Conducting an Effective Interview
There are several key elements in the recruitment and hiring process, including aptitude tests and reference checks, but the most crucial and valuable step is the properly conducted interview.
My view is that the interview is the most important part of the process. As the employer, you have ability to interact with candidates, put them into scenarios and ask them for examples of how they have responded in the past whilst evaluating their industry knowledge and skills.
You can have those complete aptitude tests and even collect references from previous employer’s letters but they are only secondary. Someone might do well on a test but be a complete nightmare to work with and manage.
Before selecting the right candidate, you need to decide the format of your interview that will suit your working environment. Thanks to modern technology, there are several ways to conduct an interview, and there are also various formats of interview, each with its own strengths and limitations.
- Face to face: Ideally, interviewing your candidates in person is always best. A face-to-face interview also allows you to make a well-rounded assessment of a candidate’s social skills, which may be important should they work in a team or need to speak with clients, customers or colleagues from different departments.
- Telephone: Interviewing over the phone doesn’t require the applicant to be in front of a computer; not everyone has a laptop at home. Phone interviews are easily scheduled, but make sure you round out the process with reference checks and case-study responses, because you can’t see how the applicant in behaving during the interview. “On the phone, you can’t check out the body language, and body language is a big piece of the picture, because it helps point to how applicants deal with people.”
- Skype and video-conferencing: These new technologies are particularly useful with many jobs now requiring specialist skills, where there are not many professionals located in the same county. A good example is an application specialist where it may be a new system introduced to a company and you are the only company that uses this systems in the country, therefore you may need to look internationally.
Interviewers should bear in mind that some job-seekers may be willing to do a video interview but might be somewhat uncomfortable with the technology, so don’t be too judgmental in the area of speaking style or body language. Also, people tend to come across differently on-screen than in person even at the best of times.
Whether conducted in person, on the phone or online, there are various interview formats that serve specific purposes. Picking the most suitable format will help you make your interviews as effective as possible.
- Screening and preliminary interviews (carried out by line manager or HR): Usually conducted on the phone and only planned for 15 minutes, within this short time you should be able to ask key questions to quickly know if they have the right skills and attributes required and verify the basic facts in a candidate’s resume. It also helps you whittle down the candidates to only bring in a maximum of 5 candidates for a full interview
- Interviews involving line managers- This is essential as they will be the ones managing this person and needs a say on the suitability of skill and team fit
- Panel interviews: This is perfect if they have already been interviewed and has been recommended for further interviews. With panel interviews you have many people away from their daily tasks, so if they are not suitable, it is many man hours wasted. However, having several of your key people interview an applicant together can provide a depth of information that might elude a single interviewer and if you are keen to hire quickly this can save time by meeting all decision makers in one go.
Preparing & Conducting Interviews
Preparing for the interview
- Set aside enough time. Dedicate specific time, conducting the interview in an appropriate location, uninterrupted by email, telephones or other employees. This will allow you to concentrate, while also giving a good first impression of your company to the applicant.
- Read the resume first. Make sure you have carefully studied each resume ahead of time. Of course, when meeting with a candidate, you should have a copy of the resume on hand for reference, but this is not the time to ask, “What have you done?” Know the resume so you can use the time to dig deeper.
- Have a detailed job description. Having a specific and thorough outline of what a candidate would do on the job makes it easier to assess applicants
- Know the competencies. A resume can’t indicate some of the competencies that an employee can bring to the job. –Do they require certain communication skills, being confident delivering speeches?
- Write some specific questions. Having a set of 10 questions that you will consistently ask each candidate, this will help you see how each candidate compares. Start with some generic about their background and then move on to more specifics about the skills required and dig deeper into their knowledge. Yes there will be times when you may ask an extended question and go of script but having your questions set out will give you a path to follow through the interview. (use open ended questions if possible as it gets the candidate to elaborate in more detail, rather that simple answers)
Conducting the interview
- If the interview is in person, it should be help in a tidy meeting room. Upon you greeting the candidate with a hand shake you should start with a short introduction, telling them something about yourself and the company. It is not only the candidate that needs to make a first impression as they will also take a first impression of the company.
- Set the stage. Set the tone by telling the applicant what to expect for the duration of interview. Remember, you too are being observed. Your behaviour will set the tone for the interview. If you come across as being too casual, an applicant may take the interview less seriously. But being too serious will likely make the candidate more nervous. In either case, you’re unlikely to bring out the best in the individual. How you conduct yourself during the interview must also reflect the image and values of your business.
- Go over the job with the candidate and how it fits into the organisation. What the goals and responsibilities are and the aim on how to achieve these.
- Start with your general questions about a candidate’s background and interest in the position. You want to build a picture on why they want this job.
- With the CV in front of you, ask the candidates about specific positions and duties that relate to the position you are hiring for. You want to try and find out the responsibilities, what they accomplished, how they dealt with any issues they encountered. If there is no explanation, ask if they have any inconsistencies or gaps in employment / education, there may be a simple explanation.
- It is always interesting to know why a candidate is leaving the current employment. Is it career progression, seeking more money, not getting on with manager?
- At the end, make sure you have enough time for the candidate a chance to ask questions. Confidently answering any question thrown at you means knowing all aspects of the position and being able to clarify your expectations, in addition to listing the benefits of working for your business. Remember a good candidate is likely to have a couple interviews on going, so they will be looking to ask their own questions to determine if the job and the company are right for them.
- Lastly let the candidate know a time frame on when you expect feedback to be given on any next steps or a decision to be made by. Again this works both ways, as you do not want to miss out on a good candidate should they have other opportunities / offers