You’ve posted the job ad, whittled down the pile of CVs on your desk and created a shortlist of your favourite candidates. Now it’s time to conduct the face-to-face interviews but what questions should you ask? How can you get to know a relative stranger in such a short period of time? Should you involve others in your company in the interview process and what questions should you ask?
Why interviews are vital and the importance of getting them right
Conducting an effective job interview is essential if you want to make sure you’re hiring the right staff for your business. By the time you invite candidates for an interview you’ll already have made an objective assessment of their skills and competencies and believe they can fulfil the role in question. You’ll also have a good idea of whether they’ll fit in with your company culture. An interview is an opportunity to confirm their potential, to see if they would be able to perform the job and if they have the motivation to do so.
An interview also helps you get to know their personality and whether they would be a good fit with you and your staff – how someone comes across on paper can be different to how they are in real life. Plus, it’s a chance to evaluate their confidence and communication skills.
In addition, the interview process can have an impact on your organisation’s long-term employee turnover costs and retention rates. If you get the interview right, you will pick someone who is much more suitable for your business, likely to stay with the company much longer and to grow with it.
Steps for conducting an effective interview
Review the job description
Reread the job description and make sure you’re familiar with all aspects. Pay special attention to the hiring criteria ready for interview.
Review candidate’s CV and cover letter
Refresh your memory about the candidate’s application. What was it that made you shortlist them, what stood out? Also, make a note of anything that needs clarification, any odd job titles or gaps in job or education history.
Involve the right people
Getting other people on board can be really helpful. This can be a senior staff member, board member or co-worker. With their input you can help plan the interview and develop selection criteria, screen CVs and get a better feel for whether the person might fit in well in your organisation.
Make a plan
Schedule out the interview so you can make sure your cover all topics you want to and you don’t go off on a tangent. This also helps you to keep to the allotted time rather than running over.
Sort your key interview questions
Work out the most important interview questions you want to ask based on the candidate’s application that deserve further investigation as well as questions based on the job description and hiring criteria.
Make some of those questions open-ended
Asking open-ended questions will get the candidate to elaborate more on the topic and give you a sense of what motivates them, what their career plans are and whether they will be a good fit. Yes and no answers can provide some information but they are not overly illuminating. Be prepared to improvise if they come up with unexpected answers and even practise “what if” scenarios.
Find a comfortable setting
Make sure you choose somewhere both your interviewee and you will feel comfortable and make sure you put them at their ease – they’ll already be pretty nervous in the first place! Offer refreshments, make eye contact and strike up conversation with a topic that will get them to relax.
Obviously you need to ask questions but take more time to listen to what they say and observe their responses, their non-verbal cues and mannerisms. You’re not there to wax lyrical about your company for the entire interview because you already know that intimately but you are there to find out whether the candidate will fit in with that.
Be aware of what you can’t ask
Keep the focus of your questions on business and the role of offer, only touch nominally on personal life. Make sure you steer clear of questions of race, sex, gender, religion, disability, family, nationality or marital status – you don’t want to face a discrimination suit at a later date.