As the use of psychometric tests and standard interviews increase in a bid to find high-calibre employees, applicants should also ‘interview’ employers to ensure a perfect fit.
The traditional focus on whether an applicant is the right fit for an organisation provides only part of the information required to make the right recruitment decision. Employers should also consider whether they are the right fit for an applicant.
It could be argued that the traditional interview format adopted in the workplace is modelled on an academic examination. The applicants appear for the interview (examination), are given a standard set of questions, and are assessed on their answers to those questions.
Interviews based on this academic model result in an unequal sharing of information that is critical to both parties. It is structured to provide the selection committee with as much information as they require about the applicant, while revealing little to the latter about organisational culture or prospective manager expectations.
It could be reasonably argued that this unequal sharing of information works to the detriment of both parties, especially where it involves a significant position in an organisation because it increases the probability of un-met expectations.
For both parties there are potential costs and delays associated with an ill-informed decision.
Consequently, it is in the interests of the organisation, as well as the employee, for interviews to be conducted along the lines of a contractual interview that reflects the commercial nature of the relationship between the two parties.
Obtaining an applicant’s commitment to job expectations, including organisational values and codes of conduct, is a key component of contractual interviews.
A contractual interview is as much about making statements, outlining expectations and seeking commitment as it is about asking questions.
For example, the question: ‘Where do you see yourself in three years?’ can be replaced with a statement that clearly conveys to the applicant the employer’s desire to recruit a manager who will, over the next three years, successfully implement Project X for the company.
Importantly, contractual interviews are about finding out whether the organisation matches the applicant’s expectations, which means giving the latter ample opportunity to ask questions about organisational culture and operational style.
When given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of an interview, most job applicants ask basic questions, but it is important to ask more meaningful questions to assist in making the right decision if they’re offered the position.
After all, if they are leaving their current organisation because of an unsatisfactory working environment, they need to make certain that the organisation that they are moving to offers them a more rewarding one.
These are just some of the questions that an interviewee should ask in a contractual interview, or the organisation should freely offer up the answer to:
- What are the qualities you admire most in your best staff member?
- How do you engage and motivate your staff?
- How do you show recognition for a job well done?
- Your website states that your organisation is innovative. How is this manifested in the team you manage?
- Does the organisation have an innovation strategy or do you wait for staff to submit ideas?
- How would you sponsor your staff member’s ideas in a management forum?
From an employer’s perspective, it is worth noting that applicants share information about themselves through their questions. This in turn benefits managers in that it gives them the opportunity to ask related questions and explore further the relative strengths and characteristics of the applicant.
The benefits of contractual interviews
When job expectations are clearly defined to an applicant at the contractual interview, and they have given their commitment to it, the manager is a step ahead when managing underperformance, if it should occur.
A contractual interview commitment also has the potential to make managers more accountable in key areas such as employee engagement, performance management, and alignment to an organisation’s goals and values.
This accountability is achieved through the commitment that the manager implicitly gives in response to the applicant’s questions such as those cited above.
Additionally, the contractual interview format provides the organisation with useful feedback on what applicants are looking for in organisations.
For employees, the opportunity to ask questions about the organisation, the manager and the work culture enables them to acquire all the facts they need regarding the job in question, so as to make the right decision in terms of their career aspirations.
It should be noted that, while a contractual interview format is well suited for recruitments to supervisory, managerial and other significant positions, it may need to be modified for entry-level positions.
As with any other interview format, the contractual interview cannot guarantee the selection of the ideal candidate. However, it does offer a greater probability that the right applicant will be selected, because it gives all participants the information they require to make a sound decision.
By acknowledging the contractual nature of the relationship between an organisation and its employees, HR practitioners should be rewarded with the appointment of the right person for the position and the organisation.