Hiring is an important aspect of any successful business. Though job applicants spend countless hours preparing for interviews, it’s important to remember that interviews should be viewed as a two-way discussion. This means that interviewers should also spend time preparing for each interview, to ensure that they gather the data points needed to make a hiring decision, and to ensure that the candidate has a positive interview experience.
In this article, we’ll discuss 5 tips to conducting a successful job interview.
Go in with a plan
A common mistake that interviewers make is not being prepared for the interview, and trying to play it by ear. Though this can work, it can also appear unprofessional, and can lead to awkwardness during the interview.
When you walk into each interview, you’ll want to have a good idea of how the interview will proceed. This means having a set of topics and questions that you want to ask the candidate, as well as a rough time estimate of how long you’ll spend on each question. In addition, you’ll want to spend some time reading the candidate’s resume, and thinking of specific questions to ask them, based on their skills and previous jobs or projects. You can also prepare generic questions that you’ll ask most applicants, regardless of their experience (i.e., case studies, ‘What is your biggest weakness?’, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’)
It’s helpful to start the interview by letting the interviewee know the overall flow of the interview to put them at ease, and so that they’ll know what to expect. In addition, it lets the candidate know that you are taking this seriously by preparing for the interview, and that you value their time.
An example of a good interview template is the following:
- Introduce yourself, your role, and the company. (10 minutes)
- Ask the candidate to discuss their background, and dive into relevant projects. (20 minutes)
- Any other prepared questions that you typically ask all applicants. (20 minutes)
- Answer any questions the candidate may have about the role or your company. (10 minutes)
Lead the discussion
Many candidates like to spend the interview talking about topics that they’re comfortable with (even if they may not be relevant to the conversation or the question that you’ve asked). These topics can take up a significant portion of the interview, which will prevent you from discussing the topics that you actually want to discuss. For this reason, it’s important that you lead the discussion, and make sure that it stays on track. If you find that the conversation is going astray, don't be afraid to stop the candidate, and bring the conversation back to the topic.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to conducting a successful interview. Through experience, you’ll develop a good sense of what to look for in candidates, and be able to identify possible red flags. To make the process more organized, it’s important to create a set of standard questions that you’ll ask all applicants -- if you are frequently asking new questions, you won’t have a good idea of what a good response is compared to a bad response. You’ll also develop a clearer sense of how well the candidate is responding to your questions relative to other candidates.
If you’re new to interviewing, one of the best ways to gain experience is to shadow more experienced interviewers. When you’re shadowing, you’ll primarily listen to the interview and take notes. After the interview, you and the experienced interviewer can debrief. During the debrief, the experienced interviewer can explain why they decided to probe on certain topics, and what they were looking for in responses, as well as any potential red flags that they noticed. After shadowing a few times where you primarily listen to the interview, you’ll have a good sense of what to look for. You can also gradually ramp up your involvement in the interview until you reach the point where you’re able to lead the interview on your own.
Sell the candidate
In each interview, it’s important to sell the candidate on the job and your company.
If the candidate seems promising, it’s likely that they’ll have multiple job offers, in which case it’s important that they have a positive impression of you and your company -- and their impression will largely be dictated by the interview experience. By having friendly interviewers who are passionate about their job and their company and who do a good job of explaining the role and the opportunities for growth, you’ll have a leg up on other companies.
Even if the interview isn’t going well, it’s still important to remember to sell the candidate on your company. The candidate may not be suitable for your company right now, but roles could open up later on which may be a good fit for the candidate. In order for this to become a possibility down the line, the interview process must leave a positive impression on the candidate. If the candidate has a negative impression of your company, they’re also likely to tell their friends about your company or leave a negative review on Glassdoor, which may deter other qualified applicants from applying.
Write detailed feedback to share with other interviewers and hiring managers.
After completing the interview, you’ll want write notes about the interview while the information is fresh in your mind. These notes should list all of the questions you’ve asked, as well as anything that’s noteworthy about the candidates responses to these questions. In addition, if there are areas where you would like future interviewers to probe on, but you didn’t get a chance to during your interview, you can include this information in your notes. This can help future interviewers know what kinds of questions they should ask on subsequent rounds.
Once you’re done writing these notes, you’ll want to upload them into your recruiting software and applicant tracking system, so that hiring managers and other interviewers can access your notes. By taking detailed notes, you can help make sure that future interviewers don’t repeat the same questions that you did, or spend a lot of time discussing the same topics as you did with the candidate. It’s important that each interview tries to learn something new about the candidate, and having detailed notes is an important way to help accomplish this.