Whether you are new to recruiting or looking for a guide to help your hiring managers learn how to interview, you’ll find some useful interview tips here.
- The Interview
- Question preparation
- Conducting the interview
- Evaluating the interview
- Benefits of second interview
- Wrapping Up
1. The Interview
Interviews are a way of finding out more about the candidate and their suitability for a job. They also give the candidate an opportunity to learn about you, the job, team and company.
The following key attributes are typically assessed during an interview:
- Does the candidate have the ability to perform the job?
- Compare the candidate’s skills, qualifications and abilities with your job brief and position description.
- Are the candidate’s expectations realistic?
- Determine whether the candidate’s expectations are aligned with the job’s responsibilities and expected outcomes.
- Is the candidate the right fit for your team, company, culture and environment?
- Does the candidate have what it takes to be successful, learn and grow within your company?
- One way to determine this is to discuss what it’s like working within your team and company. If this isn’t what the candidate is after it’s better to find out now!
- Does your offer meet the candidate’s expectations?
- Sell the job to the candidate. Highlight all the benefits, but keep these realistic to ensure the job isn’t oversold.
- How well are you representing yourself during an interview?
- Always present yourself positively and professionally as the candidate will be trying to determine what it’s like working for you. You are also being interviewed as a prospective manager! How they perceive you may sway their decision, for example a top performer may look for a manager who will support and develop their career and may value this over remuneration.
TIP: See our Job Brief post to learn more about how to use a Job Brief to help create good qualifying interview questions. There you’ll also find a downloadable Job Brief template to get you started.
2. Question Preparation
It pays to prepare interview questions in advance so you can conduct thorough interviews. This includes outlining the job and company information you wish to share with the candidate. Use the same questionnaire for all candidates as it provides a consistent process and make it’s easier to form a benchmark to compare candidates.
Tips to build your interview questions:
- Review your job vacancy information and outline the requirements of the job including skills, experience and attributes. If you completed a Phone screen interview first, this covers some of this information – so you won’t need to ask the same questions unless you want the candidate to expand on any of this information.
- Remember your legal obligations and avoid questions that may discriminate against candidates under the Human Rights Act. Focus questions on the required skills and attributes.
- Use open questions to encourage candidates to provide comprehensive answers. Don’t sway candidate’s answers by your personal opinion. Open questions begin with – What? How? Describe? Tell me about a time…
- Use closed questions to confirm facts. Closed questions are also a good way to clarify information a candidate has just given you, or to control talkative candidates. Closed questions begin with a “Did? Do? Is? Have? Will? Would?” and are usually answered with a “Yes” or “No”.
- Use behavioural questions to determine how a candidate would deal with a particular situation. Behavioural questions ask for examples or proof of experiences. The S.T.A.R formula below can help you turn a ‘standard’ question into a behavioural question:
- An interview typically takes an hour to complete providing you have conducted a phone-screening first. Completing a shorter phone based questionnaire saves you time by covering off routine questions around work history timelines, work eligibility and other key pre-qualifying criteria. Your interview time can then be used to discuss the candidate’s technical experience and skills in more detail and what they can contribute to the job, team and company.
- Once you have prepared your interview questions, add any additional information you want to relay to candidates in the interview form. For example, more information about the job or selection process. Inform all candidates of the same information to ensure you follow a fair and consistent selection process.
3. Conducting the Interview
- You are representing your company so maintain a professional and positive manner.
- Candidates have interview expectations too and will be gathering information. Be ready to answer their questions about the job, company, benefits and yourself. Candidates want to hear about what they will learn, their responsibilities, and career prospects with your company. Many candidates will also want to know what your company is doing to improve the lives of its people, customers and wider community.
- Keep any material close at hand that you want to share in the interview. Make sure it’s professionally presented. Consider creating a company information pack that promotes your company, products and services, and people. This can be an excellent company and job branding opportunity, which your HR or marketing team may help you put together.
Here’s what to do next…
Immediately before the interview
- Review your selection criteria i.e. Position Description and Job Brief.
- Review the candidate’s application documents (CV, application form) and phone screen notes if completed. Make a note of any areas you wish the candidate to clarify or expand on.
Commencing the interview
- Greet the candidate and make them feel welcome and comfortable.
- Offer refreshments.
- Introduce the candidate to any other interviewers or company stakeholders.
- Let the candidate know you will be taking notes.
- The purpose of an interview is not to interrogate candidates but to put them at ease so they will openly share information with you. The more they share with you the easier it is to ascertain their fit for the role. Candidates should do most of the talking – around 80% of the interview! Interviews can be daunting especially if the candidate hasn’t attended one for a while, so respect they may feel under considerable pressure.
- Don’t open the interview by describing the job in detail or the requirements you want. This may influence the candidate to tell you what they believe you want to hear.
Work through interview questions with the candidate
- Don’t jump to conclusions about the candidate or their suitability. Allow the candidate time to relax and open up. Evaluate their answers before coming to any conclusions.
- Take clear and concise notes. Write verbatim notes during the interview so the candidate’s answers cannot be misinterpreted. Until you become confident interviewing you might like someone else within your company to attend as an observer or to take notes. You can then compare your thoughts and notes after the interview.
- Maintain control of the interview, while encouraging the candidate to do most of the talking. Ask clear and specific questions and listen to the candidate’s answers.
- Don’t show signs of disapproval or interrogate the candidate. This can result in the candidate clamming up and withholding information or saying what they believe you want to hear.
- Compliment candidates on their accomplishments. Downplay mistakes or negative experiences a candidate may reveal. Make a note of these comments and ask behavioural questions later to gain a better insight into the situation. For example, what did they learn from the experience? What would they do differently in the future? What was the outcome? Use the S.T.A.R formula!
- As you work through the interview questionnaire don’t be afraid to dig deeper or rephrase questions if the candidate’s initial response doesn’t answer your question.
- Follow your Interview Questionnaire format. This will keep you on track to cover off key information.
Pay attention and take note of:
- How well the candidate listens and responds directly to questions.
- Whether the candidate seeks clarification or more information.
- How well the candidate turns potentially negative information into positive.
- How well the candidate builds rapport with you.
- How the candidate handles nonverbal communication such as eye contact, body language and tone of voice.
Closing the Interview
- Ask the candidate if they have anything further to add. Do they have any questions regarding the job, company, opportunities or recruitment process?
- Tell them the next step/s in the process, and when to expect an update from you.
- Thank the candidate for their time.
4. Evaluating the Interview
It’s a good idea to review your notes immediately following the interview to ensure captured key information and record any additional notes.
Overall how did you feel about the interview?
Write down how you felt the interview went immediately after the interview.
Should be based on the defined position criteria.
- Do they have the necessary skills, experience and qualifications to be successful in the job?
- Do they have the right attitude?
- Do they show potential?
- Do you have a clear understanding of their strengths and areas for improvement?
- Can you offer training and support to develop any areas of improvement?
- Are they a natural fit for your team and company culture?
- Are they likely to feel comfortable and enjoy the work environment?
- Do they share similar values?
- Have you or the candidate identified any areas of concern? If so, can you work these out?
Use an Interview Evaluation matrix
- This can help you compare the candidate’s ability against the job criteria.
- Then use this as a benchmark to compare shortlisted interviewed candidates.
- Knowing what training and support is offered by your company will help identify whether you can up-skill potential candidates.
Document any criteria the candidate didn’t match.
This information is useful for:
- Unsuccessful candidates – to provide specific feedback.
- Successful candidate – to develop an induction-training plan.
Review with other stakeholders
Such as your Manager and/or HR.
- Make time to meet with all interviewers within a 24-hour period following the interview to discuss feedback.
- Did the candidate give you enough information to make a decision? If not, what do you need? Contact the candidate again and ask for more information.
- Highlight any areas of concern. If you wish to progress with this candidate make sure concerns are covered off in the candidate’s reference checks. A former employer may be able to offer some insight.
- Trust your intuition! Did a candidate say something that triggered a specific feeling or reaction from you? If so, note it down. Dig deeper and ask more questions.
5. Benefits of Second Interview
Here’s some reasons why second interviews are useful:
- Gives you an opportunity to get to know the candidate better. If you only had time in the first interview to cover off technical aspects of the job, you could ask more personality / behavioural based questions in the second interview for example. The length of time allocated to the second interview will depend on how much you covered in the first interview.
- Provides candidate with more info about your company. It’s a good opportunity to show the candidate around your company. If you have a warehouse or production centre, show them your products being manufactured. You may want them to watch a short video of a recent marketing initiative or company success. These activities can help engage the candidate and increase their enthusiasm for the job. Candidates have been known to withdraw their interest after the second interview so it’s important to create a good impression here.
- It’s also a chance for the candidate to meet the team, and for you to see how they’d interact with their peers. You may choose to meet offsite in a neutral environment and observe their social skills. If you do include your team, make sure you listen to their feedback! If they’re not a good cultural fit it’s better to find out now.
- Hold a question and answer session with the candidate and your team so they can ask each other questions. This can also make your existing team feel they have played a part in the selection process.
- Introduce the candidate to your manager or HR representative if they haven’t been involved in the interview process.
- Expand on questions you want clarified from previous discussions, but don’t ask the same questions just because you may have new company stakeholders at the interview. (Prepare and share information with them prior to interview.)
- Ask for the candidate’s thoughts. What can they contribute to the company? Is there anything they’d like to discuss? How do they see it working? Why are they the right person for the job? It’s always interesting to hear how excited they are about the job and to hear any assumptions they have made about the job and company so far.
- This is a good opportunity to cover off more detailed employment information such as salary, reviews and incentives. Sometimes this is only touched on in first interview.
TIP: Ensure you are well prepared for the second interview and are professional at all times. Offers have been declined by candidates after attending a second interview for such reasons as managers being late for interview, negative comments from team members or a sense of a stressed out workplace!
6. Wrapping Up
Once you’ve completed your interview process, it’s time to select preferred candidate to proceed to assessment, reference / background checks stage (depending on your process).
If you need some assistance making this decision include your Manager, Recruiter and/or HR. Having other parties involved in the interview process can help set aside emotions. You may want to fill the job quickly to relieve short-term issues, but this may not be the best decision for the company over the long term. Plus others may pick up on things you have overlooked, or they may support your decision, but highlight an area that needs clarification. You can’t always please everyone. You could have a top performer on your hands and someone may still have reservations. Ask for constructive feedback.
It’s easier to make a good hire decision and back yourself on it, when you go through a robust recruitment process that includes good interview questions and interviewing skills.
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