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Best Practices in Interviewing

Interviewing can be nerve-wracking for everyone involved. The person being interviewed is worried about making a good impression and the interviewer is worried about finding the best candidate for the job. However, there are things that you can do to make the process a little less stressful.

Before you interview the next candidate for an open role, here are some best practices in interviewing to consider.

Do your research, first.

Interviewer preparation before the interview is key. You should have a good understanding of the job that the candidate is interviewing for and what their day-to-day responsibilities would be.

You should also have a reasonable grasp of the company culture, team profile, and what the candidate’s potential manager would be like. This will help you to ask more targeted questions throughout the interview process that can give you a better sense of whether or not the candidate is a good fit for the role and company.

We've all been in an interview where the interviewer seemed to be rushed, unorganized, and unfamiliar with your resume.Don't be that interviewer.

Take a look at the candidate's resume, and familiarize yourself with their work history, LinkedIn profile, and portfolio of work. This will help the candidate feel that you're prepared and interested and that they're more than just a number to you.

In his great article, “Run Away If Your Encounter This In A Job Interview,” leadership coach, Larry Cornett, PhD. lists 11 red flags candidates should look out for when interviewing. I include this list so that you, the interviewer, are self-aware of how the candidate is perceiving you and your company at each step of the interview process. 

Start the interview with small talk.

Small talk may seem like a waste of time, but it can help put the candidate at ease and make them more comfortable opening up during the rest of the conversation.

After the initial introductions, it’s time to start asking the process of interview questions.

These questions should be about the candidate’s experience, skills, and knowledge related to the role they are interviewing for. They should also probe into how the candidate might react in certain situations that are relevant to the job.

Having a list of semi-structured questions that are asked of each candidate will help you set a baseline and measure candidates objectively rather than subjectively.

We like to using semi-structured questions formulated like this:

"Tell me about a time when you (did something relevant to the role we're hiring you to do). How did you (achieve the objective)?"

For a software engineering candidate, a great semi-structured question example would be:

"Tell me about a time when you encountered a difficult coding challenge. How did you go about solving it?"

The goal here is to get the candidate talking about their problem-solving capabilities and thought process for tackling relevant challenges they may face in the role they're interviewing for.

After you've asked the candidate a few semi-structured questions, it's time to move on to behavioral questions.

This is where you can start to get a sense of the candidate's personality and see how they think on their feet. These questions should be specific to the role and company, and they should help you understand how the candidate would perform in the role if they were hired.

If you struggle to follow a list of semi-structured questions, interview intelligence software can guide you through the interview process efficiently with prompts. This will make it far easier for individuals or panels to interview candidates and compare responses side-by-side.

Interviewing Best Practices for Managers

Interviewing managers brings a bit more of a challenge. They’re typically more experienced and have a better understanding of what they want in a role.

They've probably also been interviewed or interviewed many times.

When interviewing managers, you should thoroughly analyze:

How they lead,
How they listen,
How they follow your lead
And, the brevity with which they communicate.

Clear and concise communication is critical to every person leading a team so that everyone is on the same page and heading in the right direction.

If a manager can’t communicate effectively, it will lead to conflicts and a lack of productivity amongst team members. This is why asking behavioral questions during an interview with a manager candidate can be so revealing.

One of the most effective behavioral questions to ask manager candidates is:

"Tell me about a person who left your team. What happened and how did you help them through the transition?"

This will give you a clear picture of how they care for and value their subordinates and what kind of coaching or mentorship style they have.

Interviewing best practices for managers include:

- Focusing on the future: Many managers have extensive experience that they can fall back on. As an interviewer, you want to focus on what they're looking to do next in their career and why they're interested in the role you're hiring for.

- Asking them about times they've failed: Everyone has experienced failure at some point in their career. Asking a manager about a time they failed can help you understand how they deal with adversity and how they learn from their mistakes.

- Probe into their motivations: Managers are often looking for a change of pace or a new challenge. Try to understand what's driving their job search and see if it's a good fit for your company.

- Be prepared to sell them on the role: Since managers are often more experienced, they may have a better understanding of what they want in a role. You should be prepared to sell them on the opportunity and explain how it can help them meet their goals.

Types of interview techniques are far more familiar to managers than other types of candidates.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate being interviewed in a way that feels personalized to them.

By taking the time to understand the motivation behind their job search, you can make the interview process feel more like a conversation and less like an interrogation.

Interviewing Techniques for Interviewers

The interview process is also an opportunity for interviewers to demonstrate their skills.

An interviewer who is able to put candidates at ease, ask the right questions, and read between the lines will be more likely to find the best fit for the role.

Some interviewing techniques for interviewers include:

- Active listening: One of the most important skills for an interviewer is the ability to listen actively. This means being present in the moment and paying attention to what the candidate is saying, both verbally and nonverbally.

- Asking follow-up questions: Follow-up questions are a great way to get more information from a candidate. They also show that you're paying attention and engaged in the conversation.

- Reading body language: An interviewer should also be aware of the candidate's body language. This can give you insights into how the candidate is feeling and how they're responding to the questions.

- Taking notes: Notes are essential for keeping track of the interview. They also show the candidate that you're interested in what they have to say.

The interview process is a two-way street. It's an opportunity for both the interviewer and interviewee to learn more about each other.

If you're a manager, a great interviewing tip for managers hiring their own team is to focus on the future, vision, capabilities, and learning agility of the candidate.

This will help you understand their desire and willingness to grow as the company scales.

Asking questions like these can help you identify candidates who are truly passionate about the opportunity.

How to Start an Interview As an Interviewer

Have you ever been late to an interview and felt like you were rushing to get caught up?

It's uncomfortable for the candidate and sets the whole interview process up for failure.

So we're going to break this down into a couple of sections:
1. How to start an interview as the interviewer.
2. How to conduct an interview - 6 steps to use as your guide.
3. How to end an interview as the interviewer.

How to Start:

The best way to start an interview is by being on time and prepared.

This means doing your research, having a list of semi-structured questions ready, and taking the time to review the candidate's resume, Linkedin, any relevant social media, and portfolio of work.

It's important to create a welcoming environment for the candidate. This can be as simple as looking at mutual connections, topics of interest or influencers you both follow, and any other commonalities you can find.

The goal is to make the candidate feel comfortable and get them to talk about themselves in a natural way.

6 Steps in Conducting an Interview:

1. Introduce yourself and explain the purpose of the interview.
2. Give the candidate a chance to introduce themselves.
3. Explain the structure of the interview.
4. Ask semi-structured questions and give the candidate a chance to answer them.
5. Summarize the conversation and make time for follow-up questions
6.Tell the candidate about the next steps in the process.

How to end:

How you end an interview is just as important as how you start it.

Thank the candidate for their time, shake their hand or fist bump (if in person & depending on what's appropriate), and let them know what the next steps are or when they can expect to hear back from you about the next steps.

If you think the interview went well, this is also a good time to tell them that you're looking forward to it.

Either way, do not leave candidates hanging.

It's rude and unprofessional. The goal is to create a positive experience for the candidate, even if they don't end up getting the job.

The interview process is a two-way street and you want to be sure to treat candidates with respect throughout the entire process.

By following these tips, you'll be well on your way to creating a great interview process that selects the right candidates and moves them through an efficient hiring process.

If you're looking to improve your hiring process, you may want to consider using an interview intelligence platform like Pillar. This tool can help you keep track of interviewer performance, compare scoring across candidates, and get insights into areas of improvement so you can coach your team.

Pillar is an invaluable tool for managers who want to ensure their team is consistently delivering great interviews, offering candidates equitable hiring conditions, or who simply want to improve their interview process.

If you're interested in learning more about how Pillar can help you streamline your hiring process, click here to request a demo.