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Guide to Effective Interviewing

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When the MedReps team set out to research the most effective interview techniques for hiring quality sales reps, we were surprised by the ongoing debate surrounding the most effective interview questions and tactics. Not only did we discover a heated dispute over the best types of interview questions, but also about the effectiveness of the interview itself within the hiring process.

Despite its apparent flaws, the interview remains a necessary part of the hiring process. This guide reveals what you need to know about the different interview styles so you can determine which ones will help you to hire the best medical sales professionals.

The Problem with Interviews . . .

Anyone who’s ever been on a first date knows how awkward conversations with strangers can be. But despite the discomfort, if both parties see something worth pursuing, that first date will probably lead to a second, third, or fourth before it gets serious, and then there will be countless more dates before a couple decides to make the ultimate commitment.

Okay, so the analogy isn’t perfect. Hiring decisions obviously aren’t quite as permanent as the decision to get married, but it does involve selecting a candidate who – on some days at least – you will spend more waking hours with than you do your spouse. And yet, many times this decision is made after a couple hour-long conversations with a candidate on their very best behavior.

46% of new hires fail within 18 months of employment and only 19% achieve unequivocal success.

That’s not to say the purpose of the interview is to “trip up” a candidate and get them to say something incriminating, but a good interviewer will ask questions designed to reveal a candidate’s character, work ethic, value system, and of course, their proficiency in the skills required by the position. But is it possible to gain this insight during an interview? Are there really questions that can successfully glean this information in a few brief meetings with a candidate?

Results on a resume can tell you something about a candidate’s qualifications, but managers generally rely on the interview to “get to know” the candidate and see if they’ll be a “good fit.” But how much can a series of routine interview questions really tell you about a candidate? And even if you ask some “tough” questions, who’s to say the candidate didn’t prepare for those questions after reading them on an employer review site like Glassdoor?

The interview process itself may be flawed. A three-year study by Leadership IQ found that 46% of new hires fail within 18 months of employment and only 19% achieve unequivocal success. Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, explains why the interview process is partly to blame:

“The typical interview process fixates on ensuring that new hires are technically competent. But coachability, emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament are much more predictive of a new hire’s success or failure. Do technical skills really matter if the employee isn’t open to improving, alienates their coworkers, lacks drive and has the wrong personality for the job?”

HR thought-leader Dr. John Sullivan agrees that the interview process is severely lacking. His manifesto on the 50 most common problems with interviews covers a range of probable issues including an interviewer’s inherent bias, a lack of weighted questions and rating systems, the general difficulty of evaluating for fit, and inconsistencies in the questions asked in the interview, the structure of the interview, and the interviewers’ expectations.

Certainly, making a hiring decision after a few conversations can be difficult, but there’s no real alternative. Skills assessments, role playing, and extensive reference checking, can work in conjunction with the interview to evaluate a candidate, but despite its flaws, the interview remains a necessary part of the process.

Preparing for the Interview

Some of the problems with interviews could be prevented by better preparation on the part of interviewers. If hiring managers spent more time defining their ideal candidates’ values, attitudes, and work habits, they would have a clearer idea of what qualities to look for during the interview.

A typical job description goes into great detail about the qualifications and technical skills required by the position but usually only cites generic terms like “team player,” “go-getter,” and “hard worker” to describe the ideal candidate’s attitude. As a result, the manager has no criteria for evaluating the candidate’s personality, and thus is likely to rely on their own personal preferences to determine “fit.”

For example, an outgoing hiring manager may dismiss a shy or soft-spoken candidate as “not right for the job” even though the position may not benefit from an outgoing personality. By outlining the personal traits important for the position prior to meeting with candidates, the interviewer would be less likely to let irrelevant preferences affect their decision.

Now in the case of hiring a sales professional, dismissing a candidate for being shy or soft-spoken is certainly understandable. In fact, these qualities may be on a list of unwanted attributes for that position. Thinking through the desired characteristics, as well as the unwanted traits, can help the hiring manager stay focused on what’s most relevant during the interview.


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