As a business owner or manager interviews are either something you love to do or dread. The interview process is undoubtedly complex, and it can take a while for you to become completely comfortable with it.
The key to nailing an interview is to keep your eye on the prize – which in this case is the perfect employee for the job role you’ve advertised. Providing a relaxed but professional environment will ensure your interviewee has the best fighting chance at showing off their skills.
Do you want to improve your interview techniques and cut down the time and energy needed to find the best candidate? Follow our steps for conducting a successful job interview.
How to interview someone
- Make time for each interview
- Know what you are looking for
- Learn about your candidate
- Maintain a structure
- Create a solid scoring system
- Have a conversation
- Avoid these questions
- Evaluate the basics
Scroll down for more details and advice.
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1) Make time for each interview
A rushed interview doesn’t benefit anyone. Set aside a minimum of 30 minutes per interview and keep half an hour clear on either side of each interview to allow you to refresh, review your notes, and focus on the next candidate. As well as being great for the interviewer, being generous with your time will stop the interviewee from feeling rushed, which may cause them to crumble under pressure.
Keeping extra time available is also essential because you don’t know how many additional questions might come up during the interview or what the candidate might want to ask you about the job role and business in general. When scheduling the interview into your calendar, try to be flexible – your candidate may have to take time away from their current job to attend.
2) Know what you are looking for
Contrary to what many believe, you won’t just know who the right candidate is when you see them. You should have a solid idea of the kind of person you want to hire. Get together with your team and decide which of the following qualities your candidate should have and what you are willing to let slip:
- Previous experience (job roles, in years, experience outside of work)
- Qualifications / education
- Personality – are you looking for a serious type or someone who can join in with the office banter? Maintaining company culture should be top of the list
- Additional skills
- General knowledge
If your candidate doesn’t tick all the boxes, but their initial CV stands out, make a point to ask questions to fill in these gaps during the interview.
When hiring for a new role, reach out to people within your network who have the same job role. Ask them what kind of skills they would expect to see from a candidate applying for their job; this may help you narrow down your criteria and stay focused.
3) Learn about your candidate
Many hiring managers make the mistake of not taking time to do their homework about their candidates. It is easier than ever before to get to know someone before you meet them and doing your research about the person you are going to interview will cut down on time during your first meeting.
- Social media – look at any professional social channels they have, such as Twitter and LinkedIn.
- CV – study their CV thoroughly, are there any follow-up questions you want to ask?
- Portfolios – some roles require a portfolio. If you have received one, make sure you take time to look over it in depth.
- References – if your candidate has provided references, get in touch with them to see what they have to say about them.
Taking this extra step will help you to form a better idea of who your candidate is before they step through the door and will make them feel that you are eager to learn more about them.
4) Maintain a structure
If you are not good at interviewing intuitively or on the fly, nailing a consistent interview structure to follow will be a complete lifesaver. It will help push a professional image and keep a relaxed, paced flow during the interview process. We find that this structure works:
- Introduction – offer the interviewee a hot or cold drink and take time to have some small talk. Introduce yourself and whoever else is interviewing with you and talk them through how your interview process works. Pay close attention to how they interact with you during this phase. Do they conduct themselves appropriately?
- Questions about the role – move onto questions that are specific to the job role. Be prepared to ask follow-up questions and ask for more clarity.
- Behavioural questions – after questions about experience and skills, speak with the candidate about how they react or have reacted in different situations. Ask what they are proud of, their most rewarding experiences and how they have handled stress in the past.
- Situational questions – some employers might ask situational questions about how they would handle different scenarios. You might be familiar with the “sell me this pen” strategy in an interview – this counts as a situational question.
- Close off – once you are happy that all your questions have been answered, give your candidate a chance to ask their own questions about the job. Let them know when they can expect to hear from you and make sure they have your contact details should they have any further questions.
5) Create a solid scoring system
If you are interviewing many people, it would be wise to develop a grading system for candidates. Score each answer to your questions from 1-5 during the interview and total the scores afterward. Give a 1 for a low-quality response and a 5 for a high-quality answer; this may be easier than jotting down notes on what they said.
You should never hire solely based on the final scores, but it will help you to narrow down your choices and will help you to justify your choice to other senior staff members. Make sure you have solid guidelines for your scoring system, e.g. 5 = answered confidently, apparent technical knowledge shown, explained thoroughly. Keep these with you during the interview.
6) Have a conversation
Your interview should be like a conversation rather than following a repetitive Question and Answer structure. You and your candidate are not robots, so let your interview have some breathing space and don’t get thrown if the interview goes off track or you segue into a conversation you weren’t expecting.
Having an unexpected conversation isn’t necessarily bad, but you should know how to get the interview back on track.
7) Avoid these questions
There are several subjects people may be uncomfortable discussing, and that are irrelevant to how well someone will perform in a job role 99% of the time. When conducting your interviews, you should avoid asking about:
- Someone’s gender identity
- Their salary history
- Any disabilities (unless the work is physical)
- Whether someone is pregnant, planning on having children, or any other question regarding this
- Their age, race, religion or relationship status
In most circumstances, none of the above will impact someone’s ability to work so there’s no need to bring these points up.
8) Evaluate the basics
It can be all too easy to get lost in a competition between potential candidates over who is the most qualified, who would fit into the company culture, and who showed the best willingness to learn. Sometimes, you need to review the basics and look out for red flags. While interviewing, keep an eye out for:
1) Attitude – how are they answering your questions? Do they seem ‘cocky’ or out of line when they respond, even if they get the correct answer?
2) Avoidance – do you notice them avoiding questions; this could be a red flag.
3) Consistency – are your candidate’s answers consistent with their CV or any other documentation?
4) Uniqueness – do their answers sound a bit too “one size fits all”? Look out for interviewees who give you unique answers.
5) Body language – if they won’t give you eye contact or shake your hand, and they slouch down in their chair and fidget, they might not be the best candidate for you.
Don’t leave them hanging
Finally, you should always keep your candidates up to date and make sure you give closure to those who were unsuccessful. You don’t have to give feedback but provide it if they ask for it (check with your HR department before doing this).
Are you an interviewee? Take a look at our Ultimate Job Interview Guide