You've attended plenty of job interviews as a candidate, so you've seen plenty of interviewers in action — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
But regardless of the competency of the interviewer, it's obvious that it's much easier to conduct an interview than be interviewed, right?
Conducting a job interview might seem easy, but conducting a successful job interview is anything but.
Novice interviewers may fail to gain the information they really need from candidates, or might accidentally discriminate against certain candidates by asking the wrong questions, or they might just interview candidates inconsistently.
Perhaps most importantly, many interviewers forget that a job interview is a chance to impress candidates, not just the other way around!
So if you're new to interviewing, or simply want to improve your interviewing technique, read on!
What do you want from the interview process?
As with any business process, setting a goal when interviewing applicants helps maintain your focus throughout the process.
When conducting interviews, your aims might include:
- Finding out all the information you can to determine whether a candidate is fit for the job
- Documenting this information in a way that ensures it's easy to make a hiring decision
- Impressing the most promising candidates
- Maximising fairness and avoiding discrimination during the hiring process
Your interview technique should be formulated based on these goals - you can't afford to wing it if you're new to interviewing.
Now that you know what a successful interview stage looks like, you can start working towards it.
It's all in the prep
Putting more time and effort into interview preparation is the easiest way to improve your interview success rate.
First of all, there are the practicalities. Book rooms, form your panel of interviewers, and add the interviews to your panel's calendars.
Next, you need to determine the structure of the interview and the questions you're going to ask. An unstructured approach might appeal to you (and is often more effective), but if you're interviewing a large number of candidates and you're new to interviewing, it's best to keep it structured.
List the key requirements of the role and draft 1-3 questions for each criterion. You should also draft questions that relate to the company as a whole and cultural fit.
Keep questions simple, open-ended, and make sure there's no overlap between them.
Plan for each question to take 2-5 minutes to answer, depending on the number of follow-up questions you might ask.
Once you've assembled your final list of questions, decide which panel members will ask which questions, and who will lead the interview.
You should also create an interview record sheet with your chosen criteria (and/or questions) so that you can easily keep track of applicant responses and make sure you don't miss any questions. See this example below (click the image for a full-size PDF version):
You can grab an interview record template right here.
Your next task is to sort through the applications you've received. Narrow down the candidate pool (if a recruiter hasn't already done this for you), and look through CVs. Make a note of anything you'd like to ask each candidate to clarify.
Finally, prepare answers for the questions that interviewees are likely to ask you, covering subjects including:
- Salary range
- Progression opportunities
- Team composition
- Working hours (including flexible working options)
- A typical day in the role
- Company culture
On the day
When the interview day rolls around, you need to be a spokesperson for your company. In fact, the whole interview experience, from when the candidate arrives at your office doors to the moment they leave through them again, should be treated as an opportunity to 'sell' your company and the job vacancy.
To secure the very best candidates, you can't afford to leave a bad first impression.
Starting the interview
Greet the candidate enthusiastically, ask them to take their seat, and offer them a refreshment. Then, introduce yourself and the panel, being sure to mention your roles at the company.
Next, explain the structure of the interview and let the candidate know you'll take notes and leave time for questions at the end of the interview.
Candidates will appreciate the clarity and also take note of how organised you are.
During the interview
Kick off the interview with a couple of straightforward questions that should ease any nerves, before progressing to more difficult questions. Try to order questions so that they follow on logically from each other - jumping around between subjects may mean you miss out on details or end up repeating the same topics later. If you're new to interviewing, ask the questions in the same order for every candidate to stay on track.
Try not to interrupt candidates, but do repeat and rephrase questions if the applicant misunderstands or seems confused. Never interfere when other members of the panel are asking their questions - focus on taking notes.
At the end of the interview
Answer the candidate's questions as honestly and fully as you can. Don't show signs of impatience even if the interview's running over.
Next, clearly explain the next steps and the timeline. This is extremely helpful for candidates, particularly if they've applied for multiple jobs.
Thank the candidate and walk them to the door.
Now that the interviews are over, it's time to make a decision. Even if you're only narrowing the field at this stage, it's critical that you have confidence in your decision. That's why it's so important to document interview answers thoroughly, and consistently.
For more HR and recruitment tips, head to our HR blog archives.