Insight & Analysis

Interview technique for treasurers

Published: Jul 2019

Two people sitting on the opposite side of a desk for an interview

If you’ve never led an interview before where do you start? This short guide, prepared with Laura White, Operations Director of The Treasury Recruitment Company, will ensure you are heading in the right direction.

A lot rides on getting the right person for the job. Interviewing is a skill that can be developed and honed. Here is a brief guide to help you deliver an effective interview.

Funnel technique

The first step here is to ask lots of open questions to get the applicant talking. They generally allow the applicant to express their opinions or feelings and allow you to gain valuable insights into their behaviours and personality.

When asking open questions, try using the TED technique: ‘tell me about…’; ‘explain to me…’; ‘describe for me…’. For example: ‘tell me how you produced that report…’ or ‘explain your involvement in the system implementation project…’.

Probing questions are still open in style, however they require the applicant to delve a bit deeper into their answer. Use the five Ws (and one H): who, what, why, where, when and how. For example: ‘who else was involved in the project’; ‘what exactly was your role in the project’; or ‘what did you learn from the project’.

Finally, closed questions encourage applicants to reach a final point or to clarify a certain situation by requiring short and focused (possibly ‘yes’ or ‘no’) answers.

Structured vs unstructured

An unstructured approach steers the interview down whichever path feels right at the time. There is compelling evidence to suggest that these interviews are poor predictors of actual on-the-job performance.

A fully structured interview eliminates subjectivity but can be too rigid. Interviewer flexibility may therefore be necessary, depending on the interviewee and the way the interview evolves. However, the following stages should be adopted in every structured interview.

Seven stages of structured interviewing

Stage 1. Introduction

Think about how you greet candidates and where they will be sitting whilst waiting for the interview. Question how the interview room looks and feels. Think about your own body language, how you introduce yourself, and what distractions are around you that may interrupt the interview.

Stage 2. Career history and experience

This is where the bulk of the interview should be focused. If you are following a truly structured interview with a pre-defined list of questions, this is where you start. The funnel technique is critical here.

A great opener is ‘describe to me your career history to date starting from when you first moved into treasury…’ or from whichever starting point you feel is most appropriate.

You can then steer the candidate down appropriate paths accordingly. Key things to look out for include what are their key strengths/weaknesses; what have been their main achievements; what aspects of their roles have they enjoyed/disliked; what have been their reasons for leaving previous roles; are there any gaps or anomalies on their CV; and how well do they communicate/present themselves.

Stage 3. Aspirations and goals

It is a mistake to assume the role is what the interviewee is looking for. By asking the right questions, interviewers will establish the applicant’s true aspirations and goals, and whether these will be achievable within your business.

Candidates will likely mould their answers to reflect the role on offer, but probing questions will enable the interviewer to test for shortfalls and genuine suitability for the role. Areas of concern must be addressed at this stage, before it goes too far.

Some questions here might include: ‘what does your ideal next role look like’ and ‘what are your career goals over the next five years’.

Stage 4. Search status

Again, this is often missed out by interviewers but consider the frustration if you have been through the whole process and have made an offer only to discover that the candidate has accepted an offer from another firm, or has received and accepted a counter-offer by their existing employer.

Here are some example questions:

  • ‘How long have you been looking?’ If they have been looking for a while, why have they not secured a role yet?

  • ‘What positions have you applied for?’ Do the roles they are applying for and companies they are applying to, reflect what you have on offer?

  • ‘Have you attended any interviews?’ If they have been looking for a while but not had any interviews, does this ring alarm bells? Or if they have attended lots of interviews but no job offers, what does this tell you?

  • ‘What stage are you at with your interviews?’ If they have been interviewing elsewhere, it is vital to understand what stage they have reached with other businesses.

  • ‘If we were to offer you the role, what do you think your current employer would say?’ Are they really committed to leaving their current company or are they simply looking for a reason to push their current company for a pay rise?

Stage 5. Personal details

This section focuses on current salaries, benefits packages, notice periods and information which may impact hiring decisions or processes. Ascertain the correct information now as it could call a halt to the whole process further down the line.

Stage 6. Job brief and sell

Interviewers often start by giving an overview of the role for which they’re recruiting, and what they’re looking for. But how can you sell the specific aspects of the role that are relevant to that applicant, before you know what they are looking for?

By describing the features, advantages and benefits at the end of the interview, the candidate should leave feeling excited by the opportunity.

Stage 7. Next steps

Never forget interviewees who are not successful; this is about perception and reputation. You never know when your paths may cross again. You don’t know who that person knows. Treat them how you would expect to be treated yourself. Always provide feedback from the interview and follow up when you say you will.

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