Interviews for Business Knowledge

by Guy Ralfe on November 25, 2009

Spill the beansRecently I was asked to step in and conduct an interview for a consulting position. My initial reaction was “not another one!”  For me interviewing seems to have such a high cost to it and also a relatively high failure rate just because people can raise their game momentarily (up to 2 hrs for an interview) but maintaining that performance over a number of months on the job is where proof of the interview and selection becomes apparent.

At the start of the interview I found my mood in the wrong place, the flow of the interview felt strained and awkward for me and I suspect as much for the candidate. I thought to myself ‘how would I like it if I was the candidate?’ If it was me taking the time out of my day to be at the interview, I would want it to be as beneficial to me as possible. I would want a fair chance to present my experiences and competencies to demonstrate the potential value for the hiring organization and I need to make an assessment if this position and company is where I want to take my career.

So then what is the purpose of the interview for the hiring organization? I needed to present the company as a possibility to the candidate, give guidance about the position in order that we can make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the candidate. I was surprised how similar both sides of the process were and really that this was just as important for our organization as it was for the candidate, we don’t want a good candidate turning us down! My mood was quickly adjusted and the interview picked up and became a far more engaging and effective interaction.

Now as the interaction developed I suddenly became aware of another possibility I had been overlooking during my previous interviews – interviews are a learning opportunity!

Most candidates that apply for a position generally get to the interview because they have some tangible experience in a domain that you are seeking to fill. Sometimes they might even come from a competitor, and because of the interview situation candidates are willing to talk more freely than they might otherwise about their experiences and previous organizations.

Now I found myself listening to the candidate, not only for his or her relevant experiences, but also the information that was being provided to describe and substantiate situations. I was suddenly aware of a whole load of information being provided in relation to how a competitor is running their operations.

Some examples of the kinds of information that can be shared are:

  • Sales cycle and licensing structures
  • Potential clients
  • Project structures and execution
  • Project and organizational staffing
  • Project methodologies
  • Charges and rates
  • Salaries and performance plan structures
  • Lessons learned in product delivery
  • Networking and references
  • Product strategy
  • etc

Often people join and attend forums to gather insight into these topics. By looking at an interview as an engagement opportunity, more than just screening candidates, you will be surprised at how much information and learning you can get – remember “knowledge is power in the knowledge age

Interviews are still costly, but if you look at them as a tool to hire candidates and a source of knowledge to evaluate and build your business with – the cost just got a whole lot less.

As a foot note for job seekers: remember you are always being interviewed, during every interaction people draw assessments of you. Many people tell stories about how they were lucky to be in the right place at the right time, the truth is that they produced the right assessment at the right time.

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