How to conduct an effective interview

20 June 2023 Sharyn Waterworth

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Candidate interviews are a crucial step in any business’s recruitment process. It’s an opportunity to really get to know a potential employee - to get a more detailed understanding of their skills and experience, as well as their attitude, goals, cultural fit, and communication skills.

If you’re responsible for conducting interviews within your business, it’s important to equip yourself with interviewing skills that help you to gather the information you need in order to make a fair and educated assessment of a candidate’s suitability for the role on offer.

In my experience, interviewing skills are too often overlooked and underappreciated, and this can have lasting consequences when it comes to putting the right talent in place in your business.

That’s why, today, I want to share some of my top interviewer tips, learnt over 13+ years in the recruitment industry, to help you to conduct more effective interviews moving forward.​

  1. Get off to a good start

Greet the candidate warmly. Smile, shake their hand, and make conversation as you walk to the interview room. Make sure you are in a private area, and if there is no space in your office, meet at a quiet café near your work.

It’s worth establishing rapport by finding a shared topic to talk about before you get down to the hard questions. Review their resumé beforehand so you have some personal info to draw on.

Before you dive into the Q&A, provide a brief introduction to yourself, the business, and the role you’re hiring for. This may sound straightforward, but it is surprisingly easy to slip up here.

Avoid simply rattling off information from the job description and company website. Instead, bring the opportunity to life for the candidate, and give them insight that they wouldn’t have been able to find during their preparation.

Explain how the role has come to be, why it is important to the business, and what a typical working day might look like. Ultimately, you want to make the candidate feel excited about the opportunity and able to picture themselves in the role.​

  1. Steering the conversation

Remember, the interview is primarily about the candidate, so listen closely. Pay attention to non-verbal cues such as posture, alertness, dress, and personal grooming.

Note if they have done their homework about your business and ensure you leave time for the candidate to ask you questions, too. Too many people forget that an interview is a two-way process and that you too are being assessed by the candidate.

Allowing your candidate to ask questions provides you with the opportunity to share more detailed information about the business, the team, and the management style they could expect, which can help you to “sell” the position when done well.

The candidate should be doing most of the talking during the question and answer session of the interview, so avoid asking closed questions which only produce a simple yes or no answer. For instance, ask the candidate “Why do you want this job?” as opposed to “Do you want this job?” as this should prompt a more detailed and relevant response.

Once the candidate has finished answering, don’t jump straight to the next question. Instead, engage with their answer and if necessary, ask them to elaborate. It’s not unusual for candidates to be shy and need some further prompting to provide more detailed responses.

It helps to prepare questions in advance and ask some of the same questions of all interviewees so you can compare answers later.

Most importantly, ensure you know what NOT to ask. Keep your questions focused on the job and work environment. Steer clear of questions centred on age, race, gender, nationality, religion, disability, and marital or family status.

Confirm the next steps

It might surprise you to hear that the final 10% of the interview is the most important so don’t brush over this opportunity in your haste to get to your next interview.

At the conclusion of the interview, make sure you’re clear with the candidate on what the next steps of the hiring process are and when they will take place. For example, if it’s possible that you’ll want to meet with the candidate for a second interview, you can inform them about potential dates and times.

At the very least, be sure to inform the candidate when they can expect to hear from you with more information.

Also always ensure you thank them for their time, and provide feedback to your recruiter as soon as you have had the chance to reflect on this candidate’s suitability.

Interested in learning more about HR and recruitment best practices? Click here to keep reading.