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Few tips on interviewing etiquette

Interviewing is a skill and is central to employee engagement and that brings it directly into the ambit of business etiquette, writes Ranjan Acharya.

india Updated: May 02, 2007 21:47 IST

The world has changed in the last few years. I still remember a story we had in school in which a scholarly candidate is called to an interview. Though infallible in knowledge, he is at a loss when a panel of interviewers confronts him. He is asked how many buttons he has on his shirt, how many steps he climbed and the number of the taxi he came in. Thus demolished, the erudite professional staggers out of the hall completely shattered. One can safely imagine that he not only counted every step on his way down but the number of the taxi he took home is indelibly branded in letters of fire on his heart.

This incident is history and one can imagine the business executives, who have faced the effects of a "talent crunch" in almost every industry today, laughing derisively while reading the story. And the truth is that, in an interview, the evaluation takes place on both sides. The candidate is probably assessing the organization more carefully than the organisation is assessing the candidate.

First impressions are lasting impressions. The interview is the beginning of the candidate's relationship with the company. Interviewing is central to employee engagement and that brings it directly into the ambit of business etiquette. Since most managers are involved in the process of interviewing, a few tips on interviewing etiquette may be immensely useful to them.

· Introduce yourself to the candidate briefly so that the candidate knows who is talking to him. If it is a panel, the senior-most can take the initiative of introducing everyone else. This sets the tone of the interview that it is a conversation and not an examination.
· Do not jump into questions. Begin with small talk. It relaxes the candidate and makes him or her more receptive to answering. Remember, openness begets openness.
· The interviewer must read the candidate's curriculum vitae before the interview. It is rude to read it after the candidate sits in front of you. The candidate can feel the slow build-up of tension and start twisting uncomfortably on the chair if one takes too long. Some interviewers add insult to injury by periodically looking at the interviewee while reading the curriculum vitae, as if they are examining a protozoa specimen under a microscope.
· Initial questions must be open-ended, focusing on the achievements of the candidate. One must desist from interrupting the candidate unless the candidate becomes too long-winded.
· It is equally important not to ask a set of negative questions that may put the candidate on the defensive. Frightened candidates usually answer in monosyllables and sometimes not at all. In certain countries, there are clear guidelines of what is thought to be discriminatory and hence against the law. But whether the same law exists everywhere or not, its tenets as etiquette are useful while interviewing everyone, irrespective of their location, in a global company.
· One must tell the candidate about the next step, whether it is about another interview or about approximately in what time the decision will be communicated. If it is a senior candidate, it is polite for someone from the interview panel to walk the candidate to the lift.

Finally, do not forget to ask the candidate his or her name before beginning the interview. One interviewer sincerely followed all the rules and ended the interview after an hour with, "Thank you , Ashok." "But Sir, "answered the candidate, "I am Vasant." It was then that the interviewer realized he had been interviewing the wrong person correctly.