4 Tips to Help Hiring Managers Develop Interview Skills

interviewApparently HR doesn’t have a lot of faith in their hiring managers’ interview skills. That may not be news to you, but when we asked nearly 600 HR professionals if their hiring managers were good interviewers, the results we got back were eye-opening. Let’s take a look at what they said and then explore some tips to address this troubling problem.

As part of our 2014 McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Survey, we asked HR professionals from around the world if their hiring managers were strong interviewers; 45% said no. That was pretty consistent regardless of geography. In the US it was 53%, Canada 49%.

Size of company seemed to have some impact on this impression. In large companies, 65% lacked faith in their hiring managers, while at medium-sized companies it was 49% and small businesses had the most faith, with only 39% saying their hiring managers lacked interviewing prowess.

No matter how you slice those numbers, the problem is still the same: the people making the final hiring decision lack the skills to get the information they need from an interview.

That hiring managers lack interview skills shouldn’t be a surprise, though. Unlike HR, the majority of hiring managers have had no formal interview training. There are no interview courses in any MBA or general business or university programs that I’m aware of. For the most part, they conduct interviews so infrequently that they have no chance of developing the skill on the job.

I’d venture to suggest that most hiring managers probably don’t even know that they’re not good at it. They ask a few questions to make sure a candidate isn’t lying on their resume and it’s case closed. Yikes.

There’s a huge upside to helping hiring managers improve their interview skills. The interview plays such an integral role in the recruiting process, even small improvements can lead to big increases in effectiveness of the overall process. And if you make these improvements in such a way that it makes it easier for everyone involved, the efficiency gains can be tremendous.

Let’s have a look at some ways to make hiring managers better interviewers:

Interview training

This one’s obvious and it’s also the most effective. Interviewing is a learned skill. And, as I mentioned earlier, most hiring managers have had no formal training in this area. It’s also the most expensive option. If you have the budget, though, get them formal interview training. You’ll definitely see a strong return on your investment.

Create standard forms and processes

Because hiring managers don’t get a lot of practice interviewing, each time they do it is like a new experience. They don’t spend any time thinking about how to get better; they don’t develop techniques for keeping candidates on track and getting the information they need; they probably don’t even know what they want to get out of an interview going in. All the things that HR does matter-of-factly are completely foreign to them.

So, make it easy for them. Develop standard processes that they can use each time they interview. Include a form to use in measuring each candidate – preferably one that’s based on a detailed job description and measures not only skills, but temperament, attitude, aptitude and motivation; everything that will enable a candidate to succeed in the role.

Provide scripted behavioral interview questions

Behavioral interviewing – when done right – is the most effective way to get useful information from an interview. It’s second nature for most HR professionals, but still foreign territory for many hiring managers. They may have been through a few of them in the past, but they probably don’t understand the nuances and how to make sure they get the right information from a candidate using behavioral interviewing.

Providing them with scripted questions that are based on the job description or profile is a very effective way to help these managers get good information from the interview. Explaining how these questions get at deeper level information will help to earn their buy-in to the behavioral interview process.

Don’t forget the probing

Just asking the behavioral interview questions isn’t enough. A hiring manager who asks a good behavioral interview question and then just makes a few notes on whatever answer the candidate provides may as well have not asked the question to begin with. You won’t get good information from a behavioral interview if you don’t probe properly. We recommend using the SARR method of probing. Whether you use SARR or your own method, equip hiring managers to probe candidates with follow up questions that will get to the responses that show you how a candidate behaved in the past – and, therefore, how they’ll perform in the future.

How are your hiring managers interview skills?