One can hardly escape business school (okay, high school) without being well-prepared to go into an interview, blow away potential employers with your poise, intelligence, and wit, and land the job of your dreams. There are whole how-to guides, and books, and classes devoted to the art of rocking a job interview. But what about what it takes to sit on the other side of the table? How exactly does one go about conducting a job interview to find success, meaning, and ultimately, the best hire for the job (as opposed to someone who just looks good in an interview. Thanks a lot, ubiquitous interview prep guides!)
Well, here is your how-to list. Because knowing your business inside and out is only a start when it comes to knowing how to interview someone, we’ve compiled a list of points to consider, questions to ask, and things to definitely not do when trying to filter through a waiting room full of potential new employees.
- Know exactly what you’re looking for
There should undoubtedly be some prep work on your and your team’s behalf before ever issuing the first job posting, or scheduling the first interview. The primary goal of that prep work is to fully and precisely outline what the job is. What roles will this person fill? What tasks will they do? Who will they report to? Who will work under them? How good will their parking space be? You get the idea. And you should, as should your team before candidates walk in the door.
- Streamline the interview process
With good reason, most interviews are not a one-and-done situation; many candidates find themselves in front of two or three different interviewers before being signed off on for the job. If this process is part of your hiring plan, make sure you know how it is going to play out: what the interview hierarchy will be, who will ask what questions, what will be the criteria for passing someone on to the next level, etc. You don’t want to waste your time and theirs by asking the same questions in every interview, so make sure you have a way of documenting the content of each meeting to share with the others in your company.
- Ask questions that fit what you really want to know
If the job in question requires a lot of interpersonal interaction, like say, customer service, you need to get a feel for how each candidate would react in somewhat confrontational situations (hey, it happens.) You can either go about this by asking a question about their ability to handle stress (“Tell me about a stressful work encounter and how you handled it.) or you can ask a question that creates stress, like pointing out a part of their resume that makes them unqualified for the job, allowing you to actually witness their stress reaction. A little brutal? Sure. But effective.
- Don’t do all the talking
It’s your company, you know the job and its roles, you know what you’re looking for…it can almost seem natural for you to do a lot of talking in a job interview. And any candidate who knows what they’re doing will want you to talk a lot; the more they can find out about you, your company, and your individual personality, the more able they are to appeal to you in just the right way. It’s smart. So you have to be smarter. Certainly offer guiding questions to give a framework to their responses, but let them do the talking. You want to know about them. Of course they’re also there to find out about your company and the job in question, but if they have questions, they should ask. No matter the job, you likely want someone who is assertive and pro-active enough to ask questions, right? So make sure you don’t hog the mic.
- Have a way to measure candidates
Particularly if you’re having more than one person interview candidates, it’s essential to have a rating system, in addition to taking notes (or even recording the interviews, but of course, you’ll need permission) so each person on the hiring committee has at least a vaguely uniform way of communicating info about the candidates and a framework for discussions on who to hire.