Creating a positive, polished interview process for prospective new hires is critical to your overall hiring strategy. A fumbling, unorganized interview can make a bad first impression on the most professional, high-performing candidates in your applicant pool—45% of workers report rejecting a job offer due to an unpleasant interview experience.
Worse yet, an interview process that includes unconscious bias or illegal interview questions may prompt complaints to federal, state, or local employment commissions, and candidates are even more likely to tell others about their negative hiring experience or post about it online. With 72% of job seekers sharing their poor interview experiences with friends, colleagues, or social media followers, savvy recruiters understand that creating processes that adhere to best practices and knowing how to prepare for a job interview are essential to optimizing your employer brand.
Your interview preparation should equip you with the questions and observational tools you need to get to know and accurately evaluate candidates. Compiling a checklist of recruitment tasks that includes the interview tips below should help you optimize your efforts before, during, and after meeting with applicants so that you can make the best hiring decision possible.
How to Prepare for a Job Interview Before It Begins
Too many employers still consider an interview an opportunity to grill candidates and see how they stand up under pressure. It’s important to remember that this first face-to-face meeting—whether in person or virtual—is not only an opportunity for you to size up applicants. Your applicants are also sizing you up.
The more professional your interview procedures are, the more relaxed and valuable the experience will be for you and your applicants, increasing the chances that your top-choice candidate will accept an offer.
- Develop a script: Use an optimized job description to select key qualifications you want to ask your candidates about. Compile a script that includes questions that examine each candidate’s industry knowledge, technical and soft skills, and experience. Following a script will help ensure you don’t forget to ask important questions or accidentally ask illegal interview questions.
- Select a hiring committee: Knowing how to prepare for a job interview includes knowing who should be included in the final hiring decision. Forming a hiring committee that includes an HR representative, the position’s direct supervisor, and a peer interviewer can increase the efficacy of the process.
- Assign roles to committee members: Decide who will accompany the candidate to the meeting site, who will outline the basic parameters of the role, who will ask the first question, etc.
- Develop a metric for evaluation: Determine the most important qualities you are looking for, create grading criteria and metrics, and distribute it to all hiring committee members to fill out as the interview progresses.
- Don’t judge on first impressions: Sometimes the most talented performers and hardest workers don’t make the best impression. Many neurodivergent workers with the aptitude to become valuable workers are not comfortable with traditional markers of competence, such as eye contact, that are not relevant. Design your scaling rubric to focus on the content of applicants’ answers rather than their demeanor.
What to Do at the Start of the Interview
Understanding how to prepare for a job interview includes understanding the role anxiety can play in the process. Preparation is the key to reducing your own stress so that you appear relaxed and welcoming, which, in turn, helps candidates be their most relaxed and honest selves.
- Put the candidate at ease: Make sure that whoever greets the candidate and ushers them to the site of the interview asks if there is anything they can get for them such as a bottle of water and lets them know who they will be meeting with and for how long.
- Tell the candidate about the job: Though you don’t want to dominate the session, you should begin the interview with a summary of the position, including its primary responsibilities.
- Encourage questions: The questions candidates ask during the interview can tell you as much about them as their answers. Inviting questions can help you gauge how interested they are in the job and your company and their ability to ask thoughtful questions based on information and their critical thinking skills.
- Begin with low-key, low-stakes questions: To establish a cordial tone, begin with icebreaker questions that focus on positive past professional experiences and allow you to gauge their passion for their work.
- Take notes: If you have a grading scale prepared ahead of time, it will make it easier to make note of your impressions as the interview progresses.
Optimizing the Effectiveness of Your Interview Process
During the middle and end stages of the interview, ease into more specific and challenging topics. Listen to and observe the candidate to determine if they have the skills they need to succeed in the position and the temperament to become a valued part of your team.
- Listen more than you talk: If you’re doing most of the talking during the interview, you won’t be able to obtain enough information to distinguish between candidates or determine each applicant’s true capabilities. Aim to speak 20% of the time or less and spend 80% of the interview listening and taking notes.
- Be open to improvisation: Keeping in mind that you need to steer clear of overly casual queries that might lead to topics that are legally off limits during the hiring process, the best interviews are more like a conversation than they are like an interrogation, with a give-and-take between interviewers and candidates.
- Ask follow-up questions: Probe candidate responses more deeply by asking for further elaboration or examples.
- Bolster your employer brand: Use the face time you have with candidates to highlight your company’s mission and core values, work-life balance, wellness policies, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
After the Interview: Next Steps
When you prepare for a job interview, consider what your hiring process and timeline is for the role. Candidates will appreciate being informed. Finish up your interview by letting candidates know what to expect in the days and weeks ahead. For example, you should share how quickly you will be reaching out, scheduling follow-up interviews, and/or making an offer as soon as the interview ends, carve out time for the hiring committee to collect and share their thoughts.
- Organize and compare notes: Look over your notes and organize your preliminary thoughts on the candidate as soon as possible.
- Complete the grading rubric: Upon reflection, fill out and submit your scaled metric to the committee chair or hiring manager.
- Designate follow-up tasks: Assign next steps to committee members. For example, one person might be tasked with calling to gather any missing information, another with checking references, and so on.
Even if an applicant isn’t destined to join your team, they still have the power to negatively affect your brand. Knowing how to prepare for a job interview in ways that clarify the value your company places on each candidate and, by extension, each employee, can help you make better hires and create goodwill in your industry, community, and marketplace.
Part of Knowing How to Prepare for a Job Interview Is Knowing How to Attract Top Performers
The job description for your open role is the starting point for crafting interview questions, designing your candidate evaluation metric, and more. By working with Monster to post your job listing you can optimize your recruiting efforts and extend your reach.