Interviews are the most critical aspect of recruitment because they help determine who the right fit is for each position. As such, developing a consistent approach when conducting interviews is vital.
These tips for interviewing someone will help you prepare and conduct successful interviews.
1. Familiarise yourself with the job description
Your first order of business is to go through the job description again and familiarise yourself with all the requirements and work responsibilities listed. This is especially important if you had intradepartmental help during the writing process and there is a lot of technical information involved. Talk to staff and determine what would make a great addition to the team.
2. Make note of the qualities top performers share
Departmental top performers are a great indication to what an employee should be like, so make a note of all the qualities they share and actively look for those same qualities during the job interview. This can be a simple way to identify professionals with great potential.
3. Match candidates’ profiles to the job description
Obviously, you will have already done that during the shortlisting phase but it’s important to go through it once more in order to make notes and find any grey areas you would like to discuss with candidates. So if, for example, there’s nothing on the candidate’s CV to indicate that they possess a certain skill or that they have experience with a specific programme, make sure to make a note of it and ask them about it in person.
4. Have a schedule
It’s important to be well-prepared before and during the interview. Allow sufficient time for each meeting so that you can cover all the topics that you’d like to discuss, and create an action plan. Generally speaking, starting with an informal chat (about the weather or the candidate’s trip to the office), followed by a brief account of the organisation’s history and position requirements is a great way to start. You should then discuss work history, academic qualifications and, lastly, position-specific details.
5. Prepare your key questions ahead
Your key questions refer to those questions which will allow you to uncover a professional’s ability to perform the required work duties. These questions are usually situational, ie: the professional is presented with a situation they will need to deal with, should they be hired, and are asked to provide a solution. It’s always a good idea to have a manager join you for this type of interview as things might get too technical.
6. Find a great location
The interview should be conducted in a professional space that is both quiet and a bit isolated as this will help ease everyone’s nerves. If you’re interviewing someone in a conference room in the middle of a crowded office, for example, then rest assured that they will perform poorly. Having said that, you may want to take them the long way round so that they can get a peak of the office culture – this can be a great move if you have a more relaxed office culture.
7. Help the candidate feel comfortable
As you probably know, interviews can be a stressful ordeal for interviewees which can often keep them from performing their very best. So, if you are interested in seeing a person’s true colours, you should actively try to make them comfortable. Agree to meet them at a time that’s convenient for them (provided that it’s convenient for you as well) and send them a note before the meeting to let them know what to bring with them (eg: their portfolio), tell them what topics they should expect to discuss and encourage them to prepare questions. Dropping a line about the office’s dress code can be extremely helpful, as well.
8. Have a long-term approach
Even though you are probably pushed by management to get through the process as quickly as possible, it’s important to be very methodical during these in-person meetings. One of the best tips for interviewing someone is to think of their long-term potential. That is, think of what the person sitting across the room could develop into. Assume that each person could eventually be promoted and decide if they could excel in a position with more responsibilities.
9. Begin the interview with an informal chat
It’s important to give the person you’re interviewing some time to ease their nerves. An informal chat gives the opportunity for everyone to forget that they are in a business meeting and helps both interviewers and interviewees feel more at ease with one another. Offering a beverage and asking about their trip to the office shows that you care. Remember that during the interview you essentially represent the entire organisation and you should, therefore, be as polite and welcoming as possible.
10. Avoid pointless questions
Questions like ‘Which animal would you like to be?’ to ‘How would your friends describe you?’ simply encourage candidates to lie. Make your questions specific and focused, and try to ask as many situational questions as possible. So, rather than asking them which superhero they’d like to be, ask them to solve a real work problem they will need to face if they are hired.
11. Take ‘culture fit’ into account
There’s an on-going debate as to whether we should or should not be looking for cultural fits, but so long as you maintain a balance and don’t obsess with hiring a ‘great fit’, then taking into account team dynamics can be beneficial to the process. Consider what characteristics and qualities team members share and look for them in every potential new member as well.
12. Sell the job
One of the mistakes many hiring managers make is to assume that the candidate is dying to work for them and that they, therefore, do not need to sell the job. The reality, however, is that many people attend interviews to determine if the job fits them and, as such, need to hear more about what the job actually entails and why they should be excited to get it.
13. Ask focused questions
As we’ve discussed earlier, avoiding pointless questions can help save time by focusing on more situational questions. But it’s also important to ask focused questions to uncover each individual’s intentions for applying and what motivated them to consider this position.
Some great sample questions include:
- What motivated you to apply for this position?
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- What can you do for us that no one else will be able to?
- Tell me an example of a time your work was criticised.
- How do you manage your work day?
14. Ask open-ended questions
Avoid asking questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as you will end up speaking more than the candidate. Ask open-ended questions and urge the interviewee to elaborate whenever possible. Starting your questions with phases such as ‘give me an example’ or ‘explain to me’ can be great way to get the person across the table talking.
15. Encourage interviewees to ask questions
An interview should be interactive and this means that the interviewee shouldn’t be the only person answering questions. In fact, having the interviewee ask you questions can reveal a lot about their potential.
16. Keep your questions professional
Avoid questions that are not professional, such as details about the interviewee’s marital or relationship status, intention to have kids and their health, as these have nothing to do with whether someone will be able to get their job done. Note that most of these questions are illegal to ask, anyway.
17. Limit the number of questions
As much as you want to be thorough, there’s no point in dragging an interview out. Not only will this be mentally challenging to you, but it will also be mentally challenging to the interviewee. Avoid asking the same or similar questions, and if you feel that there’s more to discuss with a candidate then have them come back for a second interview.
18. Ask dituational questions consistently
Although you should never compare one interviewee to another, it’s important to compare their replies to situational questions, because this will help you understand who’s better able, has more knowledge and skills, as well as experience to cope with work responsibilities.
19. Maintain control of the interview
A great interview is one where the interviewee does most of the talking, but that does not mean that your role is simply that of a listener. You need to maintain control and steer the interviewee back to the topic at hand whenever they wander off. Phrases such as ‘you were saying earlier’ and ‘tell me more about’ can help bring the candidate back on track.
20. Let the interviewee know what to expect next
The interview should always finish by letting the interviewee know what to expect next. Tell them what the goal for this meeting was and what the next stage entails. Inform them when they should expect to hear back from you and encourage them to drop you a line if they have any questions.
21. Send a ‘thank you’ letter
As you probably know, conducting interviews in a professional manner can help boost employer brand. A professional manner of conducting the interview, however, does not restrict to the actual interview but also means that you need to help create a lasting positive impression, and there’s no better way to do that than by sending a ‘thank you’ note to all the interviewees.
22. Reply promptly
What can also benefit employer brand is not keeping people waiting, and this means that you should take time to personally reply to each interviewee as soon as you’ve decided whether you’re proceeding with them to the next stage or not. Being respectful of each and every interviewee means leaving a lasting positive impression on people and this can be great for the organisation’s reputation in general.
Conducting interviews is not as easy as asking a series of questions and determining whether what you heard was right or wrong. It’s about being able to decipher whether each professional you meet could have a future in your organisation.
What do you think makes a great interviewee? Let me know in the comments section below.