While there is no question that interviews can be stressful for applicants, the greater pressure is often on employers to choose just one person out of many for an investment of time, money, training and trust. The selection process begins before the first interviews are even scheduled and strives to set standards that will attract not only the most qualified individuals but also those who are most compatible with the company's vision and future growth.
The first phase of the interview selection process is the development of a job specifications guide for the position. The specifications identify the job title, duties, education and employment prerequisites, hours, worksite location and salary. For a new job, this document is drafted by the supervisor and reviewed by HR personnel and legal counsel. For a position being vacated, the existing job description is reviewed and updated. Announcement of the job opening is then made through channels such as company newsletters, bulletin boards, websites and classified ads along with the filing deadline and instructions on how candidates can apply.
After the filing deadline passes and all resumes and applications are received, the next phase is a preliminary screening process. The purpose of this is to eliminate from consideration any candidates whose applications are incomplete or whose education and experience falls short -- or exceeds -- what the company is currently looking for. The most promising matches are set aside for a second screening to determine which ones to invite to an interview. Applicants eliminated from consideration may or may not receive a form letter thanking them for their interest.
Candidates who successfully pass the screening process are contacted for the interview phase. While the majority are conducted in person, some are done by phone if logistics and expense preclude a candidate from traveling. An interview panel is selected which includes the supervisor, a representative from HR and sometimes the individual who is vacating the position. To ensure fairness, the same questions are asked of each applicant. These address qualifications, accomplishments, career goals and hypothetical scenarios. Following the interview, the panel privately confers and compares their respective observations based on notes taken during the meeting. A second interview may be scheduled after the candidate pool is further narrowed down.
The final phase of the interview process is to select the best candidate and contact her previous employers and personal references. This step is as much to verify academic and employment records as it is to get a sense of what she is really like to work with and to be around. Typical questions relate to honesty, reliability, flexibility, demeanor, performance under stress, leadership potential, assertiveness, time management and organizational skills, and the ability to be a team player. If everything checks out satisfactorily, the candidate is formally offered the job and negotiations commence to identify a start date and clarify any issues regarding salary and benefits.