How to Conduct an Interview. What You Should, and Shouldn’t do.

Whether you are a large corporate entity, a small family business, or an independent entrepreneur, hiring the right people is crucial. When it comes to bringing new people on to your staff, or projects, the vetting process can be a tedious one. You have to consider a multitude of factors. What skills do they bring to the table? Will their personality fit your company dynamic? What outside skills might they have that can help your company or project? 

All of these considerations can make the hiring process a slog. It’s not easy to judge a potential employee or hire off of a short interview. But there are some things that you can do, and focus on, that can give you a more educated guess. In the end, the hiring process will always be in small part a roll of the dice. But you can make some moves to ensure the dice land how you want them.

Never Enter an Interview Unprepared.

This might sound like a quite obvious statement. But too often interviewers lay the entire burden of preparedness upon the interviewee. It’s not enough to simply have a list of questions, and answers you expect to receive. To best optimize your interview process, you need to do a little bit of foot-work beforehand. 

Before you even step into the interview, you should have done three things already. 

– Research your potential hire. Understanding the person you will be interviewing is 

imperative. Take the time to thoroughly read through their resume, and cover letter. Try to have an understanding of who it is you will be talking to. Interviews are more than just asking questions. This is an opportunity for you to find the right puzzle piece for your business. The first step to achieving that is to know who your puzzle piece is. 

– Understand what hole your new hire is expected to fill within your company. The nature of the job you need filled, will lend you a lot of insight into the type of candidate you are searching for. Is this a sales position? Do you need someone with a can-do attitude who takes initiative and can make on the fly decisions? Do you need someone who values attention to detail above all else? Is your ideal hire someone who can learn quickly, and 

be adaptable to fluid operations? You should know the answers to these questions before you even begin reading resumes. 

– Prepare a ‘game plan’. You should have a clear and concise path to determining if the 

interviewee meets the needs of your position. Come up with questions, and conversation topics that will help you get to the root of these answers. While interviews should never be too regimented, you don’t want them to go off track either. Try to keep the conversation flowing and comfortable, but each topic should serve a purpose. Your ‘game plan’ will help you decide that purpose before hand. 

Do’s and Don’ts of this Process.

Do: Dig as deep as necessary. You can find out a lot about a potential hire before they step foot into your interview. If their resume has mentioned outside work interests, or activities. Research those. Do their hobbies or activities offer any insight to potentially translatable skills? 

Don’t: Use too specific questions. If you only give your interviewee a narrow path of responses, you may be losing out on key information. Try to keep your questions targeted, yet open ended. Allow your interviewee the chance to answer your inquiries in their own words. This will give you insight to their personality, and ability to think and process information. 

Do: Test run your interview. If this is your first time interviewing a potential employee, take the time to run through everything. A sort of ‘dress rehearsal’ if you will. Read your questions out loud to yourself, make sure they are clear in their meaning. Test your equipment, if you will be recording the interview, or conducting it via video chat, you don’t want to face mid-interview malfunctions. An interview test run will only serve to ease your potential nerves, and help you conduct a more professional and smooth interview. 

Don’t: Ask more than one question at a time. Throwing an onslaught of questions at your interviewee will only add unnecessary confusion. Stick to one question at a time, and wait for a response to that question. Any prepared follow-up questions or responses should be held until the original question is answered completely. This will help you both. Trust me.

Don’t Create a Hostile Interview Environment.

As much as an interviewee is making a first impression, you are also. Your company is trying to find the best fit they can for a job. To do that, you never want to give the impression that your workplace is hostile. While some may adhere to an old-school thought process of ‘into the fire’ interviewing, to test how a potential hire handles stress. This is largely regarded as outdated, and ineffective. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. 

Presenting a comfortable, and relaxed interview atmosphere will go a long way to finding out who you are interviewing. When people are under stress, they tend to act out of character. When they feel comfortable they are more open to sharing their insight and answering your inquiries. “How will I know if the potential hire can handle stress, then?” You may ask. Trust me, there are far more effective ways to determine how a person handles stress than by creating more of it. 

You can determine how a potential hire will handle work related stress through targeted questions instead. Questions such as: 

– “Can you describe to me how you have handled a situation in work, or your personal life, 

when you were asked to handle a larger than expected workload?” 

– “How would you prioritize, and manage strict deadlines?” 

– “Can you describe to me a situation in your work, or personal life, where you have had to 

resolve a conflict with a difficult coworker or teammate?” 

These types of questions can give you a great insight into the nature of the person you are interviewing. Without grilling them or making them feel like they are ‘in the hot seat’. 

Do’s and Don’ts of this Process.

Do: Feel free to go over the interview process beforehand with the interviewee. You don’t need to feel like you have to keep everything close to the vest. Providing employees with the necessary tools for success is crucial to an effective work environment. The interview process is no different. Feel free to ask them if they want to read the questions before you get started. You wouldn’t expect an employee to be able to succeed with no tools to do so. A potential employee is no different. 

Don’t: Scowl, frown, or otherwise present aggressive body language. Small details such as these can set the wrong tone for the interview straight away. You could end up giving sweaty palms, and jitters, before you even ask your first question. Be warm! A smile never hurt anyone. Thank them for coming to the interview before and after the process. Never give them the impression that they are privileged to even be in your presence. 

Do: Ask them for feedback! Always give the interviewee a chance to ask their own questions. It’s not only possible, but quite likely that they have some. They may have questions about work expectations, environment, workload, vacation or retirement options, ect. Remember that just because someone is interviewing with you, does not mean they will take your offer of employment if given. If you want the best employees, you have to give them a reason to work for you. Allowing them to leave the interview, questions answered, with little confusion left on the table, is important. 

Don’t: Get off track. Keep in mind, while you are trying to provide a comfortable and relaxed interview environment, this is still work. Allowing the conversation to become too focused on non-work related topics can have negative effects. It can drag the interview process on far too long. It can cause you and the interviewee to lose focus on the subjects at hand. It can, quite simply, derail the target goal of the interview process. You want the interview to feel like a conversation, rather than a checklist. However, try to keep that conversation as related to work as possible.

Ask The Right Questions.

It’s not enough to simply ask enough questions. You have to ask the right questions. Questions that will help you get to the root of the situation. To be able to do that, you should follow a few guidelines. 

– Know what problems you need solved. You can’t simply ask a potential hire, “Are you a hard worker?” That is far too broad, and somehow narrow at the same time. You need to understand the type of answer you are looking for, before you can ask the proper question. 

– Formulate a question that allows for multiple potential answers. Instead of asking, “How reliable are you?” Perhaps ask, “How do you prioritize your career, with your social and 

family life?” You are allowing them to give you more detail, and in turn glean more quality information from a response to this type of question. 

– Prepare follow up questions. Sometimes, you might not get the answer you are looking 

for right off the bat. This can be due to a few things. Perhaps the interviewee misunderstood the question. Perhaps they don’t know you want more details. Having a few follow up questions can help you prod for more answers. An example of follow up questions could be: “Can you give me an example?” Or “How would you describe that?” These can be used when you feel like the interviewee did not provide enough information to satisfy you. 

Do’s and Don’ts of This Process.

Do: Allow the interviewee to give a full answer. Cutting them off, or interrupting them, can lead them to begin providing less in-depth answers moving forward. If you are taking the time to learn about a potential hire, you owe it to them to take the time to listen to their full answer. The depth, and length, of their answer will also tell you a lot. 

Don’t: Ignore them. When you are conducting an interview, as a general rule, you should be free of distractions. Providing your interviewee with your undivided attention will help them feel like their answers matter. Allowing your attention to be divided can lead them to feel like their answers have no weight or importance. This could lead them to give less thoughtful and meaningful answers. 

Do: Take notes! Whether it be through recording the interview, or hand written. Documenting the interview is important. It is my assumption that if you are aiming to fill a position, you will interview multiple candidates. Some of these will stand out more than others. But having a documented reference for you to go over post-interview will help in your decision making process. You never know what details you may have forgotten in the process between post-interview and hiring selection. 

Don’t: Ask trick questions. Setting up your interviewee for failure is never a recipe for success. You may ask them questions that pertain to past failures in their career. This can help you understand how they respond to adversity. However, asking them questions such as “What would you do if…?” Can make your interviewee feel backed into a corner. Don’t be malicious with your questions. 

Final Thoughts.

The professional hiring landscape has changed over the years. More and more industry leaders are discovering they value quality over quantity. Simply throwing a body into a roll is almost never a recipe for success. In turn, devoting time to finding a candidate who fits your needs best, is the key to success.

Look for people who have experience, and translatable skills that you desire. Simply hiring the first person who seems to handle the ‘boiling pot’ of an interview is going to lead to high turn-over, and unproductive results. I feel confident that if you follow this advice, you will have a lot more success when conducting your next interview. 

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