  • What have you done to further your knowledge and understanding about diversity?  How have you demonstrated your learning? 

  • Has diversity played a role in shaping your teaching and/or advising styles?  If so, how? 

  • What do you see as the most beneficial aspect of inclusion and diversity to the university and to your work?  Describe a time when you have demonstrated this aspect.


Informational Interviews

An Informational Interview (also known as an Informational conversation) is a meeting in which a potential job seeker seeks advice on their career, the industry, and the corporate culture of a potential future workplace; while an employed professional learns about the job seeker and judges their professional potential and fit to the corporate culture, so building their candidate pool for future hires. (www.wikipedia.com)

Informational Interview Questions
Informational questions are asked in an interview to obtain specific information regarding a candidate’s background and experience. These questions are directed to what a candidate may have accomplished in their career or educational experience.  Sample questions may include:
  • What makes you uniquely qualified for the position?
  • This position requires the ability to work after hours and occasional weekends during peak times.  Are you able to meet the work hour(s) expectations?
  • What specific work experience (or education) enables you to be qualified for this position?
  • What do you consider your strength(s)?
  • What do you consider your weaknesses and how do you overcome them? 

Identifying and Avoiding Interview Bias

Most of us consider ourselves to objective and fair-minded individuals. However, many well-intentioned individuals are influenced by their unconscious bias. Unconscious biases come from direct experiences that we’ve had with people, events and situations as well as indirectly through stories, books, and culture.

It is important to eliminate bias in decision-making.  Prior to interviewing a candidate, familiarize yourself with the types of interviewer bias and how to eliminate them.

Types of Interview Bias

  1. Confirmation Bias: This is a tendency for humans to seek out information that supports a pre-conceived belief about the applicant that has been formed prior to the interview. (Phillips and Dipboye, 1989). This means interviewers look to confirm a possibly hollow impression they may have formed of the candidate pre-interview, as opposed to having a more open outlook on the candidate’s abilities in this area.
  2. Effective Heuristic: very technical, I know. This is where interviewer’s decisions are influenced by quick and superficial evaluations, such as the level of attractiveness of a candidate, race, gender, background, etc.—none of which are relevant to the candidate’s suitability for the role. (Postuma and others, 2002). One study found that applicant obesity actually accounted for 35 percent of the variance in hiring decisions.
  3. Anchoring: This is a tendency for interviewers to place an arbitrary anchor of expectation of a candidate, which then influences their evaluation of the candidate. For example, candidates who had a high anchor of expectation were evaluated more favorably than those with a low anchor scale.
  4. Intuition: a huge part of the candidate evaluation process is based on intuition as there is not enough data to objectively test every area of the candidate’s fit to the culture and demands of the job. The problem is that intuition is not reliable, as it is thought to be susceptible to factors not related to the hiring decision such as emotion, memory, etc.

How to Minimize Interview Bias

  1. Studies have shown that allowing enough time to perform candidate evaluations increases accuracy and reduces gender bias (Bauer Baltes, 2002; Blair Banaji, 1996; Martell, 1991). So, allow plenty of time to read interview materials and take notes.
  2. Structured criteria for decision making leads to more accurate evaluations (Martell Guzzo, 1991). So, make sure to conduct structured interviews based on job-related hiring criteria.
  3. Structured processes for recording observations increase accuracy and reduce bias (Bauer Baltes, 2002). So, try and use structured evaluations during interviews and selection discussions.
  4. Increased accountability reduces the effect of gender bias and increases the accuracy of evaluations.  Evaluators should use named forms, and each interviewer selection decision should be justified, documented, and filed.

Interviewing Candidates with Disabilities

An interview will help you assess a candidate's technical, behavioral, and motivational fit. When a candidate with a disability asks for necessary and reasonable accommodations, it is important to fulfill those requests to help ensure that all candidates receive equitable consideration.  The following information will assist you in your interview process and will help you create a welcoming environment for candidates with disabilities. For more information, please click here

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