Interviewing - Successful Selection

by Jane Tredgett

Making observations - what to look for

Critical factors will vary depending on the role being interviewed for. In general, a good candidate will

  • Show that they have prepared for the interview by undertaking research on the role and the organisation
  • Listen actively and patiently while you ask questions
  • Make good eye contact (not looking away, but not too intense either)
  • Show interest through their expression
  • Exhibit an active, enthusiastic body state
  • Probe for clarification if they are unsure how to answer your question
  • Have prepared some questions (and not just about rates of pay!)
  • Ask intelligent, well-informed questions.

Body language – lying or stress?

The following signs can indicate a candidate is lying or feeling very stressed. The problem is deciding whether the person is nervous or lying, as the signs are virtually identical!

  • Sweaty palms (it might be difficult to see this once the actual interview has started)
  • Blushing
  • Dry mouth (shown by excessive swallowing)
  • Feet to door – might suggest ‘I want to be out of here’
  • No eye contact
  • Increased/exaggerated eye contact (people who are good at lying will often make too much eye contact as they know that looking away may suggest lying)
  • Increased response time before answering a question (while they decide what they ought to say and construct an appropriate answer)
  • Detached responses – not using ‘I’ when explaining something they claim to be responsible (for example, saying ‘a decision was made’ rather than ‘I made the decision’)
  • Vague answers to a question, with few specifics, may indicate a lie or exaggeration
  • Slow, uneven speech, with rapid bits as if to gloss over certain parts
  • Decreased hand gestures
  • Increased hand to mouth touching
  • Fluff picking may suggest they are withholding an opinion
  • Pupils constrict, the jaw tightens and the gap between eyelids and inner canthus (located near the tear duct) narrows – this combination suggests the candidate doesn’t like something
  • Extremities (fingers/toes) move – this may provide clues the candidate is feeling frustrated by a question.

As with all interpretations of body language, it is important not to look at one thing in isolation and then make a judgement based purely on that observation.

For more, see Body Language, Detecting dishonesty.

Instinct versus judgement

Try to base your decision on the factual evidence presented, rather than on ‘gut instinct’. However, we are all human and there will be times when you just do or don’t take a shine to a candidate. It is important in such cases to try and examine whether there is a rational basis for your feelings and look for evidence to support your thoughts.

  • Compare notes, thoughts and observations with a co-interviewer – they may have an entirely different perspective.
  • Remember that it is important to get on well with someone you employ, but you are recruiting for a job role not for a friend!
  • On the other hand, don’t avoid your instincts altogether as these may well give an indication of that person’s ability to fit in and mix with new people.

Job references

In addition to your own judgements, a key (and often under-used) tool is the references an applicant has supplied. Many organisations do not follow these up or, if they do, it is after the applicant has been in the job for several months!