4. Managing the interview

Hiring a new employee takes a significant commitment of time and energy because you want to make sure the new addition is going to integrate smoothly with your team. On paper, a particular applicant may seem like an almost ideal match. But unless you’re disciplined and vigilant, you may be impressed by the wrong person who has all the right answers.

To make the most of this critical phase in the hiring process, follow these 7 steps:


1. Do your prep work.

Develop an approach you will use with all candidates.Rank the key factors required for the job in order of importance.Here again, let the job description you created be your guide.

2. Ask the right questions.

Prepare a list of specific questions that will allow you to explore each applicant’s problem-solving abilities, interpersonal skills and suitability for the job. Vary the style of your questions. Ask closed-ended, factual ones (e.g., “How many years did you work for business A?”); open-ended questions (e.g., “Can you describe your major accomplishments at business A?”); and hypothetical, job-related scenarios (e.g., “How would you handle a situation in which …?”) to assess the person’s work style and compatibility with your company’s culture.

Here are some more Key Interview Questions

  • What do you know about our company, and why do you want to work here?
  • What were your most significant contributions or accomplishments in your previous position?
  • What would you have changed about your last job and why?
  • What type of work environment is least appealing to you?
  • Can you provide an example of how you handled a workplace conflict?

3. Pay attention.

Fight the urge to formulate your next question while the applicant is still responding to the last one. You need to listen attentively to pick up on bits of information you might otherwise overlook.

4. Rephrase questions to get complete answers.

If an applicant’s response to your question is vague or insufficient, don’t be afraid to ask it in a different way. For example, rephrase “Why did you leave your previous position?” to “What types of opportunities are you looking for that your last job didn’t provide?”

5. Don’t rush to judgement.

Try to avoid forming an opinion too quickly about an applicant. Wait until after the interview to evaluate responses and make interpretations.

6. Take notes.

Your memory can play tricks on you, leading you to ignore what actually happened during an interview and rely instead on general impressions. Taking notes helps you avoid this common pitfall. Just make sure you do so unobtrusively so that potential candidates don’t feel like they have to pause for you to keep pace.

7. End on a positive note.

Once you feel you have enough information and you’ve made a pitch for what your organisation has to offer, end the interview politely. Thank the applicant for his or her time and interest, and briefly mention subsequent steps (e.g., “We’ll begin the second round of interviews next week.”).

5 things to avoid when interviewing job applicants

The job interview is a critical first step in determining someone’s potential with your organisation. But if you make one of the following common mistakes, you could jeopardise the effectiveness of this stage of the hiring process:

1. We’re too busy.

Failing to give adequate time to the interview process can result in a bad hire. No matter how busy you are, be sure to prepare for interviews in advance so you can thoughtfully evaluate the applicants with whom you meet.

2. I can just wing it.

Unsuccessful interviewers create a different routine for each interview. If you’re not consistent with your process, you’ll deprive yourself of the thing you need most to compare applicants: an objective standard on which to base your conclusions. Scheduling back-to-back interviews, when possible, also can assist with your comparisons.

3. The candidate was great – she agreed with everything I said.

If you’re talking more than 20 per cent of the time, you’re talking too much. Probing through active listening (for example, letting the applicant’s comments spark related questions) allows you to gain valuable information you’d miss if you dominated the conversation.

4. I loved his designer suit.

You may become so enraptured by one particular aspect of the applicant – appearance, credentials or interests – that it colours all your other judgments. Do your best to keep these tendencies in check.

5. I can read people like a book.

The ability to “read” people can be an enormously valuable skill. But don’t get carried away and try to seek out the subconscious meaning behind everything the applicant says and does.


Part 4. Reference checking and making your decision