6 Tips for conducting a great job interview
At this point, you’ve spent hours combing over resumes and asking the same questions over and over on the phone. Finally, you’ve come to probably the most important stage in the hiring process: the in-person interview. This will be the best opportunity for you and the candidate to truly get to know each other. If you’re really excited about a particular candidate, it’s critical to leave them with the type of positive experience that creates a sense of loss if they contemplate other options (not working at your company).
Read on to learn how you can conduct a great job interview that will enhance your hiring decision-making process while creating a positive candidate experience.
And don’t miss out on our recommended interview questions at the bottom of the page. They’re helpful no matter what kind of position you’re hiring for!
1. Set a comfortable tone
Chances are, there are going to be nerves at play. A tense interview can feel like a series of power-plays, while a great job interview feels like a conversation. The more at-ease your candidate feels, the more likely they are to be honest and give you a window into who they truly are.
You should maintain a comfortable room temperature, offer them water or coffee, and have the interview in a non-confining space. Take a few minutes to get the candidate acclimated to the area and people with a tour; don’t just jump into rapid-fire questioning. Show off what makes your space unique! Then, ask some easy, softball questions that will painlessly ease the candidate into “interviewing mode,” such as asking them what their first job was like.
2. Take advantage of tandem interviewing
It’s a great idea to get others involved in the interview process, whether that’s upper management or a direct coworker. This allows the candidate to meet more people and gain more perspective of what work is like at multiple levels of your company. It will also make them feel valued, since more is being invested in them as a candidate.
In a team interview, you can also take turns asking questions and note-taking, ensuring that nothing the candidate says is missed. It is difficult to both drive the interview and ask all the questions yourself, while trying to actively listen and ask follow up questions. Moreover, this gives you the opportunity to get stronger feedback on the candidate. Other minds can validate or challenge the thoughts you have about a particular candidate, or give you something new to think about.
3. Keep the interview(s) focused and timely
Depending on the position, you may be planning on conducting multiple interviews (culture fit, technical interview, and so on). This is perfectly fine — as long as each interview has a clear focus and clearly moves the process along. The last thing you want to do is fatigue your candidate with a string of 3-4 interviews that feel repetitive.
This also means that the interviews should be held in fairly quick succession, ideally all within the span of a week or two at most. Especially when you’re dealing with candidates who are in high demand (e.g., software engineers, designers), a well-paced interview process will help prevent losing them to other job opportunities.
4. Avoid “do not ask” questions at all costs
There are some questions you cannot ask in an interview, whether they’re downright illegal or simply inappropriate. These questions generally involve matters of religion, sexuality, politics, disability, and sometimes criminal history or salary history. In general, stay away from anything that could be misconstrued as you trying to pry into someone’s non-professional life. A great job interview is focused on the role itself and how well the candidate can perform relevant tasks.
Even if a candidate offers something personal, e.g. “I’m looking for part-time work because I’m a single mother running a household,” that still isn’t a pass for you to ask more about her personal situation. At best, you’ll come across as invasive, and at worst, you’ll find yourself slammed with a lawsuit. Remember: A great job interview probably won’t lead to getting sued.
5. Do ask relevant and non-leading situational questions
We talk about this in our phone interview questions post, but it definitely bears repeating. These are integral to a great job interview because they’ll demonstrate how the candidate has acted in relevant situations. If it’s a client-driven role, for example, you may want to know what the candidate has done when they had competing client demands. The trick is to phrase these questions in a non-leading way. Don’t ask someone if they’re “good at juggling multiple priorities.” This will lead to a no-brainer response. Instead, ask if they can tell you “about a time in which they were juggling competing client demands.”
These questions will help you see how a candidate views, interprets, and reacts to work-related scenarios. The ideal candidate 1) has experience with these scenarios, 2) can easily speak to how they overcame any challenges, and 3) will proactively identify what they did to prevent issues from happening in the future.
6. Be honest and enthusiastic in turn
You should be giving back what you expect from the candidate. If they tell you about a fascinating or complex challenge they had to overcome at work — engage them on it! Ask simple follow-up questions (e.g. Why were you working on that assignment?) that can help reveal the scope of a candidate’s contribution. It also shows them that you’re genuinely interested. Don’t be afraid to get a little “off course” if it provides space for a meaningful connection, or important context that was missing on the resume.
You’ll also want to carve out time for the candidate to ask you questions too. This is your opportunity to sell what makes your company great, while preparing the candidate for the role. Be prepared to answer questions related to things like team structure, potential challenges, and what makes you excited to work at your company. If you find yourself struggling with any of these, it’ll reflect poorly on your preparedness and the company in general.
By implementing these tips into your process, you’ll be well on your way to having tons of great job interviews with eager and motivated candidates. Remember, you should want to set up your candidates for success! The sooner that someone nails the interview and has a great time doing it, the sooner you’ll have that perfect hire.