So, you’ve written a great job advertisement, placed it on one of the best job posting sites, and gotten back dozens of applicants. The initial screening process is done and now it’s time for conducting an interview with the job candidate.
In this article, we’ll go through the pre-interview preparation process you should undertake first, give you advice on how to conduct the interview itself, and go over some do’s and don’ts you should keep in mind. By following these guidelines, you will learn how to interview someone effectively. And, when it comes time to hire employees, you will already have a leg up in the process.
Table of Contents
The pre-interview process is basically the homework you should do before conducting an interview to make sure you ask the right questions to assess whether the candidate is a good fit for the open position. Below we describe several steps that can help you go into an interview as prepared as possible.
Learn about the role
Candidates will look for new jobs by using the best job search sites, by referrals, or by searching in job networks and social media. This means that they have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Whether you are the one who wrote the job description or not, make sure you go into the interview with a clear picture of what the role is. Having a copy of the job advertisement and job description next to you is a good idea.
Know what you are looking for in a candidate
Once you know what the job requires, think about what kind of candidate you believe would be best for the job. Think about the skills your team members already have and how well they meet your needs. Also, think about the characteristics you wish your team had that could make a difference in your business performance.
Some people divide skills into soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills are those that are needed and desired for all jobs. They include skills such as public speaking, critical thinking, leadership, and others. Hard skills, on the other hand, are those that are specific to a particular job. These can include knowledge of a particular software suite, fluency in a particular language, and other abilities that are needed to effectively perform a specific job.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the capacity to understand and manage personal emotions in one’s self and in others. Candidates with high emotional intelligence are likely to ask relevant questions during the interview. You can better assess a candidate’s EI by providing a hypothetical situation and seeing how they would react or by asking to speak on a personal experience.
Keep in mind that a very experienced candidate may lack key skills for the position and that a highly-skilled candidate may lack experience, but neither of these candidates is necessarily better suited than the other. Try to strike a balance between experience and skills when considering a candidate. Also, while a person’s experience might not be in the same field you are hiring for, their particular experience may provide complementary knowledge to the position.
Choose a job interview structure
It’s important to establish an effective interview structure that builds a framework that puts all interviewees within the same context. Although we will go into more detail further in the article, a typical interview structure contains the following parts:
- Introduction: Includes initial greetings and small talk
- Presenting information: The interviewer might explain the position in more detail
- Questions (from interviewer to candidate): The bulk of the interview, where the interviewer asks the prepared questions as well as follow-ups
- Exercise (if required): Candidates can be tested with an exercise, for example, a writing drill or problem-solving task
- Questions (from candidate to interviewer): Allows some time for the candidates to ask any questions they might have
- Wrap up: Interviewers would explain any next steps in the hiring process, plus the farewells
In addition to setting the framework for the interview, you should also consider the different types of interview formats you want to use. There are many interview formats to choose from, each with its own advantage:
- One-on-one interview: The traditional kind of interview where the hiring manager interviews the candidate face-to-face, over the phone, or on a video conference. This type of interview can be more efficient and faster than others but is susceptible to the biases of the single interviewer.
- Panel interview: Where one candidate meets with multiple interviewers. Usually, the interviewers are following a script of pre-selected questions. Panel interviews can offset the biases of the one-on-one interview and give multiple perspectives, but they can be time-intensive.
- Group interview: In which multiple candidates are interviewed at once by one or more interviewers. One advantage of this approach is that interviewers can compare multiple candidates with each other, but a disadvantage is that you may not give equal time to all candidates.
- Presentation interview: The presentation interview consists of a candidate being asked to give a presentation on a subject related to the job to which they are applying. This kind of interview is usually reserved for higher-ranking positions where seeing the candidate’s expertise in action is very important.
Research the candidates
Even before the pre-interview process, your company may have used different tactics, such as using recruiting software or putting up job postings on online networks such as ZipRecruiter or LinkedIn, to find employees that would meet the job requirements.
Before starting the interview, read through the materials submitted by the applicant, most often the candidate’s resume and cover letter. This will help you have a better understanding of who the candidate is and what they can bring to the table for this position.
Identify the right questions to ask
Finally, before starting the interview, you should have prepared a list of interview questions that can help you find out whether the candidate is a good fit for the position. By asking different types of questions, you can evaluate the answers from all interviewees within the boundaries of the specific question, allowing for easier comparison among the candidates.
These help you assess what the candidate would do when faced with a specific situation.
Similar to behavioral questions, but you provide the scenario and ask how the candidate would respond to it if they were hired.
The aim of fact-based questions is to gauge the applicant’s knowledge of a specific subject. The answers to these questions should be factual, with no room for interpretation.
The aim of general questions is to get to know the applicant. You may ask about their interests and pastimes, projects they have worked on, their greatest achievements, the type of work environment they prefer, and what they expect from the job. This can help identify whether the candidate is a good cultural fit for the company. Remember to steer clear of personal questions that might lead to discrimination, such as those about age, race, religion, sexual orientation, and politics, just to name a few topics.
These can help you identify whether a candidate has the skill level and know how required for a given position. These questions can relate to technical aspects of the job or the applicant’s past experience solving specific problems.
Establish a rating system
An essential part of the pre-interview process is coming up with a rating system. Having a clear idea of how to evaluate and grade a candidate will simplify the hiring decision. The interviewing team should determine what requirements are to be evaluated and what type of scoring will be used. Each question should have a defined competency that is being evaluated, such as “ability to work as part of a team” or “computer literacy”. Scoring criteria must be clear and understood among all interviewers as well, such as giving 10 points to the best answer and so on.
Conducting the Job Interview
Now that preparations have been made, it’s time to conduct the job interview. Each part of the interview process serves a specific purpose and interviewers would do well in keeping the structure intact to provide candidates the necessary space to demonstrate their skills and experience.
An introduction may seem like a minor step but it sets the tone and mood for the rest of the interview. Start off by introducing yourself and letting them do the same.
Small talk is a part of the process. It’s a chance to set the candidate at ease. While you do not want to go into a deep conversation, also try to avoid cliches or controversial topics.
Before diving into asking questions, present the candidate with any relevant information about the position and what the organization is looking for. You can opt to give the candidate a chance to ask questions before beginning the interview.
Using the prepared list of questions and the order established during the pre-interview process, you can begin flexing your interviewing skills and asking questions. Focus on what the candidate is saying, their communication skills, whether they are answering the question or avoiding it, whether they are displaying the competency being asked about, and their level of knowledge and confidence in their answers.
Give the candidate an exercise
At this point, if the interview calls for an exercise, administer it while making sure the candidate has enough time to complete it. Provide the candidate with clear instructions and confirm they understand the task at hand. Exercises can be writing assignments, problem-solving exercises, or simple tests to get a sense of the skills the candidate commands.
Once the time for your questions and exercises is done, allow the candidate to ask their own questions. A good interview isn’t just about finding out if this candidate is the right fit for the job, it’s also about making a good impression. Interviewers should “sell” the company and the position so that the right candidate will accept your offer and not be turned off.
With a friendly parting, we come to the end of the interview.
Interview Do’s and Don'ts
What have we learned about how to interview? We’ve learned that the interview process is a long one, before, during, and after. Here are the main takeaways, and the do’s and don’ts of conducting a job interview.
- Prepare beforehand
Choosing the right questions, reading up on the candidates, and knowing the details and requirements of the job can make the interview go smoothly.
- Put the candidate at ease
Engaging in small talk during the introduction and maintaining a friendly yet professional tone can help relieve nervousness or anxiousness in both interviewer and candidate.
- Listen attentively and take notes
Focus and what the candidate is saying and write down your assessment of the answers provided. This will make the scoring go much smoother.
- Allow the candidate to ask questions
Provide a space for the interviewee to ask follow-up questions and clear up any doubts they may have about the role and the company. Sell the position to candidates you feel are right for the job.
- Ask about controversial or sensitive topics
Religion, sexuality, politics, race, ethnicity, marital status and other topics that do not inform about the candidate’s competence for the job should not be discussed.
- Lose control of the interview
You determine the pace of the interview and the topics being discussed. Listen attentively to the candidate’s answers so that you don’t have to repeat questions.
- Interrupt or talk over the candidate
Although you control the interview, it’s never a good idea to interrupt somebody mid-sentence by talking over them. If you need to interrupt, do so cordially.
- Ignore a candidate’s questions
Part of the interview process calls for candidates to ask questions regarding the position and the company. Failing to answer a question may turn off strong candidates.