I've never been a recruiter and have not spent a significant amount of time doing candidate interviews over the years. I have, however, done about 175 HR Happy Hour Shows/Podcasts that are (mostly) centered around asking questions of guests and trying to evoke interesting answers. So I like to think, like most people do probably, that I somehow 'know' how to interview well, and that in fact, interviewing isn't really all that hard.
And even if I didn't think that somehow I'd cracked the interviewing secrets, a simple Google search on 'Interview tips for the interviewer' reveals about 1.7 million results - surely with all that content available it should not be all that tough to become at least competent, if not proficient, at conducting interviews. Then fold in the usual familiarity with either the subject matter, (in the case of interviewing someone for a position in your organization), or the subject him or herself, (as in the case that I want to mention, talking to one of your family members).
Here is the scene, (edited slightly for clarity and due to my failing memory), starring Me as 'Me', and my 13 year-old as 'P'.
Me: So, P, do you have any concerns about your class trip to Washington D.C. that is coming up?
Me: (after a pause). See, I made a mistake in the way that I asked you about the trip. I asked you a 'close ended' question. Do you know what a close ended question is?
Me: I did it again. A close ended question is one that can be correctly answered with either a 'Yes' or a 'No'. What I should have done is asked the question differently, with an 'open ended' question. With an 'open ended' question, you can't just answer Yes or No. You have to give a little more information and hopefully share more of what you are thinking. Do you see what I mean?
Me: Ok, let's try again. 'What concerns you about your upcoming class trip to Washington D.C.?'
There you have it. Even though I think I am pretty clever, even though a big part of what I do involves talking to people and getting them to share information, even though there exists almost unlimited resources from which to learn, and finally, even though I was familiar with the subject matter, (the class trip), and extremely familiar with the subject, (my 13 year-old), I still failed as an interviewer.
He still was able to tell me just about nothing, I failed at coaxing him to elucidate, and I don't really know anything more than if we never had the conversation.
What is the point of telling the story?
I think it is this - that we probably don't spend enough time thinking about getting better at interviewing because we think that one; it is easy, and two; we are already as proficient as we need to be.
It is kind of like driving. Everyone thinks they are a good driver, yet the roads are full of lunatics.
Ask around your HR shop sometime, I bet everyone thinks they are good at conducting interviews. That can't possibly be true, right?
Ack - that was another close ended question!