Although companies consider a whole variety of factors when selecting candidates for jobs, interviewing is the process they rely on most to come to a final decision. That’s because interviewers get more information using their eyes and ears than they get by merely relying on what they read on paper. However, interviewing can still be unreliable. Why? An hour or so is not a great deal of time in which to understand somebody in-depth. Candidates may succeed in putting up a façade, or the interviewer is not highly skilled in the process, or the decision is based too much on a ‘gut feel’. What you can do as an interviewer to improve the chances of getting it right is to follow a disciplined approach. Here are ten interviewing tips that will help any interviewer to do just that.
1. Decide clearly just what you are looking for before you start.
This interviewing tip may seem obvious, but is a discipline many interviewers ignore. Not only should you write down the technical qualifications the candidate should have, but also the experience that may be useful, and the type of personality that would best fit the job. [Note: they don’t all have to be like the people already occupying the job!]
2. Compose key questions that will elicit from each candidate the information you believe to be most important for this particular job.
Thinking through the questions makes your interviewing much more systematic, makes you appear more organized to the candidates, and avoids you forgetting to cover key points.
3. Ask the same key questions of every candidate.
Of course, your interviewing should be flexible in gaining information about each applicant, but you should also ask the same key questions of each person. Then you won’t miss anything essential. At the end, you will be able to compare notes on the various candidates using the exact same criteria.
4. Take notes during each interview.
Do not rely just on your memory. If the interviewing is spread over a week or more, and you’ve seen ten or more applicants, you won’t be able to remember who said what. Don’t make final choices simply on ‘gut feel’ and what you can remember, make decisions on the facts as well as feelings.
5. Use a probing questioning technique.
Don’t be willing to accept vague or throwaway answers. If you are not satisfied with a particular answer, you can then say, “Tell me a bit more about that”, or “Give me an example of what you mean”. Gradually funnel in on the information you really want, by asking gradually more probing questions.
6. Don’t do all the talking.
The prime purpose of the interview is to get information from the candidate. So avoid the tendency of inexperienced interviewers to do too much of the talking. As a rule of thumb, 90% of the interview time should be devoted to listening to what the applicant has to say.
7. Let each candidate do his or her best.
It is not productive to put candidates under pressure (unless working under specific pressure is an important factor in the job). Rather, candidates should feel at the end it has been a pleasant conversation with a respectful interviewer. Candidates answer your probing questions more fully and are often more revealing when they feel comfortable with you. And at the end, you will be able to compare the true merits of each applicant without distortion.
8. Always do more than one interview.
Doing interviews with two people can be frightening to some applicants, but you always learn more about each candidate when two different people conduct separate interviews with the same candidate. And more information generally means better decision-making.
9. Don’t take ages to come to a decision.
Tell the candidates when you are likely to make a decision about the position – and stick to your promise! Nothing is more frustrating to candidates than waiting to hear a reply. In addition, good candidates are the first to get snapped up by other companies, so your delay could deny you the applicant you most wanted.
10. Inform every applicant of your final decision.
The fact is most job applicants get rejected. That is always disappointing; some may even feel depressed. So ensure not to make your rejection phone call or letter hurt. Present the rejection in sympathetic language. Hopefully, even after failing to get the position, candidates will still talk positively about your company and help maintain your reputation in the marketplace.