• Subha

Interviews And Choosing The Best Fit Candidate: Looking To Join The Seams

Updated: Aug 21



​Ever been in an interview where you didn’t quite know what you were supposed to do? Have you ever conducted an interview only to realise later that you’d chosen the wrong cohort of people to talk to?

There is a huge cost in hiring wrong or joining a workplace that doesn’t suit you.

Let’s just put it out there- choosing the right candidate who fulfils all of the requirements for a job function is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It is made worse by the fact that several times, we need the person to not just have the right skills but also carry the right attitude. For example, an open workspace concept may not be ideal for someone used to working in a hierarchical structure. The other person may have a lot of relevant skills but they may have no experience whatsoever in your domain.


While we’re talking about challenges, let’s not forget the fact that generational shifts are a lot more significant today. A millennial employee is not like anyone who has come before them, and as the world changes, so will people in the coming years.


Phew! That’s a lot of things to gauge in one interview, isn’t it? You need to look at skills, relevance, attitude and cultural fit, employee priorities and how your policies impact them, etc. to decide if indeed that one person is right for you. Let us try and simplify the juggling process for you just a little bit.


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When A Skills Interview Is Right

​Instead of trying to tick too many boxes at once, it helps to narrow down on what aspects are important for the particular hiring case. For example, if the new employee is going to join a decade-old team of seasoned professionals, the right attitude may be far more important than the specific skill-set. However, for a startup company building a new product, skills form the basis of hiring. This isn’t to say that the other aspect is not important- just that it takes a second priority. Not just for companies and teams, the specific role itself may need either more of the right aptitude or the right attitude. People in architect roles often need more emphasis on skills, while managers need more of a knack for the business. When should you focus your energies on evaluating the skills? Here are a few cases we can think of. Remember, the desire to fit in is just as important, and you can usually tell if the person will be a cultural fit in a casual conversation. You should conduct a skills interview when the candidate is • a fresh graduate with no prior experience. • a senior-level candidate being hired to serve a specific function. • in an industry where significant changes occur in a short period of time. • about to serve in a role that is relatively new in the organisation. We cannot talk about skills without discussing soft skills like good communication. It is understood that these skills are prerequisites to being hired by any organisation.

When An Attitude Interview Is Right

​The lines can quickly get blurry when choosing between the right skills and the right attitude. Some people may come across as very charming in an interview but may not have the needed experience to back themselves up with. It is up to the hiring manager to decide which aspect takes precedence. How do you conduct an attitude interview? Well, you’ll probably have to begin by not calling it an interview in the first place. Around the globe, interviews are moving away from the boardroom format and to the nearest coffee shop. It is easy to see why. An individual coming to the office for an interview is more likely to bring their most formal self, while someone invited for a coffee table discussing is more likely to relax and be themselves. Ample research on the subject shows that people perform to the best of their abilities when they are placed in an environment of lower stress. This is particularly important for an attitude interview because it gives you a good baseline to start from. What gauging something as amorphous as someone’s attitude, it helps to make a list of attributes that are non-negotiable. For example, thriving in teams is a prerequisite for success at The Daily Show. Those who prefer to work in isolation may still have the best skills but may fail in an environment that depends on discussions for success. So, make a list of four attributes that the candidate must have, and find ways to seek information about their past experience where they demonstrated them. You can also talk to them about how things are done at your organisation and why it is crucial to success to gauge their reaction. You should conduct an attitude interview when • You have a work culture that is starkly different from your peer companies. Facebook and Google fit into the bill, as does Uber but for slightly different reasons. • You are hiring from a demographic that you haven’t hired from before. • The role you’re hiring for entails a lot of client interactions. • Your organisation represents itself in a certain way that all employees are expected to comply with. Fashion houses and fashion editorials are examples of this. • You expect to grow into a multicultural team where all opinions are welcome.

What You Can And Cannot Ask In An Interview

With all of this in mind, we cannot forget that legally and ethically, there are a few things you cannot ask in an interview. In India, you cannot ask an individual about their marital status, the number of children they have and how they plan to balance work with their personal commitments. It is understood that these are aspects that the candidate has the right not to disclose, and may do so at their own discretion.


Moreover, asking about their age and health conditions is also out of the picture. This amounts to discrimination on the basis of disability and is illegal. The same goes for religious affiliations and sexual orientation. That said, if you notice that the candidate has radical, well-publicised opinions on social media, you may choose to use that information (in the public domain) before you make a decision.


Asking women if they’re comfortable working in shifts, or about their plans for marriage, is absolutely out of the question. It is understood that a candidate’s professional skill is not affected by any of these factors.

Making That Choice

What do you think is the biggest hurdle to being able to understand a candidate effectively? Have you given coffee table chats a try as an interview model? Tell us about your experience in the comments.​

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