In today's labor market where unemployment is at an all-time low, preparing for job interviews has become essential. Not only does the process involve interviewing a candidate, it also presents an opportunity for you to position your firm as an ideal employer.
Effective interview tips for employers focus on a wide range of factors. These include:
- Adequate preparation beforehand.
- Finding ways to engage the candidate on a personal level.
- Standardizing the interview approach for all candidates.
- Asking the right, open-ended questions.
- Watching out for job interview "red flags."
Here is a closer look at ways to tilt the odds in favor of finding the best candidate for your open position.
Regardless of how good you are at talking off-the-cuff, a job interview isn't the place for a spontaneous conversation. Hiring teams or managers who "wing it" during an interview can come across as ill-prepared or not valuing the position (remember, the job candidate evaluates you and your company just as you're evaluating them). The individual seated across from you might be perfect for the job, but if they're turned off by the interview experience and decide to opt out, you'll never know.
It is important to verify information provided on a candidate's application or resume as part of an interview, but employers may be better served preparing interview questions that shed light and insight beyond the applicant's professional persona as presented on paper.
Set the candidate at ease
A job interview can be stressful. Don't look at the candidate's nervousness as an "advantage." By setting candidates at ease — something as simple as giving them a glass of water will do — this could help them be more comfortable and open about themselves, which in turn can lead to a more fruitful interview.
As you get started, offer a brief introduction of what you want to achieve, give an indication of the proposed length of the interview, and let them know there will be time afterward for their questions. Setting the scene is also a way to start building rapport with your potential employee.
Use the same criteria for each candidate
Apply the same process and ask the same questions during each job interview. This approach enables you to gather information in a uniform manner and makes the next step — evaluating how well each person does — that much easier. It can also help minimize bias or other negative factors that may creep into the interview process.
Ask probing and open-ended questions
Questions that invite a "yes" or "no" answer won't help you get beneath the surface with a promising candidate. Ask open-ended questions that invite people to open up about their background, ambitions, skills, and so on. Examples of such questions might include:
- "Why are you thinking about leaving your current job?"
- "What's the most rewarding experience you've had in your career?"
By listening closely to their answers, you can probe a bit deeper and learn more about what makes the candidate unique.
Ask follow-up questions
As noted, open-ended questions offer the potential for insights into how a candidate thinks. But even they can be anticipated by a savvy job-seeker. Pay close attention to the candidate's initial answer to your open-ended question, but don't leave it at that. Ask follow-up questions that attempt to dig deeper into what the candidate has told you. This is the best opportunity to get an authentic, unrehearsed answer to your question.
Beware of questions you're prohibited from asking
Certain potential interview questions are prohibited by state regulations and by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Such interview questions could potentially make your company liable in a discrimination lawsuit.
For example, avoid any potential interview questions that touch upon an individual's race, ethnicity, or gender. Don't ask about the candidate's citizenship status or place of birth. Questions concerning religion or a physical or mental disability should be avoided at all costs. The same holds true for inquiries related to a person's marital status or if a candidate is pregnant.
Keep detailed notes
Don't try to evaluate how each interview went just on your memory alone. It's okay to take notes during the interview (politely explain to the candidate that you'll be doing so), but try to keep these notes to a minimum — whatever's needed to identify key facts and jog your memory later on.
Watch for non-verbal behavior
A candidate's body language is often as informative as the verbal responses they give to your questions. Throughout the interview, keep an eye on their body language, how they sit, or their tone of voice in responding to questions. These observations can contribute to a more complete understanding of the candidate's potential.
Beware of certain interviewer errors
We're all prone to making snap impressions of someone we meet for the first time, but it's best to curb that impulse during a job interview. Left unchecked, a first impression (good or bad) can cloud everything that happens afterward. Stick to the prepared questions and leave your snap impressions out of the equation.
Similarly, beware of the so-called "halo effect." This happens when a candidate's strong point (such as a prestigious school or a high-profile former position) colors the interviewer's experience. Any single fact shouldn't influence the entirety of the conversation.
Be on the lookout for job candidate red flags
Many job seekers are genuinely motivated to do the best they can for their new employer. But a diligent business owner or hiring manager should be on the lookout for the few who don't merit serious consideration.
- Resume errors. This red flag can help screen candidates before they get to the interview stage. A professional resume (and/or cover letter) with clumsy syntax or typos can indicate a person who pays little attention to detail. Depending on the job qualifications, you likely want an employee you can trust to inspect and revise their own work before sending it on to others.
- Problems with communication. The open position may not require contact with customers, but virtually every position requires interaction with supervisors and other team members. Among the most valuable interviewing tips is paying close attention to how a candidate speaks, in addition to what they say. Some people will be anxious during the interview and talk too much — which could be a sign of poor listening skills that most employees need. They may also be talking a lot because they want to distract you from certain areas of discussion. In either case, this trait may not bode well for working as part of a team.
- An answer for everything. In a similar vein, a job candidate who glibly responds to every question can raise another type of red flag. No one's perfect, and someone who attempts to come across that way isn't being entirely honest. A desirable job-seeker is one who's willing to say, "I don't know" once in a while (though not too often).
- Boasts about job offers. In an attempt to come off as being in high demand, some job candidates may freely boast about other job offers they may have. This can send the signal they're willing to play one employer off another to get more money or job perks. Not only does this say something about a possible lack of loyalty, it may suggest they'll always be thinking about what else might be available in the job market.
- What's in it for me? So-called "stepping-stone candidates" focus on salary and job benefits at the expense of inquiring about aspects of the open position. These individuals may be more interested in using your job opening to get a different position elsewhere. Clearly, this red flag shouldn't be ignored by an employer.
Conclude the interview on a positive note
Among the best interview tips for employers is the simple reminder: End the experience on a positive, upbeat note. Allow 10-15 minutes near the end of the interview for the candidate's questions. You can learn a lot by the types of questions an interviewee asks (if, for instance, they're heavily salary-focused, that could be another red flag), but it also offers the opportunity for you to "sell" your company and make the open position that much more attractive.
Finally, thank candidates for their time, offer some idea of when they'll be contacted about a decision, and show them out. Your friendly demeanor goes a long way toward making the interview a positive experience for everyone involved.
If you've found the right candidate, you may want to consider the next step of conducting a background check to make sure everything you learned about the potential new hire checks out. Read this article next to learn about the importance of this step in the employee screening process.