What is a job interview?
Knowing how to interview someone the right way is an important part of the hiring process. When you ask the right questions, you can better understand the contents of a candidate’s resume and/or cover letter.
The questions you ask when conducting an interview also allow you to measure the candidate’s ability to think quickly, describe how they overcame challenges or contributed to the success of projects, and if they’re able to perform expected work tasks. Additionally, a job interview can help you compare potential candidates with others to choose the one that best fits the needs of the role.
There are various types of interviews, including one-on-one interviews (the most common type), group interviews, virtual interviews, panel interviews and more. Check out this article for tips on deciding which type of interview is right for the role you’re hiring for.
How to conduct a job interview
Because each question asked in a job interview should be intentional, it’s important to prepare ahead of time, carefully assess the role you’re hiring for and ask a wide variety of interview questions. You can conduct a job interview using the following steps:
- Prepare for the interview
- Understand the STAR interview process
- Describe the company and the position to the interviewee
- Explain the interview process to your interviewee
- Learn about the interviewee’s career goals
- Ask interview questions related to the position
- Gather more information with follow up questions
- Take notes to help you remember important information
- Give candidates the chance to ask questions
- Describe the next steps
1. Prepare for the interview
Prepare for the upcoming interview by evaluating the position you’re hiring for and going over the candidate’s resume and/or cover letter. Consider what needs the role will fill for the company and then compare those needs to the expected education, skills and experience requirements of your preferred candidate. Carefully organize these requirements into a list and then use them to create intentional interview questions.
2. Understand the STAR interview process
The STAR method is a common technique used when interviewing promising candidates. The STAR acronym stands for:
- Situation: Describe the situation or challenge faced
- Task: Describe the individual task or requirement
- Action: Describe the action taken to overcome the situation or challenge
- Result: Describe the result or the outcome of the action taken
Job candidates often use this method when you ask them behavioral interview questions. This category of questions asks candidates to describe a time when they used specific skills in the workplace or overcame a professional challenge. Listen for the STAR technique in candidates’ answers to make sure they’re fully addressing your question.
If the interviewee doesn’t use the STAR method when answering your questions, you can use the STAR method to create follow-up questions or to request more information to better understand a candidate’s previous experience. For example, you can ask candidates to be more specific or to describe the results of their action.
Keep the STAR method in mind when you’re coming up with interview questions to ask as well. If a question can’t be answered using the STAR method, you may want to rephrase it or choose a different question.
3. Describe the company and the position to the interviewee
Kick off the interview by introducing yourself and discussing the position with the interviewee. Give a brief background and overview of the company and how the position they’re interviewing for fits into the organization’s objectives and goals. This gives job candidates an opportunity to better understand the expectations and responsibilities of the position.
4. Explain the interview process to your interviewee
Inform the candidate about what they can expect during the interview process, including its format, how many people will be interviewing them, the expected length and whether or not the company expects them to complete work-related tests or assessments. This keeps the interview organized and sets clear objectives and expectations for both you and the candidate.
5. Learn about the interviewee’s career goals
Before jumping into role-specific interview questions, it can be useful to better understand the interviewee’s career goals. Ask general questions about their professional interests and why they’re interested in the position.
This gives you an opportunity to understand where their expectations lie in terms of professional development and helps you assess their understanding of the company and the position itself.
6. Ask interview questions related to the position
After asking about the candidate’s career goals, transition to role-specific questions. Consider coming up with a list of interview questions ahead of time.
If you’re interviewing multiple candidates, it may also be helpful to come up with a way to score each interviewee. For example, you might grade them on their confidence and poise when answering questions, their ability to answer clearly and concisely and whether they addressed each part of a multiple part question. You can also choose to develop a more analytical grading rubric for answers to technical questions in engineering or computer-related jobs. Here’s more on how to conduct a structured job interview.
Conducting round two interviews? Here are some interview questions to ask.
7. Gather more information with follow up questions
Gather additional information about a candidate’s experience by asking follow-up questions. Asking a candidate to expand on their answers can give you greater insight into their thought processes, personality, values and experience.
Always be ready to ask a follow-up question and use your list of pre-written interview questions as a guide, rather than a strict plan.
8. Take notes to help you remember important information
To help you make more confident and informed hiring decisions, take notes during the interview so you can remember more details later on. For example, you can jot down your first impressions of the candidates, take note of their body language and write down a few tidbits of information you learn from a candidate’s answers.
However, be careful to maintain the right balance between note-taking and active listening. Ensure that you’re making eye contact and fully engaging in the conversation, only pausing to take down notes every once in a while.
9. Give candidates the chance to ask questions
Make sure you give your interviewee time to ask questions about the position, team and company. Not only does this give them the opportunity to evaluate if the position is a good fit for them, but it also allows you to measure their interest and understanding of the company.
10. Describe the next steps
Close the interview by explaining what the candidate can expect in terms of next steps, including when they can expect to hear back from you and what the rest of the interview process might look like. This is also a good time to inform them of your intended timeline for filling the position.
If you choose not to move forward with a candidate after the interview, be sure to send a candidate rejection email to let them know.
When you know how to conduct an interview, you can find out more than what a job application, resume and cover letter will tell you. Asking the right questions and following an effective and fair interview process can help you decide how well a candidate’s skills, experience and personality align with company needs and avoid costly hiring mistakes.
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Brendan Sullivan is an Indeed recruiter based in Austin, TX with 4+ years of experience. You can usually find him enjoying one of the several amazing coffee shops in Austin or organizing his record collection.