Last week I got a chance to be on the other side of an interview and it was an interesting experience. One of the projects I am currently working on is a prevention project that employs young women volunteers to serves as "peer educators" for their neighborhoods. They are expected to meet regularly with people (especially young women) and discuss various prevention topics. We are starting a new year of the project and wanted to hire 8 new peer educators.
There were 13 applicants and we sat down for a full day of interviews. I really wanted to try to get the project officers to evaluate the applicants objectively rather than just making a decision based on opinion. I created an evaluation sheet that had 10 basic questions. Each of us took turns asking the questions and then we would rate the applicant's response on a 1-10 scale. It wasn't exactly scientific but I felt like it worked well.
We did all the interviews in about 4 1/2 hours and I was exhausted by the end. It really is draining to ask to the same question over and over and try to get a feel for how a person is. It was weird to watch the different applicants' reactions to questions and to just being in the interview. Many of them squirmed in their seats. Some never looked at us in the eye, and a few we had to ask to speak up because we couldn't hear their responses.
As an American, the behavior was surprising. We are taught to look people in the eye, act confident, and speak firmly. Its just a different culture here (obviously) , and one that is very indirect. I tried very hard not to let some of these things influence my scores, but I imagine they still did.
The most interesting part for me came at the end when I went to compile the questionnaires and get an average score for each applicant. There were 10 interview questions with a maximum score of 10 for each question, meaning the best possible score would be a 100. The highest score I gave was a 94 and I had 4 scores above a 75. The highest score the other 3 interviewers gave was a 66 and their combined average was around a 50. I was surprised to see how hard the other interviewers has graded the responses.
Overall, I was very happy with how the day went and think we got some good people to help on this project. Also, I think I learned more from doing this simple interview than I ever did from doing mock interviews and practicing interview questions.