This is the third and final part of a series of blog posts. To read Part 1 and learn how to write better job descriptions click here. To read Part 2 and learn how to send personalized emails click here.

Interviews often serve as one of the final steps in the recruiting process. After screening CVs, comparing profiles, checking skills, etc. the interview is used to assess a limited number of candidates and determine which of them will be hired.
During this final phase of the hiring process it is important that not only the candidate get things right, but that the interviewer does as well. The costs of making a bad hire are incredibly high, and the interview is one of the final opportunities to make sure you make a good hire rather than a bad one.

Interviewing is a largely social experience, which makes it prone to biases and challenges that come with trying to use a conversation as a way to assess someone’s abilities. To make interviews work well it is essential that smart questions be used. Doing so enables you to not only assess each candidate well, but can also help them to view the experience as a constructive one. Good, effective interviews ensure that the candidates you hire will feel more prepared for the job and will help those you turn away to still feel good about your company, thereby helping your employer branding and setting you up to make more great hires over time.

So how can you ensure you’re asking smart interview questions, creating a positive interview experience, and truly understanding your candidates?

Here are ten tips:

Before the interview

  • Only invite qualified candidates to the interview phase

It’s a fairly normal mistake for new or amateur recruiters to invite people to interview who are completely unqualified for the job. However, to improve your interviews and save time, screen candidates by reviewing their CVs, checking their internet presence (while still respecting privacy laws), and conducting phone screenings, then invite only those you feel could be a good match. Doing this will help you ensure you’re only spending time with eligible candidates. It will also give you greater insight into each candidate you invite and help you to ask them deeper, better questions as a result.

  • Review and understand the nature of the job (including needed social skills)

One of the risks associated with interviews is that they can devolve into charm contests. Candidates that look right and sound right can get jobs that should have gone to more skilled, less socially gifted candidates. For some jobs, people skills are essential, but for other jobs such skills are simply less important. For instance, individuals on the autism spectrum have a great deal to offer employers, and they shouldn’t be turned away from a lot of jobs just because they may struggle in some social situations. If you as an interviewer can determine how important social skills are for the job it can help you to be prepared to ask your questions differently and pay more attention to the content of the response rather than just the style in which it is given.

  • Review each candidate’s profile thoroughly prior to your interview with them

Take an extra fifteen minutes before the interview to make sure you already know the basics about the candidate. This, like understanding the nature of the job, will help to shape the questions you ask. Also, candidates can tell when the interviewer isn’t prepared, which can turn them off to the idea of accepting a job offer. A little bit of effort to review a candidate’s info will go a long way.

  • Prepare the hiring manager for the interview

Hiring managers often have very limited experience when it comes to interviewing, which is why it is so important to help them prepare. The odds are good that they won’t have a lot of time, so sending them summaries of each candidate and a list of key talking points is a good way to ensure the hiring manager is focused on the right things.

During the interview

  • Start by breaking the ice

It’s important to help the candidate relax, which will help them to give their most honest answers. Taking a few minutes to simply chat can help ease everyone into the interview as well as provide some insight into how the candidate functions socially.

  • Tell the candidate how the interview will be structured

This helps to set the tone for the interview and establish expectations. It also serves as a roadmap for you to ensure you’re using your time most effectively.

  • Focus on asking behavioral questions

A classic bad interview question is, “So how would you describe yourself?” This question isn’t likely to elicit useful responses unless you’re hiring someone to work in a job where unsubstantiated self-hyping is needed. A better way to learn about what someone is like is to ask them behavioral questions – questions that either tell about actions they’ve taken in the past or require them to describe how they would handle a hypothetical situation in the future. Such questions usually start with “tell me about a time when…” or “what would you do if…” Answers to these questions are much more likely to reflect how a candidate will actually function in the workplace. For instance, in some interviews at Hello Talent we’ve asked candidates what they would do if, after completing their first onboarding session, they have extra time to work on their first day. The answers we get help us to see if people have a good enough understanding of the job to manage themselves and are comfortable taking initiative in creating their own work projects without direction.

  • Push for concrete answers

Sometimes candidates will provide vague, abstract answers to your questions. When this happens don’t be afraid to push back and ask them to explain further. If a candidate tells you: “I’d solve that by working hard” you are free to ask what that means and tell them to give you examples. This may make candidates uncomfortable, but vague answers in an interview are the equivalent of non-answers and your job is to try to find out how the candidate will actually work within your organization. If you are worried about scaring candidates away by pushing back on their questions you can prepare them at the beginning of the interview by letting them know that you’re looking for concrete examples and that you’ll be pushing them to tell you more if you feel you need additional details.

  • Give an honest description of the company culture

During the interview you’ll want to describe to the candidate what it’s like to work for the company. Feel free to describe not only the positive aspects of the company, but also some of the challenges employees can face. By being transparent and candid you’ll be able to ask the candidate how they feel about being in that type of environment and ask them to share how they would approach things. For instance, you might tell a candidate that in her role she would sometimes have to collaborate with some individuals that are known for being talented, but difficult. This would then be a great opportunity to see how she would handle that situation. It would also set realistic expectations for her about some of the things she’ll encounter while working for your company.

  • Take notes during the interview

By taking notes during the interview you’ll be better able to follow up on topics with the current candidate as well as compare responses with those of other candidates. Furthermore, you can use these notes to shape and improve the questions you ask in future interviews.

Interviews are incredibly important. They provide both candidates and employers with the opportunity to learn about each other and determine if a good professional match exists. When done well – by asking smart questions – interviews can provide valuable insights and ensure that candidates who are hired will not only succeed in their roles, but thrive as well.

Next time you have the opportunity to recruit, interview, and hire someone try the tips we’ve shared here as well as in Part 1 and Part 2 and let us know at how it went. We’d love to share some of your success stories!