The interview is where decisions are made – by you and by the candidate. If you have both prepared and planned properly, then whatever decision is reached, by both parties, will be the right one. Put some consideration into each stage of the interview process.
Where – candidates will want to see your workplace, so showcase the positive aspects of the environment, but also make sure you show it as it is.
When – if possible, schedule all the interviews back to back. It is far easier to compare candidates if you see them together. Be flexible and be prepared to interview early, late and at weekends.
Who – anyone who has a decisive voice in the hiring process should be involved at some stage, as should the line manager. At least one person should attend both (or all) interviews if possible.
Simply turning up for a conversation will not show your company at its best or impress the candidate. Even the best judges of character benefit from a structured and objective assessment.
Broadly speaking there are two types of interview – interrogative and competency based. Interrogative interviews ask open questions of candidates to allow them to talk about their career and experiences. Typical questions are:
What experience do you have in…?,
Talk to me about your strengths…
How successful were you in that role?
Competency based interviews are more situational – they are designed to allow the candidate to demonstrate specific evidence that they have the skills and experience you require. We recommend that at least some competency based questions be introduced for all but the most junior positions. An example of a competency based interview framework is here.
Whichever format, or combination of formats, you choose, be sure to be consistent with each candidate by adopting the same structure and same questions.
Determine beforehand, with your other decision makers, how you are going to score or rank the candidates – what are the most important elements that you are hoping to see?
For junior roles, one interview may suffice. Generally for more senior roles, two interviews will be needed. If this is an important hire, a single, one hour meeting, is probably not long enough for you both to evaluate each other.
You want to see the candidates at their best. So help them by giving them the information they need. The time set for the interview, the location and any assistance with directions are a must. It is also helpful to tell them who they will meet, how long it will last, how many interviews there will be and what format they will take. If using competency based questions, there is no harm in providing these in advance – it removes any excuse for a candidate not to perform.
If you request that they bring a presentation, offer them two options for delivery. For example, bring a laptop, or a USB and a printed version of the presentation, just in case of technical failure.
If you have prepared properly, the meeting itself should go smoothly. However, despite the best preparation, things can still go wrong. Here’s how to get the best from the meeting:
Stick to the plan – you have prepared an interview structure so ensure you follow it, for each candidate.
Watch the clock – at the start of the meeting, remind everyone of how long you have and let the candidate know you will move along if they are stuck on one question for too long. Then ensure that you do this if it occurs. Manage the candidate’s response.
There are many reasons why a candidate may stray from the point in an interview, usually nerves or anxiety, but they may not have heard you properly or may have misunderstood. If the candidate is not answering the question, guide them back.
Sorry, I don’t think I explained that very well – let me clarify what I’m looking for here…
If you’ve clarified the question and you still don’t get the right answer, move on. You’ve learnt something about your candidate.
Give the interviewee every opportunity to ask questions. Usually this is done towards the end of the meeting. Make sure you allow enough time for it – you want to assess how much thought and effort the candidate has put into this part of the interview.
You may have this information in advance. There is no harm in confirming it again at a meeting. Both parties should leave the meeting aware of what is potentially on offer. It is probably sensible to talk about salary ranges at this stage, but not a definitive number, as neither party wants to be tied to an absolute number. As long as the ranges are close to each other, you have something to work with. You should also determine the candidate’s full range of expectations: package; training; development etc. By asking these questions you are showing your interest in the person as an individual.
You’d be surprised how many candidates go through the full interview process and when they are offered the job, decide to stay in their current position. This can be a very frustrating outcome. You can help to avoid that by determining the candidate’s commitment.
Ask them if this is their only interview. If not, how many other companies are they seeing? How interested are they in your role? Is there any aspect of the position they need to clarify? If you are interested in the candidate you want to start testing their appetite at this stage.
The interview scenario should reflect your workplace environment. The candidate needs to see you, and your company, in their natural state. This is not an interrogation; it is a two way conversation. You are there to give the best representation of the company in the same way the candidate is there to sell themselves to you.
After the interview(s) have finished, determine who has performed well and who hasn’t. Rule out and reject anyone who you felt clearly could not do the job you want or who you sensed could not work well with you and your team. Hopefully there will be more than one candidate with whom you could work. Rank potential candidates in order of preference and proceed to the offer stage with your preferred candidate. It is often wise to keep any other serious contenders ‘warm’ at this stage, as you may not secure your first choice.
Provide detailed feedback to the unsuccessful candidates. Brief pointers as to what they did well and what could have been better will be appreciated and will leave a positive impression. Everyone yearns constructive feedback so they can correct their errors and come back stronger and more confident for their next interview.
If you follow this process, even the unsuccessful candidates will come away with an encouraging impression of your company. It’s a small world, whether in your region or your line of business. An angry, rejected candidate could damage your employer brand whilst a positive one could attract future candidates.