Conducting an interview is one of the most important steps when hiring. It lets you interact with a candidate whose background and skills seem like a good match and allows you to see if their personality and skills are a fit for the job.
As nerve-wracking as it is to interview for a job, it’s also a big responsibility to conduct a strong interview so that you gather everything you need to know before the candidate departs. An interview should be a two-way conversation that the interviewer leads. We've created a list of 17 tips in order to ensure your interview is successful.
1. Confirm details the day before
Make sure everyone is clear on all of the interview logistics 24 hours beforehand. Send an email to confirm the date and time of the interview, how the interview is being conducted (in person, Skype, phone, etc.), and how long you expect it to last.
Always overestimate. If you expect a 30-minute interview, it's better to ask for 45 minutes of their time so that no one feels rushed in case it goes on for longer.
2. Make the candidate comfortable
The candidate is likely to be nervous and you should take some steps to make them feel comfortable. Sit at the same level as the interviewee to ensure that you’re not looking down at them.
Be aware of any large gaps between you, such as a big table or desk, and minimize the space, but don’t sit too close either. Introduce yourself warmly, make sure you pronounce their name correctly and thank them for coming at the end of the interview.
3. Do your homework
Make the candidate feels important by familiarizing yourself with their resume or LinkedIn before they arrive. This will not only help you figure out how to ask better interview questions, but you can ask personal questions that will shine much more light on their skills in comparison to asking generic ones.
The interviewee should feel that you are well-prepared for the meeting and are invested in them.
4. Extend professional courtesy
Offer the candidate a glass of water and ask if they need anything before you get started. Make some small talk (“Did you find our office okay? How was parking?”) and give them a moment to settle in to make sure they’re set to do their best.
If you notice they are too cold or hot, you may ask if they'd like you to adjust the temperature to make them more comfortable.
5. Describe the job and business
Introduce yourself and your role in the company and give an overview of the job and what the business does. Your description will add to what they already know and provide reference for the rest of the interview.
6. Explain the interview agenda
Setting up an agenda for the interview will help the candidate understand the expectations and flow. For example, you can let them know that first you’ll be explaining what the company is looking for, then move on to asking them some questions, then they can ask some questions in return, and that you’ll be ending with an office tour.
If someone else will be joining you for the second half of the interview you should let the interviewee know. Keeping the candidate informed about what to expect will make everyone more comfortable.
7. Be consistent
Though you should personalize each interview, it will be easiest to compare candidates if the questions you ask are consistent. Consistency will keep you better organized as well as help create a solid go-to list of questions/discussion topics to use later.
8. Don’t rely on memory
Keeping track of multiple interviews is challenging. Jot down notes and do it on paper so that you don’t get distracted like you might on a phone or computer. This organization will also help if you have to discuss each candidate with other colleagues later.
9. Stay flexible
Though you should aim to get through your most important questions, it’s important to let the conversation develop naturally, and perhaps veer off-topic, if it will help you get to better know the candidate and their skills.
Perhaps some encouraging information will emerge that your straight-forward questions alone wouldn’t have achieved.
10. Ask appropriate questions
It’s important to know what kinds of interview questions you can't ask potential employees. For example, anything about race, age, marital status, religion, and political affiliation are off-limits. If you ask these questions you and your company are at risk of being accused of discrimination and legal action could follow.
11. Pay attention to nonverbal cues
Look at the candidate’s body language to gauge things such as their comfort level, level of honesty, interest in the job (are they just looking at the clock, bored?), and comfort with eye contact (especially important for customer-facing roles).
Their words are important, but how they present themselves nonverbally is an important factor, too.
12. Be conversational
The interview format should not just be ‘question, answer, question answer”. Make sure you are including some conversation to 1) make everyone more comfortable 2) get to know the candidate on a deeper level.
You want to show the candidate you aren’t just a robot who asks questions and that you want them to be able to show their personality too.
13. Dig for answers
Since you only have limited time with a candidate, it’s important to get real answers. Don’t let a generic or rehearsed answer slide; instead, dig for more information and ask follow-up questions. You can push for more information, but do move on if you sense that a candidate is uncomfortable.
14. Ask behavioral questions
Questions that start with, “Tell me about a time when you…” help show how candidates have dealt with challenges in the past. This is a great way to gauge their decision-making skills and what they learned from past experiences.
You can also ask questions that begin with “How would you deal with...” to see how they would solve potential problems.
15. Involve a few others
Instead of a one-on-one interview, invite some other colleagues to join in. Make sure to sit in a way that’s not too intimidating to the candidate. This will let you get a few more opinions. If the person is hired, then these colleagues can take ownership of the hire and have reasons to help that person succeed once they are on the team.
16. Look for real solutions
Make sure the person you’re hiring can really do what you need them to do. If you’re hiring a chef, have them cook you a meal. If you are looking for a writer, have them complete a sample article. Lots of candidates look great on paper, but make sure they can actually solve your problems by putting it to the test.
It's not just important for a job candidate to master the art of the post-interview followup, it's your responsibility too! Make sure to follow up by email or phone, regardless of whether they got the position or not.
Honest communication will keep you in good favor in case another position opens up. It is good courtesy to thank them for their time at the end of the interview.