The interview process and beyond
The job interview starts long before the candidate shows up at your office. It’s a process, and it takes some groundwork. Your preparation for the interview process should include a number of interview questions that will help you get to know and evaluate candidates. But there’s plenty more to do before, during, and after the interview to ensure your success. Follow these tips to get the most out of your next interview:
Before the interview
Put candidates at ease. The interviewing process can be stressful, so do your best to help candidates relax. Make sure each candidate is greeted and escorted, if necessary, to the interview location. Start with low-key questions.
Don’t judge on first impressions: We’ve all met them—people who don’t make a great first impression but end up being outstanding employees. To make sure you don’t overlook these diamonds in the rough, it’s important to withhold judgment until you’ve had the chance to thoroughly evaluate a candidate’s capabilities and potential.
During the interview
Tell the candidate a little about the job: While you don’t want to dominate the interview time, you should start with a brief summary of the position, including the prime responsibilities, reporting structure, key challenges, and performance criteria. This will help the candidate provide relevant examples and responses.
Don’t be afraid to improvise: Plan your questions, but don’t feel like you can only ask those you’ve chosen in advance. “Be responsive to what the candidate tells you, and build new questions off their answers,” says Shelly Goldman, executive recruiter with The Goldman Group Advantage, an executive recruiting firm in Reston, Virginia.
Listen: Invite candidates to ask questions during the interview process. This can be the most valuable part of the interview. Why do they want to be here? Is it the challenge of the job, advances in the industry, or something specific about your company? Or is the candidate fixated on salary, benefits, and time off? If the candidate has no questions, this should be a red flag, especially for senior-level employees. Make a note of what the candidate asks, and be sure to follow up if you can’t provide the answer immediately.
Follow legal interviewing guidelines: It’s critically important that every interviewer at your company, from HR clerks to top executives, understands and follows legal hiring guidelines. The easiest way to keep your interviews fully compliant is to ask questions that relate only to the job, eliminating the potential for bias by not introducing questions or scenarios that will elicit irrelevant information.
After the interview
Let candidates know what they can expect: A pet peeve of many job seekers is that they’re left hanging after an interview, or they’re promised a follow-up that never comes. If the candidate is a good fit, be clear about what the next steps will be. And if the candidate isn’t a good fit? “Always end the interview on a positive note, but be genuine,” says Goldman. “Don’t tell the candidate to call you if you don’t mean it.”
Compare notes and reach consensus: The post-interview evaluation is the time to compare notes and advance the hiring decision. Each interviewer should be prepared to back up remarks and recommendations with specific examples and notes from the interview.
Deepen the questions as you narrow the field: Subsequent interviews with finalists are valuable opportunities to learn more about them. Consider adding “show me” exercises, such as a strategic-planning exercise or a “walk me through what you’d do” activity involving a real business challenge the individual would be facing.
Use interviews to create a positive image for your organization
Joan Woodward, AVP and senior human resources business partner at Fifth Third Bank, remarks that “the job market is always competitive when looking for good people. We need to realize that we’re selling ourselves as much as candidates are trying to sell themselves. It’s important to treat people well during the interview process. I never want to lose a potential customer or cause a candidate to have a negative impression of our company.”
Your interview process reflects the value that your company places on each candidate and, by extension, each employee. Be a good ambassador for your company by conducting a professional interview, communicating clearly, and basing hiring decisions on an honest evaluation of each candidate’s capabilities.
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