A good interview is just as much the interviewer's responsibility as it is the interviewee's. While it might seem simple enough, conducting a job interview is detailed and complex. It should be handled delicately to make the most out of the meetings and ensure the right hire every time.
A lot of prep work and strategy goes into a job interview. The best way to position yourself for success is to take the time to understand what makes up a good interview and how to put all the pieces together.
In this detailed guide, we'll walk you through the steps of conducting an interview, from the pre-work that gets it on the right path to the interview itself.
1. Gather Your Documents
Before anything can happen, you first need to gather all of the necessary documents you'll need both before and during the actual meeting. You'll need a copy of the job description for the position you're looking to fill, the application that the applicant filled out, their resume and cover letter, a copy of the job ad posting, and a copy of your company's organizational chart.
The last one isn't necessary, but it can be helpful to explain to candidates how the business operates and what role the position plays in the larger hierarchy.
2. Schedule the Interview
Next, find a time to schedule the interview. There are several ways you can do this – through automated scheduling apps, Google Calendar, or simply offering a few times that would work over email.
Schedule your interview based on the candidate's schedule, how quickly you need the position filled, and whether you need a background check run, etc.
3. Prepare the Candidate
Next, prepare the candidate for their interview by providing them with any information they'll need to come to the interview ready to go. The more information you can offer them, the better the results. Your goal should never be to surprise your candidate.
Instead, do your best to help them have a successful interview by providing them with the following:
- Names of people who will be attending the interview
- All of the logistics they'll need — The address, building, floor, room number, time, length of the interview, and maybe even a Google maps link
- Interview Format — If it's an unconventional interview format, like a mock presentation, let them know well in advance
- Point of Contact — Who they should get in touch with if they have questions or concerns
- Dress Code - It's helpful to give them some insight into your office dress code
- Any essential details - If parking is difficult at your building or they need a code to enter, let them know
4. Set Up Different Kinds of Questions to Ask
Prepare different kinds of questions to ask your candidate. Asking various questions can help you learn about their experience, skills, motivations, critical thinking, and more. Some types of questions you may want to include are:
- General questions — such as confirming years employed by a company, education degrees, and yes/no questions
- Situational questions — questions that ask how they would react if they were in a hypothetical scenario that could be based on real-life work scenarios or abstract scenarios
- Behavioral questions — questions that ask the candidate to relay a time when they did something, achieved a goal, or faced a particular challenge can give insight into their past performance
- Stress questions - Stress questions are designed to make a candidate uncomfortable and require them to perform under pressure. One example is “How would you react to criticism from a superior that you felt was undeserved?” (Don’t ask too many of these, but they can shed light on how a candidate will react when faced with a stressful situation on the job.)
5. Start the Interview with Greetings
When it's time to start the meeting, go easy with some introductions and general greetings and perhaps engage in some small talk to warm up to each other before you start asking the difficult questions.
Remember, you want a candidate to feel comfortable. If the interview is in-person, offer the candidate a bottle of water before you begin. If the interview is virtual, confirm that everything is ready to go from a technical standpoint on both sides.
6. Clarify the Interview Process
Before you dive into the questions, take a moment to clarify with the candidate what this interview process will entail.
Hopefully, they already have a good idea of the interview flow. However, this is an excellent time to share a few more details, such as the kinds of questions you'll be asking, any assignments you may request, and any future interview rounds if they make it past the initial assessment.
7. Ask – and Really Listen
When you start asking your range of prepared questions, tune in carefully to what they're saying and how they respond. If you're too focused on the following question, you won't be listening to what they have to say, and you may miss out on essential details about them as a person.
Show that you're actively listening by nodding, maintaining eye contact, and giving small verbal cues.
While it can be tempting to scribble notes the whole time, try to listen and jot down a few notes before you ask the next question – you can flesh them out in more detail once the interview is over.
8. Observe Body Language, Tone, and Behavior
It's not just what candidates say when they answer questions that you should focus on.
You should also take note of their body language, their tone of voice (especially when asked stress questions), and gauge their behavior to see how comfortable and confident they feel.
9. Open Up the Interview for Questions They May Have
Once you've run through all of the questions you have outlined, it's time to open the floor for any questions they might have for you. Remember, it's not just you interviewing a candidate, but also a candidate interviewing a potential employer — your answers matter.
If the candidate doesn't have any questions for you, it may be helpful to provide further information about the company, the specific department the job opening is in, details of the role, and the overall work culture.
10. Review Next Steps
Next up, give the candidate insight into what happens next. Do you want to go ahead and schedule a second interview? Should they expect a phone call within the next three days? Will you send an email in the coming weeks either way?
Don't leave them wondering. Let them know what to expect after the interview wraps up.
11. Close the Interview with Thanks
Wrap it all up by thanking them for taking time out of their day to participate in the interview. If it’s an in-person interview, walking the candidate out is a nice touch.
Want to bring your A-game to your next interview? Use these tips for an extra edge.
Prepare Your Questions Ahead of Time
Don't trust yourself to come up with the right questions on the fly. Always write down your interview questions at least half an hour before the interview.
Come prepared and focused on the task at hand — vetting an applicant for a potential job at your company.
Try to Reduce Candidate Stress
Candidates are often nervous and stressed when they arrive at interviews. Your goal is not to intimidate them. Try to make them feel comfortable.
Share a few stories before you dive into the tough questions.
Only Involve Those Who Are Necessary
Don't bring an entire panel into the interview if they don't need to be there. It makes for more stress and too many bodies in the room (or on Zoom).
Ask for Insight Regarding Real Problems
Ask for their insight into real-life challenges and problems that arise at work. While hypothetical questions can give you an idea of how someone might act in an unlikely scenario, more specific questions will help you understand how they would behave with challenges they'd face regularly.
Sell the Job and the Company
Remember, it's also your responsibility to sell the job and your company as a whole to the candidate. Why should they want to work there? What kind of perks and benefits come along with it? Especially in today’s tight labor market, you should have a strong pitch ready to go.
Maintain a Two-Way Conversation
It’s an interview — not an interrogation; Try to keep the conversation flowing back and forth. That way, candidates won't feel like they're simply having questions fired at them non-stop.
Conducting a good interview is an art, not a science, but a detailed guide never hurts. A lot of prep work goes into an interview, and someone can rarely conduct a good one on the fly. Use the steps and tips above, and you'll be sure to find the best talent.
Another essential part of making good hiring decisions is running background checks on candidates to confirm that they're the right fit.
Contact the experts at ScoutLogic for all your employment background checks and go into your interviews with confidence in your candidate’s experience and credentials.