As HR Consultants and professional recruiters, we have seen and heard it all believe me; things like the 10 minute job interview, the interview where the candidate’s qualifications are not even discussed, the interview with no resume, no reference checks, no post interview follow-up and promises made in an interview which go unfulfilled. Why is this?
The simple answer for most of this is lack of skill or knowledge with the interviewer about the interview process.
Simply put – there is no substitute for good preparation. Your preparation for the interview should provide you with a number of questions that will help you get to know and evaluate candidates. But there’s plenty more to do before, during and after the interview. If you follow these steps you will improve your interviewing skills:
Before the Interview
- Put Candidates at Ease: This is critically important and takes a different amount of time with each candidate. When a candidate is at ease and comfortable as they can be, the stage is set for more transparency than would otherwise be. Interviewing if often very stressful on candidates, so do your best to help candidates feel relaxed. Make sure each candidate is greeted and escorted, if necessary, to the interview location. Start with low-key questions.
- Don’t Judge on First Impressions: As human beings we are all hard wired to process an immediate first impression, often even before the candidate even speaks one word! People often don’t make a great first impression but end up being great employees. Withhold judgment until you’ve had the chance to thoroughly evaluate a candidate’s skills, knowledge, capabilities and potential.
During the Interview
- Tell the candidate a little about the job. Normally they would have seen a job description beforehand. Towards the end of the interview, you should provide a brief summary of the job, including the key responsibilities, reporting structure, key challenges and performance criteria. There are two schools of thought on this: telling too much about the job before the interview is good in that it allows the candidate to think of examples of similar work or responsibilities they had. However, a person seasoned in being interviewed, (the professional interviewee) can easily present an image based on exactly what they know you are looking for vs. who they actually really are. I favor the approach of leaving more info about the job towards the end of the interview, and if the candidate is deemed not a fit anyways, you can easily skip this part.
- It’s ok to change or add new questions based on how the interview is going: Plan your questions, but don’t feel you must ask only those you’ve chosen in advance. Be responsive to what the candidate tells you, and build new questions from their answers. When asking behavioral questions which elicit a situational or behavioral response, ie: give me an example of a time when…? Tell the candidate that their answers will be confirmed in a reference check.
- Listen: If you are doing most of the talking during an interview, (common problem) you will not be able to obtain enough information to distinguish between candidates or to determine a candidate’s true competencies. A common practice is to spend 80 percent of your time listening and only 20 percent talking.
- Take Notes: While you won’t want to write down everything the candidate says, do write down important points, key accomplishments, good examples and other information that will help you remember and fairly evaluate each candidate. Relying too much on your memory, especially when interviewing several candidates for the same role is a common problem and also ill advised.
- Invite Candidates to Ask Questions: This can be the most valuable part of the interview. You can gain significant insight into a person based on what questions they are asking. For example, do they really want to be here — is it the challenge of the job, advances in the industry or something specific about your company?… or is the candidate focused only on salary, benefits and time off? If the candidate has no questions, this is almost always a red flag, especially for more senior-level employees. Make a note of what the candidate asks, and be sure to follow up if you can’t provide the answer immediately.
- Follow Legal Interviewing Guidelines: It is critically important that every interviewer at your company understand and follow legal hiring guidelines. The easiest way to keep your interviews fully compliant is to ask only questions that relate to the job, eliminating the potential for bias by not introducing questions or scenarios that will reveal irrelevant information.
After the Interview
- Let Candidates Know What They Can Expect: A frustration of many job seekers is that they are left hanging after an interview, or they are promised follow-up that never comes. The reputation of you and your company is at play here. If the candidate is a good fit, be clear about what the next steps will be. And if the candidate is not a good fit… always end the interview on a positive note, but be genuine. Don’t tell the candidate to call you if you don’t mean it.
- Compare Notes and Reach Consensus: The post-interview evaluation is the time to compare notes to reach a hiring decision. Each interviewer should be prepared to back up remarks and recommendations with specific examples and notes from the interview.
- Deepen the Questions as You Narrow the Field: Subsequent interviews with finalists are valuable opportunities to learn more about them. Consider adding several behavioral interview type questions. Get real examples of work or projects they did, what was it, who was involved, when, and what exactly was their role.
Create a Positive Image for Your Organization
You need to realize that you are also selling you and your Company as much as candidates are trying to sell themselves. It’s important to treat people well during the interview process. You never want to lose a potential customer or cause a candidate to have a negative impression of your company.
Your interview process reflects the value your company places on each candidate and, by extension, each employee. Be a good ambassador for your company by conducting a professional interview, communicating honestly and basing hiring decisions on an honest evaluation of each candidate’s capabilities. Not only will you make great hires, but you’ll build goodwill in the community and enhance your future recruiting efforts.