Conducting successful interviews
Interviewing is one of the most important steps in hiring a new employee. It is a key opportunity to evaluate an applicant’s work experience, specific skills and abilities, as prescribed by the job description. It will also help you get a “feel” for a candidates’ personality, interpersonal and communication skills, and how they might fit in to your firm.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of interviews and determine who will be your next employee.
Preparing for the Interview
When scheduling the interview, make sure to provide enough time for a lengthy conversation, as you don’t want to cut off an interview halfway through. Provide the candidate with several different options that work for you, and then allow them to pick the most convenient time.
When possible, conduct the interview in a neutral, comfortable environment devoid of distractions, such as a conference room. If an office is your only option, make sure to close the door and refrain from distractions such as answering the phone or looking at your computer.
Develop a set of questions you’ll ask all candidates. Before each interview, familiarize yourself with the individual’s resume, and jot down any additional questions to clarify gaps in employment or to further dig into specific skills.
Conducting the Interview
Start the conversation & ramp up slowly
Try to make the interviewee as comfortable as possible. Determine if there is something of mutual interest that could be discussed briefly before starting the interview. This icebreaker technique will help both you and interviewee to relax. Rather than jumping into the tough questions right away, start off casually and try to get to know the individual on a personal level. Ask the candidate about where they grew up or why they picked their current field. Doing so can further relax the atmosphere and get individuals talking comfortably. You might even gain unanticipated insight into the candidate. A good transition to the tougher questions would be to provide a brief an overview of the company and/or department they’ll be working in.
Be conversational and friendly
Smile a lot, be encouraging, and treat the interview as a two-way conversation, not just a question-and-answer session. Resist the urge to be intimidating or stoic. Making the interviewee comfortable can go a long way toward helping them relax, and a relaxed candidate will tell you more about themselves and provide more authentic answers. Maintain good eye contact and be aware of body language. Remember that verbal communication is a small percentage of effective communication so be aware of what is “not being said”. Voice intonation or body language can reveal a lot of information.
Get the details
Once the candidate seems comfortable, transition into position-related questions. You want to hear about a candidate’s career path in their own words, as a resume can only tell you so much. A good way to begin is by asking how they got to where they are today. Then jump further into their experience by asking specifics about what they did, how they did it, what their role was/how they fit in the company. If there are any gaps in their resume, make sure to delve specifically into those areas until you feel comfortable with their career path. If your open position requires any specific skills, make sure to cover them in detail.
Do a deep dive
At this point, you may have discovered that the candidate’s skill level is not in line with your needs. If that’s the case, thank them for their time, and let them know that you’ll be in touch. But if you’re comfortable with the individual’s experience, your next goal is to figure out what type of employee they’ll be and whether or not they’ll fit with you. Just because someone is qualified, it doesn’t mean they’re right for the job.
Use open-ended questions that allow candidates to elaborate about topics they might not bring up on their own. You want to get to know their personality as an employee and uncover how they handle stress and difficult situations. Potential questions include:
- What did you like most and least about your last job?
- Why are you leaving your current position/did you leave your last position?
- What did you like about your last boss? What did you dislike?
- What did you like about your co-workers? What did you dislike?
- What was your greatest achievement at your last position?
- What type of manager do you prefer?
- What did you learn from your last position?
- What is your ideal position?
- Why are you interested in this position?
Let candidates do the talking
If you’re talking the majority of the time, you’re not gaining the information you need. Let the candidate talk as much as they want, only stepping in if they start to veer off course. If a candidate only provides incomplete answers, probe further by rephrasing.
Ask candidates to question you
Toward the end of the interview, open it up to the candidate to ask questions of you. Interviewees’ questions can help you learn a lot—if they’re truly interested in the position, what their expectations are, and whether or not they did their homework and know about the company. If an interviewee has no questions at all, that’s a red flag.
It’s important to take good notes, especially if you have multiple candidates to interview. Write down:
- Initial impressions
- Strengths/weaknesses that stand out to you
- Positives/negatives about the candidate
- Notable accomplishments or skills
- Any fact not on their resume that will help you decide if they’re the person for the job
Keep it legal
Make sure all your questions are legal under the U.S. and your state’s employment laws. Direct questions about family, marital status, age, religious or political affiliation are not permitted.
What to Look For
Throughout the interview, look for:
- Professionalism – Are they dressed professionally? Do they conduct themselves in a professional manner?
- Confidence – All candidates will be nervous, but do they hide their nervousness well? Can they function in spite of their nervousness? Are they confident in their skills and experience?
- Positive Body Language – Do they maintain eye contact? Do they seem engaged?
- Authenticity – Do their answers sound authentic? Do you feel they’re being honest with you?
- Enthusiasm – Are they excited about the position?
By the end of the interview, you should have a good feel for the individual and whether or not they’ll be a good fit for the position and your company as a whole. If you’re able to develop a good rapport, that’s a good sign. In the end, if the candidate has answered all your questions to your satisfaction, you feel they have the skills and experience needed, and you get along with them, you may have just found your next employee.