Why is it important to be prepared when interviewing candidates?
It’s important to be prepared when interviewing candidates because your ability to conduct a successful interview may affect the following:
- Whether a candidate decides to join your company
- Whether you gain an accurate understanding of a candidate’s qualifications and skills
- Whether you choose a candidate who fits your company culture and values
Types of interviews and their purposes
The type of interview you choose depends on many factors, such as your hiring needs, the candidates’ location or which phase of the hiring process you’re in. Following are some of the most common types of interviews and how employers use each in their search:
Telephone interviews take place over the phone, obviously. The candidate and employer usually agree on a date and time to participate in the phone interview, and the employer typically calls the candidate. Phone interviews are a great way to evaluate candidates at the beginning stages of the job process to see whether it’s necessary to ask them to come back for a second interview, which may be an in-person interview.
Video chat interview
In video chat interviews, employers host an interview with a job candidate using a video chat software application. In this situation, interviews take place much like they would in-person however the participants are meeting virtually over the internet. Employers conduct video interviews to save on travel expenses, due to the health of a candidate or travel situations. They may also use a video interview format as a part of their initial screening process before they request the candidate come in for an in-person interview.
An in-person interview, also called a traditional interview, is where the interviewer and job candidate meet with one another in-person to discuss the job position, highlight company values and evaluate the candidate’s qualifications. In-person interviews usually take place at the company’s location in a one-on-one format.
A panel interview is when multiple people interview a candidate and take turns asking them questions. For example, if you own a small business in need of a new marketing specialist, other panel interviewers may include the marketing manager, HR manager and one of your senior marketing specialists. Panel interviews are a great way to select a candidate whose role interacts with more than one department. Employers may also use them when narrowing down candidates who they believe would work well with their existing employees.
Group interviews occur when an interviewer meets and talks with multiple candidates at the same time. Employers usually use group interviews when they need to hire several employees for the same types of positions. They may also use them if they have a lot of candidates to meet with.
An off-site interview is a type of in-person interview where the interviewer meets a job candidate at a location other than the office. The interviewer may meet a candidate for coffee or at a restaurant to discuss the position.
Skill-based or competency interviews seek to confirm a candidate’s qualifications by asking them to answer job-specific questions or take a test. Employers use this interview format to assess candidates applying for high-skill jobs. For example, employers interviewing for a software developer position may ask a candidate to create a website based on a mock client’s instructions.
Informational interviews aim to provide job candidates with information about the job position, company and additional factors about the application process. HR professionals may conduct these interviews early on in the application process, to gauge a candidate’s interest and see if their qualifications and salary expectations match what the position has to offer.
Behavioral interviews evaluate a candidate’s behaviors, mannerisms and personality in relation to the job position or company culture. Interviewers ask questions about a candidate’s past work and personal experiences to determine factors about their work ethic, communication methods, level of empathy or problem-solving skills.
Stress interviews determine if a candidate has the ability to react appropriately in odd or stressful situations. In these interviews, employers may ask candidates to solve a puzzle, perform a specific job duty with no prior warning or even participate in an obstacle course. Jobs that may require stress interviews include those for law enforcement, hospitality or sales positions.
Case interviews seek to identify whether a candidate can perform well in a mock job situation that they would likely encounter in the position. For example, flight attendant trainees have to perform a mock emergency drill so that an employer can see how they would handle an emergency.
Tips for preparing for an interview
Some important tips to help you prepare for an interview include:
Review facts about your company
During an interview with a job candidate, they may ask multiple questions regarding employee benefits, work environment and company values. It is important that you remind yourself of your company history, culture and organizational hierarchy so you know how to best answer their questions during the interview.
Contact the candidate prior to the interview date for confirmation
Call or email the candidate at least 24 hours before the interview. This is important as it prevents miscommunication and gives the candidate a chance to reschedule if they need to.
Read over the candidate’s resume and cover letter documents
By highlighting a candidate’s skills, work experience, awards or education, you can generate questions or topics of conversation to discuss with candidates during their interview.
Create a list of questions to ask the candidate
The quality of the questions you ask a job candidate during an interview helps you learn important information about their character, professional experiences and eligibility for the position in question. The STAR method allows you to create valuable questions that evoke insightful responses from candidates about their actions in the workplace.
Give yourself time to prepare ahead of the interview
Just as a job candidate needs time to prepare on the day of their interview, you also need to take time to prepare for your role as the interviewer. Provide yourself with 15-30 minutes prior to the scheduled start time to review the questions you want to ask the candidate and go over their application materials.
How to answer interviewee questions about the role and company
When interviewees ask about the role they’re applying for or your company, follow these steps to address their questions:
1. Be honest
If a job candidate asks you what the work-life balance is like at your company and you know it varies, be honest and direct about why it may not always be equal. For example, you could say:
“From July through December, things can get pretty fast-paced as we come up with marketing ideas ahead of the holiday season. Sometimes we do work until six or seven in the evening. But, for each day we work late, we buy everyone dinner and play music as we work to make it more fun. Also, everyone gets two weeks off once the holidays are over.”
2. Be clear
Providing candidates with a vague answer may leave them confused or give them misinformation. Make sure you try to provide as clear and concise answers as you can. For example, “You will work with our finance department,” is vague, whereas “You will work with our finance manager Judy, our five accountants and our financial planner Casey,” is more specific.
3. Repeat their question for clarity
Make sure you provide a candidate with the answers they need about the position by repeating their question back to them before answering. Examples include:
- “So you want to learn more about the dress code for work?”
- “So what you’re asking is whether we offer paid time off?”
4. Ask them to rephrase confusing questions
Rephrasing questions is important so you ensure you answer their question correctly. If a candidate asks a confusing question, say “Could you rephrase that question?” or “Could you provide an example?” This allows the candidate to revise their question to be more clear about what answers they need.
5. Be enthusiastic
Your enthusiasm as you answer questions about their job duties, company culture and career opportunities may impact their desire to continue their candidacy with your company. This is the portion of the interview where you can really sell your company and what it has to offer to a candidate.
6. Give them the opportunity to ask for further clarification
You may do this by concluding your answer with a phrase like “Does that answer your question?” or “Was that what you were asking?”
Tips for following up with candidates
Following up with job candidates after an interview demonstrates your respect for their time and qualifications, regardless of whether you want to continue with their candidacy. Here’s how to follow up with candidates after the interview:
When you want to move forward with other candidates
Here are some tips to help you tell a candidate that you have decided to move forward with other options:
- Thank them for their time to show them that you respect the time and effort they put toward interviewing with your company.
- Give them the option to receive feedback so they can improve their interviewing skills or qualifications for interviews with other companies.
- Balance constructive feedback with positive praise to highlight their strong attributes or skill sets in relation to areas that may need improvement to qualify for a position within your company.
- Remain objective to maintain professionalism to ensure that you represent your company in a professional way.
- Encourage them to apply for openings in the future so that qualified candidates may reapply for the same position or other roles within your company.
When you want to continue pursuing them as a candidate
Here are some tips to help you confirm that you either want to offer a candidate a job or continue their candidacy:
- Call the candidate with positive feedback to encourage them to continue pursuing the position with your company versus exploring other opportunities.
- Email the candidate with information about the next phase to give them time to prepare for the next interview or prepare materials for additional screening (e.g., background checks, professional skills assessments).
- Email them a job offer letter if you have confirmed a candidate has the experience and character traits to contribute to your company.
Regardless of the state of their candidacy
Here are some general tips for communicating throughout the interview process:
- Keep them informed about what’s happening to show them that their time is valuable and represent your company in a positive way.
- Try to respond to them within one business day so that they get accurate, real-time answers to questions and your company demonstrates good communication.