13 Tips for Conducting a Strong Job Interview
If you're involved in your company's hiring process, you may know the challenges in finding the best possible candidates. It's important to approach the interview process methodically in order to learn key information that can help you decide which candidate to hire. Luckily, there are some tips you can apply to get the most out of every interview. In this article, we discuss why it's important to conduct an effective interviewer and provide 13 tips you can implement into your interview process.
Why is it important to conduct a strong interview?
Conducting a strong interview helps you find the best candidate to fill a position by making sure you receive informative responses. A well-conducted interview can expound on the details of a candidate's resume and cover letter, show you whether they possess the required skills for the job and reveal how well their personality fits with the organization.
A strong interview is also a well-organized interview, so it can affect subsequent interviews by giving you enough time to prepare and transition. Conducting an effective interview can leave a positive impression on top candidates, too, increasing the chances that they accept an offer.
13 tips for interviewers
Here are some tips for conducting a strong interview:
1. Understand the company's needs
Just like the job candidate, you as the interviewer should be familiar with the job description for the position being filled. If possible, you can ask the relevant manager or supervisor for any other insights they can provide about their preferred candidate. Otherwise, familiarize yourself with the job requirements and candidate's qualifications before the interview begins, and have printouts of both during the interview.
Also, anticipate what questions the candidate might ask you regarding the company and the position, and have answers prepared. Showing that you're organized and knowledgeable also reflects well on the company, which can appeal to your top candidates.
2. Learn about the candidate
Similarly, familiarize yourself with each candidate before you interview them. Read and note key points on their cover letter and resume. You may notice a unique achievement or experience mentioned only briefly. These are qualities you can ask about during the interview, and they can reveal qualities that would make a candidate an excellent fit at the company.
If possible, you can also perform research about the candidate by searching for them online. Their social media presence can show you aspects of their personality, such as how friendly or outgoing they are, as well as of their skills, such as how effectively they communicate in writing.
3. Settle logistics
Arranging interviews can involve coordinating multiple schedules, reserving rooms or setting up equipment. To avoid any obstacles during the interview, try to settle all the logistical matters well in advance. Decide with the candidate whether the interview is in person or remote. If the latter, test your audio-visual equipment and video software beforehand and ensure that they work. In either case, secure a comfortable, quiet room in the office for every interview slot.
4. Prepare the candidate
Before the date of the interview, notify the candidate about important details that can help them prepare and feel at ease. Inform them if they need to bring any documents or other items to the interview, and let them know what to expect in terms of interview length, location and participants.
5. Follow a structure
Following a structure can help you manage interview length while ensuring you address key points about the candidate. A common structure might start with personal introductions and an overview of the position being filled. Next might be basic questions about the candidate, followed by questions of increasing complexity. The interview can then conclude with questions from the candidate. It may also be a good idea to allocate an approximate length of time for each part of your structure, with allowance for more time for top candidates.
6. Choose a variety of questions and question types
It's a good idea to compile various questions that address a range of qualities in the candidate. Consider having three lists or categories of questions. One set of questions could address technical skills, the second set could address work experience and the third set could address behaviors or situations.
Try to vary your question types, too, so you can extract a wider range of information from the candidate. Closed-ended questions can give you data about simple key points, such as how many years of experience one has. Open-ended questions can encourage candidates to express themselves more uniquely, giving you a clearer idea of their personality. Hypothetical questions can reveal a candidate's values and how they might handle common challenges on the job.
7. Have a base set of questions
It's good to ask questions that are specific to certain candidates, but also strive to include the same base set of questions in every interview. This can help establish fairness and also create a more consistent rubric with which to measure and compare candidates. It can also lead to revelations about a candidate's character. For example, seeing how two candidates respond to the same tough question can reveal how they handle stressful situations. A candidate who responds calmly and thoughtfully is likely to be someone who can manage challenging tasks with less difficulty.
8. Create a comfortable atmosphere
Try to make the candidate feel at ease before the interview begins. Offering a refreshment, such as a cup of water, coffee or tea, can establish a sense of welcome and encourage them to relax. This is important because a relaxed candidate is more likely to provide succinct responses that accurately reveal their qualifications.
Also, try to begin the interview with questions about the candidate's life, such as "Where are you from?" or "What are your interests or hobbies?" Simple questions such as these can help the candidate feel more confident about their ability to answer questions and even reveal useful information about their values relative to the company's.
9. Maintain a conversational tone and flow
Being conversational with the candidate can preserve the feeling of comfort you've created and also help you appear more approachable. If you're noticeably at ease and pleasant, the interview is more likely to flow smoothly and produce responses you can use to evaluate the candidate accurately.
10. Ask follow-up questions
Some candidate responses might be unclear, or the response might have inspired a related question that you feel could reveal more about the candidate. Ask these questions as needed throughout the interview. When doing so, clarify that the question relates to something you or the candidate previously said. For example, if the candidate mentions that they taught themselves how to code but doesn't go into more detail, wait until they complete their response before saying, "You mentioned you taught yourself coding. Can you tell me more about that?"
11. Strike a balance
In a strong interview, both the interviewer and the candidate have significant representation, each providing information that the other wants. Though you're asking most of the questions, your participation in the interview should also include comments that invite more in-depth responses and drive the conversation forward. You can do this naturally by providing answers to potential questions throughout the interview. For instance, if the candidate mentions they want a healthy work-life balance, you can mention aspects of the company's values that align with this goal. This can generate interest as the interview progresses and encourage further input.
However, make sure that the candidate feels they've represented themselves as thoroughly as they could. Avoid speaking more than the candidate. Aim for an approximately 80/20 split in the conversation, where the candidate's input accounts for 80% of the interview.
12. Watch for body language
Verbal replies aren't the only responses that can provide valuable insight into a candidate. Watch for facial expressions, changes in posture, gestures and eye movement, as these can reveal important characteristics. For example, if a candidate consistently maintains eye contact when they speak, nods and take notes when you speak and leans forward in conversation, these might suggest they are skilled listeners and effective communicators, both of which are useful skills in the workplace.
13. Take notes during the interview
Taking notes during the interview can help you recall qualities about the candidate well after the interview's over. This is necessary not only for evaluating their merits but also for comparing them with others. It may be a good idea to develop a personal shorthand so that you can quickly record notes while maintaining a conversational flow and comfortable atmosphere.
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