Managers fail selection test

Latest findings on how selection interviews are conducted suggest a training
gap among line managers.  Margaret Kubicek
surveys opinion on how best to sharpen their skills

A surprising number of managers are eschewing structure in favour of a
casual approach to interviewing, according to the Recruitment Confidence Index
conducted by Cranfield School of Management in conjunction with Personnel Today
and the Daily Telegraph.

Although four in 10 organisations rated the quality of interviewing in their
company as high, nearly five in 10 employers said their interviewing was of
reasonable quality or below. One in five firms still base their selection
decisions on gut reaction, and a mere 16 per cent provide regular formal
training in interviewing techniques.

We ask readers what role training can play in getting line managers’
interviewing techniques up to scratch with their HR colleagues.

Graham Jackson
Senior manager, group training & development channels, HSBC

Our training-for-selection interviewing has evolved into a multi-media
approach. The offer comprises CD-Rom, learning guide and intranet-based
procedure manuals covering the theoretical, process and legislative elements.
This is followed by a one-day workshop to enable learners to practice their
interviewing skills and receive feedback.

As with all skills-based training, individuals perform better and are more
confident if the initial training is followed up on an ongoing basis with
situational coaching and feedback from line managers or mentors.

Shaun Tyson
Professor of HR management, Cranfield School of Management

From the research, we saw a high reliance on intuitive judgement – it’s as
though the person doing the interview is all-seeing, all-believing,
all-knowing, when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Typically
what you have to do is react very quickly in interview situations, follow
leads, ask the right questions and not become diverted from seeking the
evidence you need to make your decision. Bias and prejudices are inevitable, so
the risk of error is immense.

Like any other skill, you need practice and help, even if you are quite a
good interviewer. Otherwise you might start to develop bad habits, while not
being in a position to get feedback.

Colin Mercer
Director of assessment and development, and chartered occupational
psychologist, Wickland Westcott

There are three things managers always assume they are good at – driving,
making love and interviewing. Essentially, it is not a complex process to train
managers to interview well.

The training should establish what the purpose of the interview is: to
gather data and get an accurate view of the individual, as well as convey an
image of a professional organisation. A kind of introductory process of a day
or two is more than sufficient to get most line managers to a position where
they can do a good job.

I would then look to form a users’ network where they can share views and
knowledge and then some kind of refresher – say six months down the line.

Introducing them to a structured, step-by-step process is critical, and I’d
also train them in the three kinds of interview: historical, competency-based
and situational.

Chris Dunn
Talent manager, Marriott Hotels

It is very important managers are clear about why they are interviewing, it
is about predicting future performance. With less-experienced interviewers,
they often know how to ask questions but don’t necessarily know what answers
they are looking for.

We have five competencies we look for in all our people: thinking,
leadership, drive for results, working with people and implementation. We have
a competency framework they follow during interviews as well as offering
training and coaching for managers. I make it abundantly clear to everyone that
legally we must get interviews right, take extensive notes and stick to the

Colin Robinson
Development manager, House of Fraser

House of Fraser puts a lot of effort into its recruitment practices. In our
stores we train all of our senior management teams to recruit. This
concentrates primarily on gathering and assessing behavioural evidence and how
to rate it against criteria for the job role. We basically accredit them to

If we are unsure about a manager’s skills, they will recruit with another
manager until they have proven themselves. We have found our managers have
responded to this very well because if there is a good feeling about a
candidate, then the evidence will help confirm this. Some managers have
struggled to document evidence from the interview or other activities in the
recruitment process. Training has overcome this issue.

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