Why Mastering Interview Skills Matters More Now Than Ever

A lack of interview training has been the bane of great business strategic plans for decades, yet it continues to be ignored, says Russ Riendeau, senior partner and chief behavioral scientist with New Frontier Search Company. If companies truly believe that employees are their most important resource, he argues, there must be a stronger emphasis on interviewing skills and coaching.

November 7, 2019 – Read any strategic plan, corporate mission statement, agenda for a corporate sales and marketing meeting, new product rollout, leadership conference or retreat — and what’s missing? A training session or discussion about the critical skills of interviewing required for business.

“The lack of interview training for hiring managers in America has been the No. 1 assassin of great business strategic plans over the past 35 years or more, yet it is rarely discussed as a critical missing piece,” says Russ Riendeau, senior partner and chief behavioral scientist with New Frontier Search Company. “Great marketing ideas, great sales techniques trained, great customer service, on-time deliveries, guarantees, excellent onboarding—all excellently researched and ready to launch, only to fail because the hiring managers didn’t have the training to recognize the right talent to hire and to execute the plans.”

Dr. Riendeau offered the following evidence to bolster his argument:

  • What percent of hiring managers in American businesses have had even one hour of professional interview training in the past four years? Less than five percent.
  • What percent of HR executives install and require interview training initiatives in their companies? Less than 10 percent.
  • What percent of hiring managers pursue interview training/coaching on their own time? Less than three percent.
  • How many courses listed on the American Management Association website focus on dedicated interview training? Less than three percent.

Dr. Riendeau cited a recent Harvard Business Review interview with a CEO of a public corporation, who pointed out that every American business school provides future graduates with courses on how to interview for jobs but fails to teach these future business leaders how to conduct interviews when they become business leaders.

“This perfect storm of misdirection of skills and knowledge means the interviewee is better prepared to—unintentionally or cleverly—manipulate the interview because of the ineptness/lack of training of the interviewer who will then default to simplistic, heuristic decision devices to determine a potentially good or bad ‘fit’ for the job,” said Dr. Riendeau. “End result: The candidate gets a job offer based on the wrong measurement criteria and is potentially destined not to have a successful outcome. The candidate’s motivation to secure an offer and belief that they can do the job is perhaps genuine, yet could be inaccurately misdirected.”

A Critical Need

Understanding the science of identifying great employees is critical, said Dr. Riendeau, but corporations invest close to no time, money or attention to this skill. “And given the tightest, most competitive market to recruit talent why again is interview training not on the meeting agendas?” he asked. Even a recent and extensive skills-gap study by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) failed to address the missing interview skills flaws, he said.

Another example of this lack of emphasis on interviewing skills is seen in Miller Heiman Group’s (MHG) CSO Sales Talent Study of 2018, said Dr. Riendeau. “MHG is a great training organization for sure, and this document is a strong overall analysis of best practices to identify top sales talent and how best to train for success,” he said. “However, this ‘original research’ as the paper’s headline suggests, does not directly address the critical need for hiring managers to have real-time interviewing skills to be able to identify the right sales talent to succeed. Nowhere in the document does it discuss this specific, critical element.”

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“And there are other examples from top national sales training organizations too, that omit this critical discussion and training offerings in their portfolios,” he said.

Postmortem analysis in conversations of management professionals suggests that they simply accept or rationalize a failed hire as a “bad hire,” or any number of other excuses, said Dr. Riendeau. “In reality, the real assassin to the demise of the failed employee is often the fact they should have never been hired in the first place,” he said. “Interview skills and a better evaluation process based on key initiatives required for the job would have vetted that person more thoroughly and determined they simply were not aligned with the job. Risk/reward would not be worth it.”

A Valuable Skill

Indeed, the lack of interview training raises many questions, both rhetorical and otherwise. “Could interview training be seen as an insult or unnecessary by hiring managers who believe they are good interviews already?” said Dr. Riendeau. “Could the perception be that successful leaders obviously have skills to manage and hire good people, as how else would they have been elevated to the current role? Could it be that interviewing training is difficult to measure the efficacy in a profit and loss statement? Is it because interview training is not mandated/required by labor laws, unions or government agencies, thus the cost and focus is lost on compliance-driven training? Is it because interviewing skills are perceived as highly intuitive, thus difficult to create formulas and processes that are replicable in all situations?”

Without question, interview skills are indeed skills. “Interview effectiveness requires self-awareness, effective listening skills, objectivity, critical analysis and understanding of exactly what will be required and measured in that person’s job role,” said Dr. Riendeau. “Interviewing requires a plan of action, preparation and research before the applicant walks in the door while that manager reads the resume for the first time. Interviewing skills require a company’s commitment to teaching and measuring skills of hiring managers to insure better outcomes.”

10 Reasons Why Some Candidates Fail to Land the Job
It is no secret that the job search process has a lot of moving parts. Crafting resumes, practicing your pitch or planning for questions and answers for your interviewer are just a few matters you are responsible for. Unfortunately, it can be easy to overlook “small” things that can torpedo your candidacy.

When corporate leaders recognize and accept this critical need, better hiring occurs, turnover diminishes, costs of recruiting/training/damage control go down, morale improves and every employee feels more empowered, confident and part of the solution and success of the company, said Dr. Riendeau.

Labor laws, meanwhile, continue to evolve. Many new laws prevent hiring managers from knowing and comparing candidate salary histories and income histories, making it increasingly difficult and risky, without better interview training, to adequately evaluate and determine a candidate’s skills, value and risk factors.

Privacy Laws

“This simple tool of experience-to-personal income ratio—once a viable and legitimate tool to compare/contrast a candidate’s potential  to perform in a job—is now in jeopardy of not being another avenue of comparison,” said Dr. Riendeau. “Privacy laws, as well, prevent, once legal questions, to be asked in delving deeper into job history, references and performance evaluations. HR departments and references overall, are destined to simply state ‘name, rank, serial number,’ and not be willing to risk any further information for fear of legal ramifications.”

If corporate leaders, human resource professionals and professional services organizations really believe in employees being the heart of their businesses, there must be a stronger emphasis to install and require every hiring manager with the needed interviewing skills and coaching—regardless of that employees role, experience or longevity with the company, said Dr. Riendeau.

“The new world at work has grown far too complex and intelligent to accept that  outdated/non-existent interview skills will hold up the rigors of today’s demand for attracting and securing top talent,” he said. “Even the best strategic business plan or idea awaits the assassin’s influence, if the individuals hired to execute the strategic plan or goals are not correct person for the job.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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