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How to conduct a great interview

8 min read
Interviewing isn’t just about what the organization can learn from the candidates, but also about designing an experience that people will be impressed by. Even if they don’t get the job.


Interviews are a crucial part of your recruitment process. It’s in everybody’s interest to get the very best out of the candidates who have made it this far through your hiring process, and treat everyone fairly. You obviously want to avoid costly hiring mistakes, but ideally everyone should walk away from the experience feeling it was a positive experience.

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9 ways to prepare to give an interview

1. Train the interviewers

Lots of us think we’re great judges of character, but research shows that there can be substantial bias in interviewing. Training ensures all candidates are treated and evaluated similarly, and multiple interviewers can calibrate their evaluations with one another.

2. Develop an interview guide

One key to successful interviews is having a standardized process. A standard interview guide (or standard questions) that you ask all candidates is essential here.

3. Identify which candidate characteristics to assess

Hiring managers need to decide what factors to ask about and evaluate in the interview – the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are most critical to success on the job. After selecting the factors, you need to decide how best to assess those characteristics – such as specific interview questions.

4. Prepare the right questions

Research shows that the best interview questions are ‘behavior-based’, as past behaviors are some of the best predictors of future behaviors. Design the questions so that candidates can describe how they behaved, or how they would behave, in a particular situation.You’ll be able to predict how a candidate will respond to or behave in a similar situation in the future.

5. Reduce interviewee stress in advance

People perform better when they’re less stressed. Schedule an interview for when the candidate can get there easily (e.g. not having to dash straight after work); tell them the topics you’ll be discussing so they can prepare; let them know the dress code; explain the location, interviewers and format of the interview.

6. Remind yourself of the job description

This will ensure you ask the right questions and pick the right person. Has anything recently changed in the organization that would affect the job description?

7. Sketch out an interview schedule

You’ll want to demonstrate that you respect a candidate’s time. Make a note of roughly how much time you intend to spend on each aspect of the interview.

8. Spend more time researching a candidate than interviewing

Read their resume carefully and memorize it to avoid going through it again in the interview, review their work history and check out their social media.

9. Rehearse a practice interview

With a colleague, friend or on a video call and ask for feedback for improving your technique.

How to conduct that great interview

The best interviews are conversations

Let’s move away from the interrogation interview style (small talk – introduction to the company – general questions – specific job/experience questions – final questions?) and chat instead. After all, you’ve told your candidate what to expect in advance and you’ve researched them too.

A good interview may eliminate the ‘anything you’d like to ask us?’ at the end because questions flow from each party naturally during the conversation. Let the conversation breathe by listening carefully to every answer.

Ask further follow-up questions so full details, stories and your candidate’s character can emerge. Answer as many questions as you ask.

Test your candidate

Instead of the ‘what are your weaknesses’ tired old questions that just invite untruths, ask candidates job-specific questions, perhaps drawn from real-life situations. How would a manager handle a conflict? How would an IT tech solve a problem? How would an engineer adapt a piece of machinery? You’ll be able to gauge a candidate’s passion, interest, strengths and weaknesses by getting them talking about what they do and applying their skills.

Assess potential

Think beyond the job the person is applying for; a good candidate has the potential to be promoted and stay with your company long-term. It’s cost-effective to retain employees and promote from within, so when an interviewee demonstrates engagement, insight, determination and curiosity, they’re probably a keeper. Offer them a job, quick.

Sell the role

The interview is a golden opportunity for the interviewer to sell the role and the organization. Ask candidates what they are looking for in a work experience, then take the opportunity to talk about the role and organization, and how each may meet their needs.

Always let a candidate know the outcome of the interview afterwards

It’s unacceptable not to follow up and let unsuccessful interviewees know they didn’t get the job. This can also damage your company’s reputation when candidates mention it on job sites such as Glassdoor.

Find out what the candidates thought

You’ll want to keep improving your recruitment process, and the best way to do this is by soliciting feedback from candidates – then listening to it. Use candidate feedback surveys to pinpoint areas that need working on.

Dos and don’t for being a good interviewer

Do:

  • Switch off any tech that’s likely to ping, and eliminate any other interruptions.
  • Standardize your questions so that candidates can be assessed equally.
  • Ask a mix of questions: closed-ended for a simple yes/no informational answer; open-ended to draw out a candidate’s knowledge, opinions and attitudes; hypothetical to make the candidate think about and react to a scenario; and behavior-based to help predict how candidates would react to future situations.
  • Make notes to remember specifics about each interviewee but don’t be constantly scribbling.
  • Ask job-related questions about behavior or situations, and steer clear of overtly personal ones to avoid straying into territory that could be construed as discrimination or bias.
  • Consider cultural fit but don’t get too hung up on it. People adapt, seemingly different characters often work brilliantly together, and diverse workplaces tend to outperform less diverse ones.
  • Ask the receptionist’s opinion: was the candidate polite, pleasant, chatty? What did they do while waiting? As the saying goes, ‘a jerk in the lobby will always be a jerk on the job’.
  • Complete the evaluation shortly after the interview so that you don’t forget important details or information about the candidate

Don’t:

  • Be too quick to judge: polished communicators may be able to bluff their way into a job, whereas shyer ones may be less forthcoming, but more suitable. Listen to what each candidate has to say and assess their competencies equally.
  • Bring too many hiring managers into the interview process: one or two other pairs of eyes and ears are fine, but avoid selection by committee.
  • Talk about yourself too much: you want to assess what the candidate brings to the role – interviews are more of a listening than talking exercise for the interviewer.
  • Oversell the job: if you can’t keep promises about pay, bonuses, or career development, don’t make them. And be honest about tough parts of the job such as long shifts or hands-dirty duties.
  • Hold back your enthusiasm when you meet an ideal candidate. Chances are, they’ll be enthusiastic too, and it’s a great start for a working relationship if you’re both excited about the appointment.
  • Leave any candidate hanging: even if they didn’t show for the interview, everyone needs a polite decision.
  • Forget to send a candidate survey to all your applicants.

Meaure the quality of your interview with our candidate experience survey template