5 Tips for Properly Conducting a Successful Interview
There are many reasons I decided to start helping people hire employees. One of those reasons is that I know for many people, interviewing candidates can be scary. Over the years, I have conducted so many job interviews that not only does it not scare me, I actually like it! This is the chance to see if the job is a good fit for the person and to see if the person is a good fit for the job. Executing a successful interview is imperative to finding the right candidate to fill a position, but understanding how to do so can be overwhelming. It can be difficult to know what is important to ask and how to compare interviewees.
First of all, do as much as you can to eliminate unqualified candidates before a face to face interview. There are tips for that below but in general, an online application process and phone screening calls are very effective.
That being said, to make your process more productive, here are five tips for properly conducting a successful interview.
- Take the time to carefully create a job description and ad that explains exactly what you are looking for.
One thing that many people tend to overlook before interviewing candidates is the importance of a strong job description that will attract the right people for the opening. This is why I invest the time to ask my clients to detail in depth not only the skill set but the personality traits as well that would make up the ideal employee. This helps to make sure that the best candidates submit their applications for the job.
For example, I just helped a company place an ad for a data analyst. Because this was a job that not only involved analyzing data but then presenting the analysis to the clients, the first line of the ad read “Are you the rare person who loves to analyze data and make presentations? This job is perfect for the person who can dig into the data and then enjoy presenting the results to non-technical clients.” Several of the top candidates mentioned that they felt this was exactly what they were looking for and we ended up with a very successful hire.
- Create specific questions based upon the job description and candidate’s resume.
Once your job description has been properly drafted, it is much easier to create questions to ask during the interview. By focusing on what you have written in the job description, you can ask questions that are directly related. For instance, if you have defined HR skills as a focus of the position, you may want to ask questions directly pertaining to that. For example, what do they believe is best concerning conflict resolution? Do this for each of the position’s main focuses.
I prefer open-ended questions like “tell us about a time when” or “how would you handle this situation.” I recently phone screened a candidate for a position that required them to use real estate software. She said knew the systems yet could not name them when I asked her which ones she used. When pressed, she admitted that her previous employer had never actually used software and that was one of the reasons that realtor was retiring. I knew that my client specifically wanted someone who already knew the system because he would not have time to train anyone so this question saved us time.
However, there are specific questions that I always ask. Here are my basic areas of interest:
- Why do you want to leave your current job?
- If you’ve had more than 3 jobs in the last seven years, please explain why.
- What does your ideal job look like?
- If the job is on site, make sure you review the commute with them.
- If the job is off site, make sure you review the requirements, such as Internet Access, lack of distractions, etc.
- What is your salary range? (See below for the reason why I ask it this way)
As I said above, I highly recommend narrowing the field down before bringing anyone in for a full interview. This will often weed out many of the candidates. If you are getting a lot of candidates, create an online form they must fill out. Either Microsoft Forms or Google Forms are easy ways to create your questions and then gather the applications. Then do phone screening calls. This will save you a lot of wasted time and energy!
- Write down the questions in advance and be sure to record the answers.
One of the best things that you can do in preparation for a productive interview process is to write down the questions that you plan to ask ahead of time. I have at times created my own forms, both for the application process and for the interview process. This way you can be sure that you ask everything that you want to. This also helps to streamline the process, since you can utilize the same set of questions for each and every interview. This also allows you to compare the candidates to each other much more efficiently.
Create a system for filing the resumes and answers in one place! Until I started using an applicant tracking system, I used Drop Box or a simple file to store the applications and interview questions. As time goes by it’s only natural that our memory tends to fade or change. If you combine that with the fact that you have multiple conversations with multiple candidates, it is not only easy, but also highly likely that you will either forget or confuse your candidates’ answers. Writing down important things that are said during the interview provides you with a reminder of the conversation, and a way to reference what was said.
Important note – for several federal laws, you must keep the applications for one year! This is another good reason to have an effective tracking system. If you’re gathering resumes through Indeed and LinkedIn, maintain your login information for reference.
- Be sure that salary range and benefits are understood and agreed upon either before or by the end of the interview.
An interview can go perfectly well, with wonderful responses from an amazing candidate. But if you and the interviewee are not on the same page regarding salary and benefits, it can prove to be an unfortunate waste of time for you both. Since many of the candidates that you will be interviewing will likely have a current job, it is more than likely that they will not want to go down in salary. One of the easiest things to do to combat this is to ask them directly what salary range they are looking for. This is something that I do either with the online application form or the phone screening call to save time.
Important note – in more and more locations, including Philadelphia, it is becoming illegal to ask what they are currently making. So, you may ask what their salary range is instead. Also, if they are known, become familiar with the industry salary standards for the job.
- Listen. Listen. Listen.
When seated across from a very nervous individual, as is often the case with either a new interviewer or the interviewees, it can be easy to dominate the conversation. However, this is a tendency that needs to be subdued if you truly wish to learn about the candidate. The very best thing that you can do as an interviewer during an interview is to simply listen. Sure, you will want to ask follow-up questions and provide any needed answers to questions asked, but the most imperative thing is to remain focused on what the other person is saying. By jotting down notes and answers, this will help you to pay attention. Remember that this is all about them, not you!
What are the Takeaways?
Effective interviewing is an art form that can be learned. If you are interviewing with someone else, (which I highly recommend) it’s helpful to review the conversation afterwards to see if there is room for improvement.
When interviewing, you want to walk away with as much information as possible By the end of the conversation you should have a much better understanding of the candidate’s work history, career aspirations, expectations, work ethic, and overall personality. Ask yourself if this is someone with whom you’d want to work.
If you can successfully uncover these important pieces of information, you are likely to select the right person for the position. If you are uncertain after the interview, don’t be afraid to schedule additional interviews. I know many of the larger corporations have a multiple step hiring process but the smaller business owner may not have the time or the personnel for that. But remember, it’s better to take a long time to hire than to have to worry about when to fire!
And of course, feel free to reach out to me for help! Schedule a call HERE