Conducting Better Job Interviews

8 tips to help recruiters and hiring managers interview smarter

We consider it one of the most important steps in the hiring journey. And yet, the job interview, if poorly conducted, can be less predictive of job success than throwing darts. Ill-conceived questions solicit incomplete or useless information. Inconsistent processes deliver unpredictable results. And our biases—conscious or not—obscure our ability to evaluate candidates objectively. Here are 8 tips to help you (and your hiring managers) do better:

Tip #1: Understand the Role

Having a clear understanding of the job a candidate is applying for requires more than a glancing familiarity with the role. Study the job description—and make sure it’s up to date. Verify it, if possible, with the person who’s been performing it. What critical needs does this role fill? What skills does it require? How will this role impact other areas of the business? How will you measure “best fit”?

Tip #2: Understand Job Competencies

Create a list of job-specific competencies, including soft skills. Things like professionalism, communication, problem-solving, and adaptability will vary across roles. Find out as much as you can about the specific competencies a job requires. Interview team members, look at the past performance of those who were successful—and those who were not. And remember to consult industry publications. Use the list you compile to begin building your evaluation matrix.

Tip #3: Understand the Candidate

While bringing a set of (often false) assumptions to an interview is never a good idea, being prepared is. Every candidate is different, so pay attention to what makes this candidate unique. Review the resume carefully and prepare questions that will help validate what you learn from it or fill in any gaps. What past accomplishments would be notable at your organization? Do the candidate’s work choices reflect your organizational culture? Will the candidate fit in well with the team? Where does the candidate excel? Fall short?

Tip #4: Create a Level Playing Field

Some interviewers still rely on their “gut,” figuring a free-wheeling conversation will reveal all. Why is this bad? In the absence of real data, the interviewer uses the “halo effect” to make hiring decisions: “Gee, this candidate is just like me!” Without a clear standard, it’s extremely difficult to judge candidates fairly. Sourcing candidates through the same channels, preferring a set of previous employers or schools over others, and improvising interview questions are just a few things that can narrow your hiring pool unfairly. Finally, unfair hiring practices can be litigated—and for good reason.

Tip #5: Use More Than One Interviewer

We are all human. That means we bring biases to most human encounters, including interviews. Often, even if unwittingly, we can ask culturally insensitive questions. Two or more interviewers can bring diverse perspectives to the process and open the door to better insights. Ditch the unstructured interview and ask behavioral questions. Behavioral interviewing asks candidates to describe how they handled a situation from the past situation. Behavioral questions are open-ended (tell us about a time…) but still tied to specific job performance criteria (…you encountered an angry customer). They can reveal valuable insights about the soft skills you’ve identified as critical to job success.

Tip #6: Listen

We get it. Interviews can be grueling. When you’re on your sixth interview of the day with no coffee in sight, it’s hard to stay focused. But how you conduct an interview has a direct effect on the how a candidate will respond. You can’t expect a candidate to be fully present and engaged when you’re not actively listening. Hiring deadlines are always looming but try to keep your interviewing schedule reasonable. There’s no point in conducting one at all if you’re mentally already on the way home.

Tip #7: Don’t Jump to Conclusions

It’s human nature to make snap judgments, particularly when you’re being asked to, well, make judgments. The bad news? We make judgments about people based on pointless minutiae. The good news? The more real information we have about a person, the less likely we are to rely on first impressions. Resist quick decisions and rely on data to inform a more deliberative process.

Tip #8: Spend Time Answering Questions

During a job interview, the candidate isn’t the only one being assessed. You, your team, and your company are also being looked over. Candidates want to know, “Is this a good fit for me? Are my colleagues going to be stimulating? Will my boss be a good mentor?” Leave time to answer questions as candidly as you can. When you make an offer, you’ll already have a good foundation under your feet.

Interested in learning more?

SkillSurvey’s online reference checking solutions provide data-driven insights into a candidate’ past behaviors and soft skills. We can help you identify job-specific criteria for more than 400 jobs, collect feedback from a candidate’ peers, supervisors, and direct reports, and deliver summary candidate information to help hiring managers conduct more probing interviews. Additionally, we can help make your hiring process more compliant by leveraging proven I/O best practices and predictive talent analytics. Learn more by watching a short video demo.

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