How to Start an Interview as the Interviewer (With Sample Scripts)

Female hiring manager wearing a blue blouse sitting in her own office across from a candidate holding a piece of paper about to start an interview

The interview process is often the only opportunity a candidate has to interact face-to-face with potential new coworkers. Making a good impression is essential to ensuring that candidates leave the process eager and enthusiastic about the job. 

The first few minutes of the interview will set the tone for the rest of the conversation, so you want to start strong. Follow these tips for how to start an interview as the interviewer, and use the following sample script to facilitate a positive and productive interaction. 

Instructions for Starting the Interview

1. Begin with a warm greeting

Greet the candidate by name with a warm smile and a firm handshake. Thank them for attending, and let them know your time is valuable. 

While you don’t want to waste too much time before diving into the interview, a bit of small talk can help break the ice and make the candidate feel at ease. Consider asking them about their morning, their commute to the office, or another polite topic of conversation. 

2. Introduce yourself

A good candidate already has done their homework and knows who you are. However, formally introducing yourself and other people participating in the interview is still a professional courtesy. Give your name and title and briefly explain your role at the company. Do the same for each additional interviewer, or give each person the chance to make a brief introduction. 

3. Outline the interview structure

Interviews are most effective when they follow a predetermined structure. This helps keep the conversation on track and ensures you can cover all of the important topics during the allotted time. 

Outlining a rough timeline breakdown at the start of the interview sets expectations.

Here’s an example timeline for a 40-minute interview:

  • 5 minutes: Introductions
  • 10 minutes: Candidate’s background
  • 10 minutes: Strengths and skills
  • 10 minutes: Personality and culture
  • 5 minutes: Questions from candidate

Be sure to point out that the candidate will have a chance to ask questions at the end of the interview so they can be thinking of what they want to ask. 

Additionally, suppose you’re using a format other than a traditional one-on-one interview, like a panel. In that case, it helps to explain briefly how the interview will be conducted.

4. Start with a general question

To transition into the interview and help you get to know the applicant, ask a question that prompts them to talk broadly about themself as a candidate. It can be helpful to bring up a specific detail from their resume to give them a starting point. For example, “I understand you’re currently in a sales associate position. Tell me about how you found yourself in that role.”

First Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

While you’re probably eager to hear about the candidate’s big success stories and professional ambitions, starting with a more generic question is best. This allows for a natural segue from small talk to deeper topics and gives the candidate a chance to give you their elevator pitch. 

Here are some good examples of questions to begin an interview.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Walk me through your background.
  • Why were you interested in this position?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What skills would you bring to the role?

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Sample Script to Start an Interview

Hi, [candidate name]. It’s nice to meet you. I really appreciate you coming in today. Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule. I hope your day is going well so far.

I’m [your name], and I’m [job title] here at [company]. My job is to [give a brief explanation of your duties]. 

This interview will last about [interview length]. We’ll cover [topic #1, topic #2, topic #3]. At the end I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have. 

Let’s get started. Your resume says you’re currently a [candidate’s current job title] with [company name]. Tell me about what you do there.

Example Interview Introduction

“Hello, Mirabel. Thank you so much for meeting with us today. We’re excited to chat with you. Did you have any trouble finding the office?

My name is Keith Sommers, and I am Mead Corporation’s VP of Operations. I oversee the development department, as well as our finance and marketing teams.

Two other interviewers are joining us: Kathy Hix, our head of HR, and Michael Hernandez, our web development manager. If you were to join our team, Mike would be your direct manager. 

This is a panel-style interview, so each of us will take turns asking questions and might follow up on one another’s questions. The interview is divided into three main topics: technical skills, prior experience, and work style. We’ll spend about 10 to 15 minutes on each topic. At the end, you’ll have about 5 minutes to ask any of us questions. 

Ready to get started? Back-end programming knowledge is one of the main criteria we’re looking for for this role. What skills do you have in this area?”

Tips for a Strong Start to an Interview

Allow ample time

Don’t try to conduct an interview when you’re rushed. Avoid scheduling your next meeting back to back with the interview’s end time; instead, build in a buffer to gather your thoughts, jot down notes, and complete candidate scoring. If the conversation runs long, this will also give you a few minutes of flex time. 

Check the space

Before the candidate arrives, prepare the interview space. Make sure the room you plan on using isn’t double-booked and is clean and presentable. Check that there are enough chairs, that it’s not too hot or too cold, and that you have water available for yourself and the candidate. 

Review the candidate’s resume

You’ve presumably already seen the candidate’s resume, but it’s a good idea to review it again just before your conversation. This will ensure that the correct details are fresh in your mind and will remind you of any questions you want to ask this particular candidate. 

Communicate important details

Head off any anxiety by addressing topics about which the applicant will likely have questions. For example, if it’s a Zoom interview, let them know whether it’s being recorded and if so, how the recording will be used.

Keep it positive

Maintain a warm tone even if the interview isn’t going well. Remember, for a strong employer brand, you want all candidates (even the ones you don’t hire) to leave the experience with a positive impression. Interviewing is stressful, and you’ll make the experience a smoother one for everyone involved if you keep a professional and enthusiastic demeanor. 

Starting an interview strong as the interviewer fosters a constructive dialogue and helps you build rapport with potential future team members. With an inviting greeting, clear communication, and a tone of respect, you’ll create an environment where you can have a meaningful conversation and make an accurate hiring decision. 

Related: How to End the Interview as the Hiring Manager

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the President of 4 Corner Resources, the staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. 4 Corner is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance, and the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida. Recent awards and recognition include being named to Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete also founded zengig, to offer comprehensive career advice, tools, and resources for students and professionals. He hosts two podcasts, Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and is blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn