Interviews are one of the most important aspects of selecting the right candidate for a job. Not only does the interview help you validate a candidate’s skills and assess culture fit, but it also impacts the candidate’s experience and their impression of your organization. Thus, your interview skills have an outsized impact on your operational success. We’ll share tips on how to be a good interviewer and offer strategies for improving your hiring process.
The Importance of Being a Good Interviewer
Interviews aid the hiring process in numerous ways. Here are a few of the biggest implications interviews can have.
Reading a candidate’s resume is one thing, but it’s often not until you hear a person talk about their qualifications in their own words that you really get a feel for their knowledge. An interview is an important opportunity to assess a candidate’s skill level and hear their pitch for why they’d make a strong hire.
Speaking with a candidate face to face or via video call gives you a better idea of who they are as a person, which is just as important as technical skills when hiring. To build a strong team, you want to hire people who are trustworthy, dependable, and considerate. Being a good interviewer helps identify these characteristics.
The best hires are those who want to work for your company, not just any company. They’re more likely to be engaged in their work and to remain with the organization for a longer time when they have a genuine interest in the job. A great interviewer can get a sense of a candidate’s interest level and find out how many other companies they might also be talking with, which can influence a potential job offer.
Providing a positive candidate experience
Poor interview skills can make a conversation with a candidate dull, awkward, and uncomfortable. The interview is one of the only chances a candidate has to speak with people inside the company. If the experience is a negative one, they’re more likely to withdraw from the hiring process or choose another employer over you. Being a good interviewer helps the interaction flow smoothly, which is much more enjoyable for the candidate.
Boosting hiring efficiency
Being a good interviewer isn’t just about having good conversational skills. It also requires strong time management, like sticking to the allotted time frame and completing all of the necessary interviews in a timely manner. Maintaining momentum is crucial for an expedient hiring process, which helps in controlling costs and securing top talent.
Qualities of a Good Interviewer
A good interviewer has a genuine investment in the process and a willingness to put in the work that’s required. This includes researching candidates in advance, gaining knowledge about various positions, and completing thorough, timely assessments.
While there’s some benefit to seeing how a candidate performs when they’re “on the hot seat,” you’ll get more honest answers and a much more accurate read if you can make them feel relaxed and at ease. A friendly attitude and warm demeanor can help the candidate perform their best, which helps you make a correct assessment.
A little small talk is always welcome, but strong interviewers keep the conversation on track. Sticking to topics that are directly relevant to the job will help you identify key skills and stay within the allotted time.
A good interviewer demonstrates interest and gives the candidate their full attention. This is not only respectful but helps with remembering essential details.
To keep the hiring process moving, an effective interviewer shows up on time, conducts an efficient interview, and scores candidates promptly.
One of the hardest skills to learn as an interviewer is judging candidates objectively rather than based on your gut feeling. The best interviews (and the most successful hires) happen when the interviewer keeps their assessment free from personal opinions and biases.
Interviewing comes with a hefty side of admin work. You have to stay on top of multiple candidates, keep track of where they’re at in the interview process and maintain consistent communication, all of which require strong organizational skills.
Ability to identify potential
A great interviewer can discern the unique set of qualities that make a candidate likely to succeed. This skill takes time and practice to acquire, but if you can develop it, you’ll be a better interviewer than most and will optimize your hiring success rate.
How to Be a Good Interviewer
1. Prepare in advance
Very few interviewers can go in cold and make it seem natural. Showing up unprepared gives a negative impression to candidates and makes it much harder to zero in on the necessary skills. Avoid this by preparing in advance. Review the candidate’s resume, browse their LinkedIn profile and other social media pages, and reread the job listing so the requirements are fresh in your mind.
2. Put the candidate at ease
Greet the candidate by making eye contact, smiling, offering a firm handshake, and thanking them for their participation. Use personal conversation (‘How’s your day going so far?’) or give a brief overview of the position to help break the ice and ease into the more serious topics of discussion. Be sure your phone is silenced and any other potential distractions, like Slack pings, are muted.
3. Stick to a structure
Don’t wing it. It’s a surefire way to get off track and miss out on asking the questions you really need to ask. Instead, follow a consistent structure that’s the same for each candidate. Here’s an example:
- 5 minutes: Greeting, introductions
- 10 minutes: Questions on candidate background
- 10 minutes: Questions on technical skills
- 5 minutes: Questions about culture fit
- 5 minutes: Candidate questions, wrap up
Keep in mind the structure is just a framework; you don’t want to appear as though you’re reading from a script or cut off a candidate’s answer because you’re approaching six minutes instead of five. Let the conversation flow naturally, using the structure as a guide to make sure you cover the most crucial topics.
4. Ask tailored questions
Again, you’ll want to plan ahead of time. In advance, work with other stakeholders, like department heads to develop the list of questions you’ll ask candidates. Each question should serve a purpose that’s tied directly to the job.
Asking a mix of behavioral and situational interview questions and using open-ended questions can help you make a thorough, well-rounded assessment.
If you’re doing most of the talking, there’s a problem. Once you’ve asked a question, sit back and let the candidate have the floor. Give them your undivided attention and focus on what they’re saying, taking notes about key points. You might even consider recording the interview to aid in your later assessment (provided that you’ve obtained proper consent from the candidate, of course).
6. Clarify key details
Even when you’re following an interview structure, you should allow some wiggle room to deviate if the candidate says something you want to know more about. Ask follow-up questions like ‘Can you tell me more about _____?’ and ‘Could you clarify what you meant by _____?’ to ensure you have an accurate understanding of the interviewee’s qualifications.
7. Allow the candidate to ask questions
Don’t underestimate the importance of this interview step. Candidate questions allow you to address any areas of concern the candidate may have and allow them to bring up additional strengths/skills you may not have asked about. Candidates may surprise you with the questions they ask, and their topics of interest can give you additional context on their values and interest level in the position.
8. Use a standardized scoring system
Assess all candidates using a consistent set of scoring criteria. Not only does this ensure you’re comparing applicants equally, it also helps keep subjectivity and bias out of the interview process.
Interviewing is one part skill, one part art. By continuously improving your interviewing skills, you’ll become a stronger leader, provide a better experience for candidates, and, most importantly, hire with greater success.