The pandemic has had a significant impact on South Africa’s unemployment rate, which now stands at an unprecedented 32.6%. Couple this with the economic instability that has caused many businesses to retrench staff or shut down permanently, and you have thousands of people applying for fewer job vacancies. It’s now more important than ever for employers to know exactly how to interview job applicants to ensure top tier employee acquisition.

All businesses want to attract top talent, the perfect-edged puzzle piece that fits the company like a glove. I’ve heard many interviewers complain that they can’t find the ‘right person’ for the job. In truth, you might have, but unfortunately didn’t ask the correct questions or, even more importantly, listen properly to the candidates’ answers. In this article, we will analyse why ‘traditional’ interview methods may not reveal the true forte of the person sitting on the other side of the table. To remedy the problem, we’ll introduce techniques that will draw out revelations to ensure you view candidates from a different, holistic perspective.


Traditional methods

We’ve all experienced the following scenario: you’ve received a call to come in for an interview. Soon, you find yourself sitting in a room being asked blanket questions by the interviewer from a piece of paper that simply requires a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer. A few of the questions may provide you with a chance to scrape the veneer of your character subtly…and then it’s over.

 To all potential employers out there, an interview process shouldn’t mirror a courtroom cross-examination; when you’re looking to hire a new staff member, it’s vital to be cognisant that you’re investing in the person. There is no way that a litany of ‘Yes’/’No’ questions and direct, side-by-side comparisons of their answers against their CV is going to provide you with the necessary insight into the candidate’s personality to make the correct decision of whether or not they are a good fit for the job role and company as a whole. This misguided ‘cold-call’ approach needs to be scrapped from your recruitment policies and procedures.


What you should do

We spoke to Fio’s [former] Head of Human Resources, Rory Theron, I was able to glean valuable insight about the RIGHT way to interview a potential staff member. The following summary of the discussion is based on initially asking a straightforward question, ‘How should a potential employee interview be conducted?’

From the outset, forget about the ‘the glove either fits or it doesn’t’ mentality. In fact, start with a metaphorical blank canvas so that you can have a well-rounded idea of the big picture by the end of the interview; based on that outcome, you should have enough evidence to make an informed decision.

The point of the interview is to get to know the person behind the CV. Conducting an interview is an art; questions should be designed to directly, indirectly and subtly elicit responses that uncover whether the candidate has all the correct attributes to fulfil the job role successfully.

An example of a veiled question that is asked to determine a trait without the candidate even realising they’re telling it to you could be, “What does your house look like?” Clearly, this question is way out of left field, but that’s its beauty. Suppose they say that everything is always neat, clean and all items have a designated spot for a specific reason. In that case, the interviewer can gather that the individual is meticulous, ensuring that nothing is overlooked.

This is a fantastic trait for a job role-based mainly on research. It can further be confirmed by asking them to explain a random topic in 30 seconds. Do they become flustered, finding it difficult to articulate a coherent explanation? Should this happen, it’s an indication that they aren’t the type of person who likes to be put on the spot and talk to an audience, entrenching the notion that they are strong candidates for a research position. If this is the type of job being offered, those candidates should be considered seriously.

The questions should cover a spectrum that allows an interviewer to determine the candidates’ comfort zones all the way to aspects that may be stressors for them. As mentioned above, questions shouldn’t require a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response but rather be leading questions, guided by the candidates’ answers to the previous questions. This essentially continues a drill- down deeper into understanding the attributes of the individual.


Understanding body language

A skilled interviewer also needs to be a master of deducing answers based on body language (also known as non-verbal communication.) Three main branches should be monitored. An article from the Maiberger Institute, published on Medium, defines the following non-verbal communication cues.

  • Proxemics

Proxemics describes an individual’s perception of and use of space, both personal (how much space do they take up) and social (distance from another).

  • Kinesics

Kinesics describes an individual’s use of body language, including the study of postures, gestures, facial expression, and eye contact.

  • Paralanguage

Paralanguage refers to non-linguistic components of speech that are related to verbal communication. Paralanguage includes voice volume, tempo, pitch, intensity, emphasis, timing, and pauses in speech.

Each of these cues ought to be built into the questions asked. For example, a candidate may have a CV containing all the preferred education and experience. Still, if they continually look at their watch, seldomly make eye contact and are hunched over during the interview, it can denote they aren’t really interested in the questions and/or they are extremely uncomfortable – these are strong signals that the individual is not suited for the position.

Conversely, an individual may not have a CV that ticks all the perceived ‘perfect’ boxes. Still, they are eager, demonstrate in-depth knowledge, and convey positive body language; they are a much better candidate for the job. This is a classic example of interview techniques working well to peel back the layers and see the person beneath.

It cannot be reiterated enough that employers need to understand that investment in the person is a critical step; revenue generated from their job performance results from aptitudes identified in the interview. 

Need some help? Consult a professional human resources consultancy dedicated to drawing out the character, traits, and overall personality of the candidates sitting in front of you.