First time poster, long time lurker... (okay, not really - its just that I post so infrequently that I can probably get away with such a killer opening more than once :-)

I'm using the MT Interview tool to guide my interviews and I preface these with a short series of questions to warm up the candidate and test their preparation. Questions include:

1) Tell me about yourself.

2) Tell me what you know about our company.

3) What are your expectations for this position?

4) Tell me what you know about our industry.

5) Give me your thoughts on the pro's and con's associated with using Net Promoter as a KPI (Net Promoter experience is listed as required experience in the job posting they responded to)

6) What's the coolest thing you've seen on the Internet lately and why? (we're an Internet company, so I want to know how deeply seated their passion for the Internet is)

7) Tell me about your mentors. Who are they? How and why do they inspire you?

8) Tell me about your commitment to management and the steps you've taken to develop your craft (again, the original job posting clearly indicates that I'm looking for someone who is committed to management craft and development)

9) What are your views on accountability? (and again, this question is telegraphed in the job posting).

From these, I then go into the behavioral questions and we generally finish up after about 75-90 minutes.

Quite a few candidates stumble on the setup questions I listed above. They make it quite clear that they haven't done their background research or don't have the requisite experience to meet my expectations. If they can't tell me anything about the basic structure of our industry or present a reasoned opinion on Net Promoter, there isn't a chance that I'll hire them.

Which brings me to the question I'd love to get some feedback on. What do I do at this point? Should I trudge through the rest of the interview knowing that there's no chance that the candidate will make the shortlist? Should I cut it short and use the remaining time to get caught up on email? It happened to me this afternoon, and I found myself begrudgingly going through the motions for 75 minutes knowing full well what the outcome would be. Thinking about the interview on my way home, I realized that if one of my directs came to a meeting equally unprepared that I'd ask them to reconvene at some other time when they were more prepared. So if I'm not willing to make the investment (i.e. waste time) with a direct who has the job, do I really owe a complete stranger a pro forma interview out of some misguided sense of politeness?

By the way, I'm Canadian, we're big on politeness - so there is some cultural merit to going through the motions so as to not offend a complete stranger :-)

Thanks in advance for your input. I'm really looking forward to hearing some opinions on this one.



tsnarr's picture

There is an excellent  podcast on this. It was awkward at first. I have saved both the candidates and myself valuable time.

AppleJack's picture

I would do a phone interview first and ask about 5 questions to screen out candidates before meeting them in person. From your list of questions I would ask 1-5 and 8 in the phone interview. If they did well on the phone then I would bring them in for an in person interview and ask your remaining questions plus the behavioral questions.

ETA: I have cut phone interviews short. The most memorable was when I asked the interviewee what they knew about my organization and their answer was "I don't know anything about it. What is XYZ?"

rossrader's picture

I should have guessed "there was a cast for that" :-) Thanks very much for the pointer - very helpful.

I ended up breaking up the interview into two parts (warmup, 9 questions and behavioral, 10 questions) and only those candidates that did their prep work and showed a passion for our work got the entire interview of 19 questions from me.

I was surprised how many candidates didn't do the basic research necessary to give me great answers on simple questions like "tell me about our company" and "tell me about our industry". Only 2 of the 9 interviewed met that mark.

I should note too that all of the candidates were telephone screened. The 9 were shortlisted from a pool of 50 or so.

Thanks again for the assist.  

acao162's picture

Also Canadian, so I think I understand the spot you are in.  Having read through your initial questions, I wonder if a bad interviewee would even realize they have been cut short?  You've asked great questions, gotten a "feel" for the candidate and they can leave thinking they've had a full interview.

I've had interviews shorter than this (as interviewee) and gotten the job so it wouldn't be completely out of the question.  Besides, as long as you are polite, (ha ha) and close with "I'll be in touch" your clued out interviewee won't know the difference. 

Best of luck.

JohnG's picture

 I really like your interview structure. It's meaty, which is a novel change. Personally I think you could easily get away with either:

1/ Bring in a short phone interview for all candidates, or weaker candidates, where you ask the basics.

2/ Have two divergent interview paths. If you hit a 'fatal flaw' before you have gone through all the general questions then have a couple of behavioural questions (probably the toughest from your normal run) that you transition to. If they answer those incredibly well it might be enough to give them a 2nd chance otherwise you've cut the interview down from 19 questions to ~6-12 so should save a decent amount of time.


What I would say however is that if you are getting 7/9 candidates to interview coming in far short of acceptable then you may need to investigate ways to filter out some of this chaff. Even if you cut all 7 down to 30 min short interviews that is still 3.5 hours interviewing people who weren't going to be viable candidates.