An effective interview allows you to gain insights into a prospective employee's character traits, skills and attitude to work. Preparing for your interview can make it easier to find the best candidate for an open position. Knowing how to conduct an interview professionally can improve the chances of identifying key personality traits and skills in candidates and help your organisation recruit talent. In this article, we discuss why interviews are important, how to conduct an interview and what you can do to prepare.
Why are interviews important?
Organisations use interviews to obtain more information about prospective employees, especially their skills, traits and values. Interviews happen during the final phases of the recruitment process and help companies select the best candidate for the job. Interviews are important for clarifying details and outlining expectations from both candidates and the company.
An interviewee may ask about their core responsibilities, while the interviewer may ask about the candidate's salary expectations. Another purpose of interviews is to evaluate candidates in person and confirm if their application is accurate. You can use the opportunity to investigate the candidate's claims and check if they have evidence to back them up in the form of references.
Related: How To Prepare for an Interview
How to conduct an interview as an interviewer
Understanding how to conduct an interview as an interviewer is crucial, as it sets the tone for the rest of the discussion. Here are five guidelines for starting an interview:
1. Start on a light note
Before launching into the critical details about the job, open the discussion with a conversational topic. This helps to facilitate a more relaxed conversation. Good ice-breakers for an interview include comments about the weather, questions about the interviewee's health and first impressions of the organisation.
2. Make introductions
After opening the discussion, the next step is to complete the introductions. You can introduce yourself, stating your name and role and other persons that may assist you in interviewing the candidate. The candidate can also give a brief introduction as well. You may decide to explain your role in the company, especially if the candidate would be under your supervision if they're hired.
Read more: How To Introduce Yourself in an Interview
3. Introduce the organisation
The start of an interview is a good time to introduce your organisation and outline its core focus and values to a potential hire. You can also briefly discuss what the company expects from employees. To help the candidate, you can even outline the core responsibilities of the role for which you are interviewing them.
4. Outline the discussion plan
It's good to outline the basic items that an interview would cover, as this provides a direction for the conversation. It increases confidence for candidates and enables them to prepare for the questions mentally. For example: “In this interview, we'd like to get to know more about you and your motivations for applying for this position. We'd also discuss our organisational values and core responsibilities of this role.”
Steps for conducting an interview
Follow these steps to interview job candidates:
1. Adopt a conversational style
When interviewing candidates for a position, use conversational language. Although informality is against the norm, a conversational style can help candidates feel relaxed and at ease during the interview. A conversational interview is better, as it promotes a discussion that flows and makes it easier for professionals to give honest answers. It also helps you gain a deeper knowledge of their personality, expertise and ability to deliver.
2. Use active listening
There is valuable information that you can glean from a candidate's response. You can concentrate during the interview and evaluate those statements to get the details. Listening actively to their responses can improve your ability to glean vital information that may help you decide whether the candidate is a good fit for your role.
3. Phrase questions appropriately
Make sure you phrase your questions in a way that allows you to yield important information about a candidate for a role. For example, asking a candidate, “have you worked in this industry before?” prompts the interviewee for a “yes” or “no” answer. However, a question like “What relevant experience do you have as regards this industry?” invites the candidate to include more details in their response.
4. Make the interview interactive
A good interview may be an interactive meeting, where both interviewer and interviewee ask questions and contribute to the discussion. Invite candidates to ask questions they might have about the details of the job. They can ask questions about the salary, responsibilities and opportunities for advancement.
5. Follow the plan
Following the plan during the interview is as important as setting one. You can occasionally browse your list of main talking points to see items you have yet to cover in the interview. This can make it easier to get the most important information at the end of the interview.
6. Be specific in your closing
Give specific details about what a candidate can expect after the interview when you're ending the discussion. If there's another round of interviews, tell the candidate and explain how you plan to schedule the next interview. If a candidate is impressive, but you want to interview more candidates for a role, state that clearly and give a timeline for your response to their application.
7. Be courteous
Maintaining good manners, even after the interview has ended, is an excellent trait for an interviewer. If you hire the candidate, thank them for applying and state that you're looking forward to working with them. Even if the candidate doesn't get hired, thank them for expressing interest in the job and wish them good luck in their future endeavours. Give a firm handshake, maintain eye contact and accompany them towards the exit.
How to prepare for an interview
Even as an interviewer, it's necessary to make preparations beforehand. This allows you to manage conversations with interviewees better and have a productive experience. Here are guidelines on how to prepare for an interview:
1. Write an effective job description
Your job description can state what skills and competencies you want in potential candidates. This would make your job easier, since it increases the chances that only those with the requisite skills and qualifications would apply for the job. A good job description may describe the responsibilities and expectations attached to the role, so interviewees know what to expect. That way, you may not need to explain these details during the interview.
2. Gather information on candidates
Try gathering information about a candidate before the interview. This helps you evaluate their skills, work history, accomplishments and other details that may be important when making the final decision. Being informed about an interviewee enables you to ask the right questions, saving you time and energy. Instead of discussing information provided in their application, you can use the interview to measure a candidate's suitability for the position.
A good tip for researching a job candidate is to check their resume and cover letter. Browsing through their social media profiles can also help uncover information about their personality and suitability for the job.
3. Prepare your master questions list
A master question list is a set of items you want to ask the candidate based on their application and job description. The master list may contain 10 to 12 specific questions that would form the basis of your interview. While there may be one-off or follow-up questions, knowing the must-ask questions helps you stay focused during the interview. It's also helpful for planning your time and knowing what you may wish to cover during the discussion.
4. Schedule the interview for an appropriate time
The ideal time for interviews is when distractions are minimal and the environment is conducive for a solemn discussion. Ensure that your interview is free from interruptions, as this can create a positive impression on potential employees. You may decide to ask a candidate if the selected time is convenient, especially if it's a remote interview. This shows empathy and may make the interview a pleasant experience for both parties.
5. Vary your questions
While having a list of important questions, include other questions to extract more valuable details about interviewees. Here are some specific question types that are appropriate for job interviews:
- The closed-ended question: these are simple questions that require candidates to provide a yes or no answer. An example is “Have you worked in a similar role in the past?”
- The open-ended question: these questions call for more detail in their answers and help reveal an individual's values, traits and attitudes. An example is: “What motivates your work?”
- The hypothetical question: this type of question requires an interviewee to explain how they would act in a hypothetical situation. Such questions are useful for evaluating how a prospective employee may react to situations at work. An example: “How would you handle a conflict with a superior?”
6. List your non-negotiables
While the job description may have requirements expected of candidates, it's better to know your non-negotiables before interviewing candidates. Non-negotiables are attributes or qualities that you expect from employees, which potential hires must possess. By knowing those qualities that you want in new hires, you can interview in a way that reveals if a candidate has those characteristics.