INTERVIEWING styles of managers often differ according to their gender.

“Women tend to be chatty, folksy even, because they want to put people at ease,” notes Ms Aileen Jacobson in Women in Charge: Dilemmas Of Women In Authority.

Men, on the other hand, tend to “cut to the chase and be more direct”.

Both styles have advantages and drawbacks. In an effort to make candidates feel comfortable, women often become so focused on playing the good hostess that they fail to get the information they need about the applicant.

In contrast, men who are abrupt and overly direct can paralyse applicants to the point that they blow the interview.

Many managers waste precious interview time describing and selling the job, themselves and the organisation instead of delving into the candidate’s background.

Remember, it is the applicant who should be doing the “selling” — at least initially. Besides, you jump the gun when you open an interview with an elaborate description of the job and the kind of person you are looking for. Later when you ask questions, a savvy candidate will know exactly what answers you are hoping to hear.

Some 80 per cent of interviews are completely unstructured, according to Ms Therese Hoff Macan, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Missouri at St. Louis in the United States, who specialises in employment interview research.

The result? When the interview process is over, and you are faced with a decision, everything and everyone is a blur.

A simple scoring system can help you avoid this problem. Ms Macan recommends that you take a look at your job description before the first interview and devise a chart of the behaviours and skills you are seeking.

Next, list each criterion in order of importance. Then, once you begin interviewing candidates, rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 in each category.

Many managers make the mistake of asking interviewees stock questions such as “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” These are questions that virtually every one of today’s job applicants are prepared — and often coached — to answer.

Some managers also have a tendency to ask questions that elicit little more than a yes or no response (“Did you have a good rapport with your boss at your last job?” rather than “What kind of relationship did you have with your boss at your last job?”).

The purpose of an interview is to pinpoint job skills and evaluate potential. But if you ask general and simple questions, you will get general and simple answers.

A better approach? Ask open-ended questions that encourage candidates to talk about themselves. Place them in scenarios related to the position. Asking “What would you do if ...” questions can help you zero in on an strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, what you see is usually what you get.

Studies show that what people say they would do in hypothetical situations closely correlates with what they will actually do in similar real-life situations.