How to Conduct an Effective Employee Interview

Hiring and keeping good workers begins with the job interview. If you can ask the right questions, you're more likely to select a candidate who's right for the job. Without good interviewing skills, however, you could extend an offer to someone who's ultimately not the right fit for your company.

There will always be competition for skilled and talented workers. Hiring qualified employees is an art but also requires certain skills. You have to be a good listener; you need to know how to redirect a conversation; and you must be able to make a distinction between those who simply want the job and the perfect candidate who can get the job done.

Even with the ups and downs of the current market, knowing how to conduct a successful interview can help you land the best employees. Here are some tips to help you with the screening process:

  • Prepare. This may seem obvious, but many hiring managers neglect to review a candidate's paperwork prior to the interview. Reviewing a résumé in front of the interviewee is not only rude but smacks of disorganization and poor preparation.
  • Set the tone. Let your candidates know that you're glad to meet them. Also, express your appreciation for the time they've taken to come in. Explain how the interview will proceed and then try to follow that format as closely as possible.
  • Prepare a script. Don't underestimate the value of preparing several questions beforehand. Your human resources department may even have a set of prepared questions to use as a guide. Too often, busy managers (is there any other kind?) forget until it's too late what they wanted to ask. Ask open-ended questions as well as ones that might elicit a more detailed response. For example, you may say, "Tell me what led you to apply for this position." Later, you could ask, "We're very deadline oriented here; could you tell me about experiences during which a deadline might have been difficult to meet?" And then listen carefully to the responses. Try to ask a good mix of questions — those that give insight into behavior, elicit opinion, demonstrate experience, and reveal background. When the interview is over you should have a fairly good sense of the person's likes and dislikes, along with their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Listen to your instincts. If a candidate seems too good to be true or seems to lack the skills you need, be honest with yourself as you assess the meeting. In some cases, you may need to pose more pointed questions. On the other hand, no amount of questioning can change a person's ability to do a job.
  • Know what you want. If you don't know the skill set required for the open position, chances are you might not ask the right questions, which may confuse the candidate. Make a list of what you're looking for and then ask pointed questions so that when the candidate walks out the door you know whether or not he or she is a viable choice.
  • Manage your time. If you've set aside an hour for an interview, do your best to stick with that schedule. But be prepared, too, to cut the meeting short and jump to the more concluding questions. Don't waste your time or the candidate's by stretching the meeting out. If there's no match, no amount of conversation is going to change that.
  • Write it down. Forget about remembering everything that transpires during an interview. You'll want to take notes so that you can review the meeting at a later time. This will be especially important if you're interviewing many people for the same position.

Don't forget that the candidate is also interviewing you. In addition to being skilled at asking appropriate questions, ones that will elicit a candidate's strengths and talents, you must be conscious of the impressions you are making as well. Just as the interviewee is selling him- or herself to you and your company, you are basically trying to achieve the same result. Make sure, for example, that you know as much as possible about your company; the interviewee will be looking to you to provide that information.

If you are new to interviewing, be sure to read What Questions Shouldn't I Ask in an Interview? for some good advice on topics that should be avoided at all costs during a job interview.

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