Ten Ways to Conduct a Successful Interview

By Lisa Correu, Principal/Job Search Advocate, AfterSchool Career Workshops

There's a lot of advice out there about how to succeed at a job interview (just read the previous post) but not as much on how to sit at the other side of the table. A great candidate may be lost simply because the interviewer has never been taught how to conduct an interview. They just hang out in a room with a total stranger, make small talk, and then recommend or reject based solely on if they liked them. That’s unfair and ridiculous. So here are some pointers. I’m not addressing specific interview questions as much as the vital peripheral details that can make an interview productive and result in a great hire.

Do YOU know how to interview?

1. Put your candidate at ease. If you’re walking with them to the interview location use that time to make them feel comfortable. Get some coffee or take a short tour of the building to let them relax.  Make a little harmless small talk. "How about that curling match between Finland and Estonia?"

2. Know the job duties. If you’re with a candidate that won't be a direct report or you’re not familiar with the position details get a job description and see what qualifications are necessary, concentrating on the most critical. If the previous position holder was an ace ask why and if those qualities should be added to the list. Make certain all other interviewers receive the same info. Nothing says you don’t have your act together more than asking the candidate why they're in your office.

3. Here’s a good one: Read the resume before you meet with them. What a concept. Even better, Google them and read their profile on LinkedIn. It’s a great starting point and makes better use of the interview time.

4. Do you go to church, are you married or are those real are NOT on your list of interview questions. Do your homework on what subjects aren’t just inappropriate but also illegal. A discrimination lawsuit should not be part of the interview process.

5. Always send a job description to the candidate before the interview and when possible one or two interview questions so they can prepare answers when they aren't as nervous.  A great employee may not be great in an interview so give them the chance to do well. You can still test how they think on their feet but then compare with a thoughtful answer.

6. Bring along a live situation from a current project and ask for their feedback or solution. This can augment or even replace the “tell me about a problem you had in the past and how you dealt with it”  question.  Anyone can bring a story about how they were the rock star and saved the world. By presenting an actual project that they would participate in as a team member you can gauge how they might meet the challenge.

7. If the candidate is meeting with several people in succession offer breaks and refreshments.  Having to pee while discussing your strategic philosophy is not fun.  On the flip-side avoid the gang interview if possible. No one is at their peak with eight total strangers staring expectantly at them.  If you absolutely need to make it a group keep it down to four or five max.  It’s an interview, not an interrogation.

8. Be optimistic and forgiving. If a candidate is texting during the interview, wears a blouse better suited for a hooker or bad mouths their last employer then show them the door. But if it’s snowing and they’re a bit late, they’re nervous or don’t answer a question to your satisfaction cut them some slack and focus on what they are doing correctly. If that outweighs the other misstep you can continue with the process.

9. Make note of your impressions immediately following the interview. If there are multiple candidates you’ll need to be able to tell them apart. Nobody wants to hire Sally when they really meant Sue. That Sally is a right mess.

10. Give clear direction at the end of the interview about next steps. Let them know when you expect to make a decision and if you go with someone else let them know immediately.  Extend the same courtesy you would expect for yourself.

You may think I’m telling you to go easy while conducting the interview. But I see more and more how interviews are becoming almost adversarial; a hazing rather than a dialogue and this isn’t good for anyone. There are great people out there who just don't interview well and those who shine in an interview who can't find the fourth floor. Setting up a good environment allows both to be seen as what they are.  A bad hire is costly both monetarily and culturally.  Not to mention that your boss may not trust you with the next one. Knowing how to effectively conduct an interview can put someone in place sooner and you can get on with the more important stuff like whose birthday is today and if there’s cake.

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