Monday, 10 October 2011

Can you learn to do interviews?

Can you learn to do interviews?
I’ve just been helping deliver  an assessment centre for a senior role and I had carry out the competence based interview element of the day. What made this a particularly interesting experience was that some of the candidates had recently been through a similar centre and had had good feedback,   and others were new to the process completely. So out of the  candidates  who were having a second chance, what was the impact of prior experience? Did they learn anything from their feedback/experience?
[nb There were no psychometric ability tests which are designed to have a test / re-test reliability in this assessment centre. The tests were analytical report writing tests. No one re-sat a personality test. ]
All, bar one, of those who had recently had feedback altered their behaviour. Their examples in interview were better chosen and described. Their performance in the group exercise was more relaxed and natural. They timed the written exercises better.  They were relaxed and knew what they were doing.
Interestingly that did not automatically mean they were selected to go to the next stage. Whilst they handled the exercises better, their improved technique did not automatically lead to a pass mark for all of them. Only for some of them.
How did they compare to the brand new to the process candidates?  There was a marked difference, those who had had feedback were much more polished and able to deliver succinct and relevant examples. They inspired more confidence. But some of them had really great experience and were strong candidates without that extra polish.
And the overall outcome? Two of the ‘new to the process’ candidates went through to the final stage and two repeaters.  In the end it was a candidate who had taken the feedback from round one on board and really understood how to present themselves, who had done really thorough research and who built good rapport with the panel  that was appointed.
So you can improve your performance.  The reality is that you need to be both good at the job and good at the assessment process to beat off the competition. Not being able to deliver on the day can seriously damage your prospects.  Understanding the assessment process and what is required can really help you develop your ability to succeed. Practice can’t make you perfect but it can certainly help you on the way to promotion.

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