7 actionable tips when interviewing a candidate

Interviewing a candidate? We have updated this article to cover 7 essential steps: prep, open-ended Qs, active listening, probing, cultural fit, and room for questions.

Have you ever walked away from an interview with the nagging feeling that you missed asking crucial questions? Perhaps you’ve experienced that uncertainty about what you truly need from a candidate beyond just getting acquainted with them.

We’ve all encountered the consequences of a poor hiring decision, both in terms of the impact on the organization and the resources expended. It’s imperative that we learn to prevent these missteps, allowing us to channel our efforts into keeping the best talent within our teams. While conducting comprehensive interviews does require an investment, the price of a bad hire is significantly higher. In this article, we’ll explore seven actionable interviewing essentials that can make a meaningful difference.

Prepare Thoroughly

Before the interview, review the candidate’s resume, cover letter, and any other materials they’ve submitted. Understand the job requirements and the specific skills you’re looking for in a candidate. This preparation ensures you can ask relevant questions and make a fair assessment.

Imagine you’re hiring a software developer. Review the candidate’s technical experience, projects, and programming languages they claim to be proficient in. This allows you to ask targeted questions about their previous work and technical abilities.

Create a Comfortable Environment

When interviewing a candidate, it is important to create a relaxed and comfortable interview environment that helps candidates showcase their true selves. Start the interview with a warm greeting, introduce yourself, and explain the interview process to ease any nerves.

Begin by asking the candidate about their background and interests outside of work. This creates a friendly atmosphere and can help both you and the candidate feel more comfortable, leading to a more authentic conversation.

Ask Open-ended Questions

Pose questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Open-ended questions encourage candidates to elaborate on their experiences, thought processes, and problem-solving skills.

If you’re interviewing a project manager, ask them to describe a challenging project they’ve managed. Instead of asking, “Have you managed a large team before?” ask, “Can you share an example of a project where you had to handle a complex team dynamic? How did you approach it?” Rebecca Knight of Harvard Business Review emphasized asking behavioral and situational questions. You can read the report here.

Listen Actively

Pay close attention to the candidate’s responses. Active listening not only helps you understand their qualifications but also shows respect and indicates that you value what they have to say.

If you’re interviewing a customer support representative, when they describe a difficult customer interaction, actively listen to how they resolved the issue and their approach to maintaining customer satisfaction.

Probe for Details

Don’t be afraid to dig deeper. If a candidate provides a high-level response, ask follow-up questions to get a clearer understanding of their experiences and skills.

If a candidate mentions a successful marketing campaign they led, ask about the specific strategies they used, the challenges they faced, and the results they achieved. This helps you assess their level of involvement and their ability to handle complex tasks.

Assess Cultural Fit

Evaluate whether the candidate aligns with the company culture. A candidate may have the right skills, but if they don’t mesh well with your team’s values and work environment, it could lead to issues down the line.

If your company values collaboration and teamwork, ask the candidate to describe a project where they had to work closely with others to achieve a common goal. This can give you insights into how well they’ll fit within your collaborative culture.

Provide Space for Questions

Allow the candidate to ask questions about the role, the company, and the team. This shows that you value their interest and gives you a chance to address any concerns they might have.

A candidate asks about opportunities for professional growth within the company. This presents an opportunity for you to discuss the company’s commitment to employee development and advancement, showcasing your company as a great place to build a career.

By following these seven must-dos, you’ll conduct more effective interviews that help you identify the best candidates for your organization while creating a positive impression that reflects well on your company’s reputation.

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