Seven Steps to Successful Interviewing
You have whittled down the mountain of CVs sent to you for consideration and identified the people who, on paper, you feel may fit the role. Or, you are the interviewer of those candidates who have successfully made it through the first round.
So what now?
How can you ensure that at the end of the interview you can make a confident and assured decision on who you would and would not like to hire?
1. Preparation, preparation, preparation
Read the CV! No, really. Then read it again. Make relevant notes on it, identifying any queries you may wish to raise at the interview. Block out time in your diary, well in advance of the interview with no interruptions to make sure that you are familiar with the CV of each candidate before they arrive. When reading the CVs of candidates supplied by an agency bear in mind that the agency has probably ‘modified’ the CV and that unfortunately this does not always mean that they have improved it from the candidate’s original version. The CV they hold on file for the candidate is not necessarily the most up-to-date version. Make notes to clarify any anomalies such as dates being out of sync with the candidate at the interview
Decide on the structure you would like the interview to take and assign a rough time frame to each section allowing for flexibility. A suggested structure for a one hour interview could be.
- Introduction to the company
- Discussion of the candidate’s CV
- Questions relating to candidate’s previous experience
- Questions relating to candidate’s future goals and aspirations
- Invite questions from the candidate
- Outline the next stage of the process and the timeframe in which the candidate can expect feedback
- Thank the candidate for their time
- Close the interview
Set up the room you will be meeting the candidate in so that it is comfortable (e.g. air-conditioning at the right temperature, sufficient seats for everyone.) It is always a good idea to offer water to the candidate even if you are not planning to offer tea or coffee.
2. Starting off well with the ‘meet & greet’
Decide in advance whether you or another member of staff will meet the interviewee and bring them to the interview room. When the candidate is collected make sure that you (or whoever is collecting them) chats to them on the way to the interview room. This will put the candidate at ease and gives a positive first impression of the company.
Invite the candidate to make themselves comfortable and offer them something to drink. It is rarely conducive to good interviewing to conduct the meeting straight on, face-to-face with a desk between you and the candidate. Move your chair slightly side on to the candidate to create a more relaxed approach. The more relaxed you are the more relaxed the candidate will be and the better the interview will go.
3. All these questions
Don’t feel you have to have a set list or even a specific number of questions. The notes you have made on the candidate’s CV prior to the interview are a good reference point to begin with. Let the conversation flow naturally.
Make sure that you ask open-ended questions e.g. questions which cannot just be answered with a yes or no.
Ask the candidate to give examples of situations to illustrate their responses. For example, instead of asking “How do you manage a team?” try saying “Can you give me an example of an effective management technique you have used with your team?”
Try to steer clear of classic interview questions such as “What are your weaknesses?”. Candidates are very prepared with stock answers for these types of questions from books, the internet or their recruitment consultant. The answer they give you may not be their own.
Don’t feel you have to ask each candidate the same questions but do ensure that you cover all areas with them.
4. Stop talking!
Try not to prompt or guide the candidate through their answers to your questions. If they appear stuck for a response – wait. Give them time to think and respond. If you feel that their response was too short, ask them to expand on a particular aspect of it. The candidate should do the majority of the talking during the interview so that you can get the maximum information possible from them in order to make your decision. Take notes throughout to ensure that you can refer back to them after the interview.
5. So, who are you really?
It is easy to focus on work history, education and experience but this does not give a full impression of who the candidate is as a person. Do not overlook their hobbies and interests. Ask them about any time they spent travelling. Often this can produce some very interesting responses and demonstrate valuable transferable skills. It will also help you to establish whether they would be a good fit with the existing members of your team.
6. Drawing to a close
Keep a close eye on the time, especially if you are interviewing candidates one after another. Close the meeting by asking the candidate if they have any further questions. Answer any queries succinctly and offer them the option of coming back to you with questions if they think of them once they have left the interview. Explain the next stage of the process to the candidate. Give them a time frame in which they can expect to hear feedback and also the timescales for any subsequent interviews (if applicable). Show the candidate out and thank them for their time.
7. The aftermath
It is always beneficial to gather your notes into a coherent document as soon after the interview as you can. Even if you can only grab five minutes to write up a brief summary between interviews it will help enormously when you come to review all the candidates you have seen. It also makes providing feedback much easier as you are able to use specific examples rather than the catch all statement ‘they just weren’t quite right for the role’. Ensure you provide feedback to the candidate or their agency within the stated timeframe. It leaves a good impression of you and the company.
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