How to Improve Each Step of Your Interview Process

Your interview process affects everything from the quality of your new hires to the candidate experience. According to IBM, candidates are 38% more likely to say yes to a job offer when they have a positive candidate experience. When you make improvements, you attract more high-quality applicants, have a better screening process in place and increase your chances of having your top pick accept the offer. Learn more about improvements you can make to each of the interviewing steps.

 

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Interview process

Every company handles the interview process differently with interview techniques that work well for them. Most start with a simple phone screening interview and progress into one or more in-person interviews. You might also have a skills analysis at some point. Focus on the steps you take, or add more interviewing steps to make your process more robust.

 

Phone screening process

You’ve narrowed down the candidate pool based on resumes. Now you need to weed out a few more candidates before you schedule in-person interviews. The phone screening process is a quick way to find the candidates with the most potential. Your in-person interviews are more successful and cost-effective when you eliminate initial candidates who aren’t likely to get the job offer.

 

Here are some ways to improve the phone screening process:

  • Create a list of standard phone interview questions you ask every candidate.
  • Focus on high-level questioning, such as their background, salary expectations and knowledge of the company, to make sure they’re a good fit on a basic level.
  • Review each resume before making the phone call to ask specific questions related to job history or experience.
  • Schedule an hour for each phone interview, although they may last only 15 to 20 minutes. This gives you a buffer in case the interview runs long. It also gives you time to reflect on each candidate and expand on any notes or details.
  • Write notes for each candidate to help you remember the details.
  • End the call by explaining the next steps in the interview process. If you don’t schedule an in-person interview during the call, let the applicant know when they can expect to hear back.

Skills or performance testing

Some positions might require specific skills to perform the job well. Some companies assess those skills before hiring someone through special testing. You might incorporate it into the job application process or have only your top candidates take the assessment.

 

An example is having candidates who are applying for a clerical position take a typing test to meet certain speed and accuracy requirements. Teaching job applicants who pass a certain point in the interview process might be asked to teach a sample lesson. Some companies use standardized personality or soft skills assessment tests to evaluate candidates.

 

Improve this portion of the interview with these tips:

  • Choose only relevant, job-related assessments.
  • Establish the testing requirements before interviewing. Let applicants know about this assessment when they apply.
  • For a demonstration, sample teaching lesson or similar assessments, give candidates plenty of notice so they have time to prepare.
  • Set your minimum requirements for a formal test, such as a typing test.
  • Handle the assessments consistently for all candidates, using a standardized method and consistent standards for a fair and ethical hiring process. Improper handling can be considered discriminatory.
  • Don’t rely on assessments to pick job candidates. Remember that it’s just one part of evaluating potential employees.

In-person interview

By the time you meet for the first in-person interview, you already know the candidate has the background to meet the requirements of the job. The in-person interview lets you dig deeper and determine if the candidate fits your company culture and team. Focus on being a good interviewer with the questions you ask and the way you run the interview.

 

Improve the in-person interview process with these tips:

  • Develop an agenda for the interview with an introduction, explanation of the interview process, prepared interview questions, time for candidate questions and a wrap-up to let the candidate know the next steps.
  • Include a mix of question types, including situation, competency and behavioral interview questions, to get a well-rounded view of every candidate.
  • Go over the job description and any requirements you’ve set for the position before the interview process.
  • If you’re using an interview panel, meet before the interviews start to review best practices and the things you’re looking for in the ideal candidate.
  • Review each candidate’s resume and other application materials just before the interview. Keep a copy handy during the interview for reference.
  • Watch body language, posture and other nonverbal cues to help in evaluating each candidate. However, remember that cultural differences can affect body language. Candidates might also be nervous, which can affect their body language and posture.
  • Be as consistent as possible when interviewing each candidate to get a fair and equal assessment.
  • Remove unintentional bias by having set standards for job qualifications and listening to all of the information before deciding on a candidate.
  • Be careful not to let first impressions affect your view of a candidate. You might try to ignore red flags if you have a really positive first impression, or a candidate might not be able to say anything to impress you if the first impression was a bad one.
  • Take notes, but stay present with the interview. Using a consistent ranking scale can help you compare candidates in a similar way.

Remote interview tips

More than ever, virtual interviews are becoming normalized in place of in-person interviews. Health, workplace and travel restrictions may limit who can come into a physical interview, however, virtual meetings still demand much of the same attention to detail in order to be successful.

 

Make sure you are groomed, prepared and without much distraction in a quiet setting so you can direct the process efficiently. You should expect the candidate to come just as prepared, professional and interested as they would in a traditional face-to-face interview.

 

General tips for improving the interview process

Some interview best practices apply to all steps of the interview process. They help you prepare and make you more efficient at picking your ideal candidate.

 

Plan the full process before starting

The interviewing process for an employer is more effective when you have a solid plan. Determine every interviewing step before you start, including a timeline, how many people you plan to interview and the right interview questions to ask.

 

Keep it moving

The best candidates get offers quickly, typically only staying in the job search market for up to 10 days. Having your interview process planned and acting fast helps you have your pick of applicants before they get snagged by another company. Schedule interviews promptly, and don’t delay in making decisions. While you don’t want to rush, you also don’t want your preferred new hire accepting a different job offer first.

 

Don’t ignore red flags

Look for red flags that the employee isn’t a good fit through every stage of the interview. According to a Leadership IQ study, 46% of new hires fail in the first 18 months. When looking back on the interview process, 82% of hiring managers realize the failing new hire displayed red flags in the interview, but they ignored them. Common red flags include a lack of interest, sounding distracted, using poor etiquette, having no knowledge of your company and talking negatively about past employers. If you notice red flags, follow up with more questioning to see if it’s a valid concern.

 

Put candidates at ease

The job search and interview process are naturally stressful for applicants. You’re in the position to put them at ease. Not only does it take some of the stress out of the interview process for them, but it can also give you a better look at the candidates.

 

When they’re highly stressed and in interview mode, you don’t get a true glimpse of what each candidate is like on a day-to-day basis. You want to see who you’d get if you hired the candidate. Easing the pressure throughout the interview process by being friendly and reassuring gives you a better look at who each candidate truly is.

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