The right interview process is key to finding the right hire.
But whether you're in a rush to replace a departing team member or rapidly growing your local business, it's easy to lose sight of effective interview practices.
The solution? Have a system in place to help you overcome common pitfalls and identify the best person for the position. Here are our 17 most effective interview strategies to ensure that it's smooth and successful from the get-go:
1. Be consistent
Though you should personalize each interview, it will be easiest to compare candidates if you ask consistent questions. Creating a consistent go-to list of discussion topics to incorporate in your interview will help you out in the future when reviewing the candidates.
2. Do your homework
Make the candidate feel important by familiarizing yourself with their resume or LinkedIn before they arrive. In doing so, you can ask personal questions that will shine more light on their skills than generic questions would. The interviewee should feel that you have spent time preparing accordingly for the interview.
3. 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, on Skype, or on the phone), and how long you expect it to last.
Pro-tip: Always overestimate. If you expect a 30-minute interview, ask for 45 minutes of their time instead so that no one feels rushed if it goes on for longer.
4. Make the candidate comfortable
The candidate is likely to be nervous; you should always attempt 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 try to minimize the space.
5. Extend professional courtesy
Offer the candidate a glass of water and ask if they need anything before you get started. Small talk (“Did you find our office okay? How was parking?”) can break the ice and give them a moment to settle in before you begin the interview.
6. 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.
7. Explain the interview agenda
Setting up an agenda for the interview can help the candidate understand the expectations. If someone else will be joining you for the second half of the interview, it is good etiquette to let the candidate know beforehand. Keeping them informed about what to expect will make everyone more comfortable.
8. Don’t rely on memory
Keeping track of multiple interviews is challenging. Jotting down notes on paper can be less distracting than doing so on a phone or computer. Being organized will help if you have to discuss each candidate with other colleagues later on.
9. Ask appropriate questions
It’s important to know what kinds of questions you cannot ask potential employees. Be sure to stay way from questions regarding race, age, marital status, religion, and political affiliation.
10. Pay attention to nonverbal cues
Look at the candidate’s body language to gauge comfort level and interest in the job. Their words are important, but how they present themselves nonverbally is a large factor, too.
11. Be conversational
The interview format should not just be a back-and-forth of questions and answers. Make sure you are including some conversation to (i) make everyone more comfortable and (ii) get to know the candidate more intimately.
You want to show the candidate that you aren’t just a robot who fires off questions—you want their personality to shine through, too.
12. Dig for answers
Since you only have limited time with a candidate, it’s important to get to the root of the answers you’re looking for. 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 a candidate seems uncomfortable.
13. 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 share what they learned from past experiences. You can also ask questions that begin with “How would you deal with..” to see how they solve problems that may arise on the job.
14. Stay flexible
Although you should aim to get through your planned questions (especially these 5 interview questions you need to know), it’s important to let the conversation develop organically to get to better know the candidate.
15. Involve others
Instead of a one-on-one interview, invite some other colleagues to join. Having other interviewers will let you get a few more opinions on the candidate. 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 is actually qualified for the tasks they will be completing. 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 you'll only know whether they can do the job by putting their skillset to the test.
It’s inconsiderate to leave candidates in the dark. Make sure to follow-up by email or phone regardless of whether they got the position or not. Communication will keep you in good favor in case another position opens.
These 17 tips will help you prepare for and conduct a strong interview that will lead to the best hires for your company. Whether you are excited about a candidate or not, completing an effective interview is important and a strong skill to possess.