How to Conduct an Effective Interview

The personal interview is your chance to really get to know your prospective employees. You’ll be delving deeper into the skills and requirements you’ve noted on the resumé and phone screening. Mostly, the interview allows you to get a sense of the intangibles, such as passion, initiative, goals, cultural fit, attitudes, and communication skills.
Here are a few tips on interviewing techniques:
  • Put the applicant at ease. Make eye contact and establish rapport by finding a shared topic to talk about before you get down to the hard questions. Review the resumé and phone screen notes beforehand so you have some personal info to draw on.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Prepare questions in advance and ask the same basic questions of all interviewees so you can compare answers later. Be prepared to improvise based on different responses. You can run through some “what-if” responses you might expect and note how you would follow up to each scenario. If your applicant is shy and gives answers that are too general, dig for more detail. Sample questions include, “Why did you leave your last position?” “What do see yourself doing in five years?” “What management style helps you do your best work?” “What’s the most important factor in your work environment for you to be successful?” “When you work on a team, which role are you most comfortable with?”
  • Listen more, talk less. The interview is mostly about the applicant, so listen attentively. Pay attention to non-verbal cues such as posture, alertness, dress, and personal grooming. Note if they have done their homework about your company. Leave time at the end for the candidate to ask you questions. You can provide insights about the company, your management style, and even “sell” the position.
  • Take notes. It’s tough to keep candidate responses straight when you’re doing multiple interviews. So take good notes in an organized fashion so you can easily review at a later date. Consider having another person in the room, if only as a note taker.
  • Understand what you can’t ask. Keep your questions focused on the job, work environment and only peripherally involved with an applicant’s personal life. You want to avoid a discrimination lawsuit, so steer clear of questions centered on age, race, gender, country or national origin, religion, disability, and marital or family status.

Game Plan

If you’ve never conducted a job interview, think about the interviews you’ve experienced from the applicant’s side of the table. What worked and what didn’t? Did anything make you feel uncomfortable? Putting yourself into the applicant’s seat can help you become a more empathetic interviewer. For more on job interview techniques, see this list of Dos and Don'ts.
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