How to Conduct Effective, Painless Interviews

A personal interview is your chance to really get to know a prospective employee.  You get the opportunity to delve deeper into the skills and requirements needed for the job and you get a better idea of how qualified the person is as opposed to talking to them about it over the phone.  Most importantly, however, you get a glimpse at the passion, personality, attitude, and cultural fit of the candidate.  However, job seekers aren’t the only ones who can be stressed by interviews.  It can be difficult for the employer as well because they are trying to get as much information as possible in a short amount of time.  Assessing the best person after talking to several well-rehearsed candidates is no easy feat.  Luckily, there are several techniques that can help managers conduct effective interviews.

Start by putting the candidate at ease.

Candidates find interviews stressful because they don’t know what the interviewer will be like, what kinds of questions will be asked, and how they are going to squeeze a lengthy interview into their busy schedule.  The first job of the interviewer is to try and lower the candidate’s stress levels.  You will get a much better idea of what the person is really like if they feel comfortable and at ease.  Tell them in advance what questions you might discuss and be willing to meet them at a time that is convenient for them.  Avoid quirky questions that are just going to throw the candidate off if they are not going to provide you with helpful information.

Ask open-ended questions.

Prepare questions in advance that will allow the candidate to do most of the talking.  Examples include:

“Why did you leave your last position?”

“What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?”

“What do you consider to be your strongest skills?”

“What is the most important factor in your work environment for you to be successful?”

Ask questions that are related to the position so you can get a better idea of how well this candidate is suited for the job.

Do your homework beforehand.

It’s not only important for the candidate to prepare ahead of time.  The interviewer should do the same.  Familiarize yourself with their resume and read over their background.  Refer to their resume in your interview and allow them to further explain specific details.

Use consistent questions with everyone. 

Using the same questions in each interview not only reduces your stress and makes the process much smoother, but it allows you to easily compare answers among candidates.  While the questions will be the same, you should press candidates by asking follow-up questions or asking them to provide additional details about their answer.

Build solid questions.

It is important that you have a clear understanding of exactly what you are looking for before you begin your interviews.  What skills are preferred?  What personality type are you looking for?  How much experience is needed to do the job? Once you have established these basics you can build questions centered around the specifics of the job as well as the company culture.

Take notes.

It is impossible to remember everything that a candidate says, especially if you are interviewing multiple candidates.  Take good notes so you can easily remember the candidate’s answers in order to compare them with others.  You might even consider having another person in the room who acts solely as a note taker.  This way you can refer back to your notes at a later time.

Don’t forget to relax and be inviting.

Remember that you are not only assessing the candidate but they are assessing you as well.  Interviewers who appear relaxed and appear more inviting to a candidate are more likely to get a better idea of what the person is really like.  In addition, it sets a welcoming tone that helps put the candidate at ease.  While you should certainly focus on questions that relate to the job, do give the candidate an opportunity to share a little bit about themselves such as their hobbies, family, educational background, etc.  This helps to build a good rapport with candidates.