For decades, employers have depended on interviews to make hiring decisions. While additional hiring tools available today include pre-hire assessments and Application Tracking Software (ATS), interviews remain an effective standard practice in hiring for good reasons. This process of meeting with a potential candidate allows you to have a conversation with them like no other medium. Interviews provide you the opportunity to ask the tough questions and to obtain more information about the applicant, particularly in safeguarding who may have access to the vulnerable clients you serve.
Unfortunately, studies show that interviews can be very subjective. Interviewers tend to bring their personal biases and opinions, which can hinder their ability to identify high or low-risk candidates accurately. Despite this fact, interviews play a critical role in the hiring process, and employers should strive to create a process that minimizes these biases and identifies potential abuse risk.
Create the Right Interview Environment
It is important to create the right environment when conducting interviews. Here’s a look at a few things you should keep in mind to create the ideal interview environment.
You will want to choose a location for your interviews that will provide the candidate with a sense of privacy and minimize distractions. Choose a location separate from other employees where access or interruption can be restricted. A small conference room is oftentimes an ideal location.
Open Communication Style
Develop an open style of communication that encourages the candidate to speak freely. Avoid cutting the interviewee off; instead, allow them to continue talking unless the interview veers too far off-topic. Otherwise, the candidate may shorten future responses and you may risk missing out on vital information.
It’s natural for candidates to want to decrease their weaknesses and increase their strengths during an interview. It’s our job to get an honest and balanced assessment of the applicants’ skills. Do your best to decrease the consequences of lying by creating a conversation that encourages honesty and authenticity, even if it’s not the desired answer.
Don’t Go at It Alone
Time constraints may entice you to conduct interviews alone, but this could be a critical mistake. Not only can having two or more interviewers help to tear down biases, but it also offers another set of eyes and ears2,3. An interview style that works well is to have one interviewer ask most of the questions while the other watches for non-verbal body language and takes notes.
Ask the Right Questions
The most important part of the interview is to ask the right questions. It is recommended to have these questions written down prior to the interview and to ask each interviewee the same standardized questions. Consistent questions will provide you with better data to compare candidates. It’s also recommended to use several different types of questions, including:
Be sure to ask questions that will tell you about the candidate’s past behavior as that may more accurately indicate how they might behave in your organization. Rather than phrasing these types of questions as a hypothetical scenario, such as “what would you do if…,” ask a candidate about their past behavior, such as “how did you respond to…”. Studies have shown that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior3. For example, instead of asking the candidate to rate their patience level, ask them to tell you how they responded to a time when a child tried their patience. Behaviorally based questions are your best tool for assessing abuse risk in an interview.
You will also want to ask several questions that will allow you to assess the applicant’s skill levels. Be careful to state your questions clearly and adhere to all legal regulations.
Culture fit is essential to today’s candidates – make sure to ask questions that will help both you and the applicant or volunteer gauge whether your organization would be a good fit for them. You’ll want to identify candidates that can contribute to and sustain your organization’s culture of safety.
Watch for Red Flags
Throughout the entire interview process, you’ll want to be on the lookout for red flags, such as inconsistent or evasive answers, and high-risk responses. If something doesn’t feel right about the interview, this feeling should not be overlooked. Instead, take a closer look at this candidate’s information and interview responses, and discuss your thoughts with other interviewers.
Interviews will continue to play a critical role in the hiring process. After all, most employers would find it difficult to hire a candidate or volunteer without first conducting an interview and learning more about the applicant. If you can tear down some of the biases brought to the interview, bring objectivity into the process, and assess abuse risk, you can gather the information you need to make an informed hiring decision.
Screening employees and volunteers requires efficient, consistent, and effective processes. A systems analysis of your current practices can reveal what may be streamlined to reduce costs and processing time, where breaches may occur and how to eliminate them, and what changes should be made to ensure that you have thoroughly vetted applicants who have access to those you serve. To assist, Praesidium has developed various resources to help organizations effectively screen employees and volunteers. To learn more please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saul and Audage, “Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-Serving Organizations.”
“Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Final Report”
Christopher J. Hartwell, Clark D. Johnson, and Richard A. Posthuma, “Are We Asking the Right Questions? Predictive Validity Comparison of Four Structured Interview Question Types,”