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Maximizing the Interview

Updated: May 20, 2023

To continue the series of posts to help you elevate your hiring process, we will review some tips for maximizing the interview process.


Decide how you will structure the interview

Determine what type of interview you will use - Individual, panel, video, telephone, a combination of these, etc. It is a good practice to use a structured process for all the candidates for a particular position to increase equity, ease of comparison, and reduce bias in the process. When possible, involve at least 3 people so that you can get rounded perspectives. I like the panel interview because it makes good use of everyone's time and encompasses multiple perspectives. It takes some planning in advance to make it most effective. One approach I like is to have an interviewer(s) focus on technical skills, another focus on soft skills, and another on culture fit. Everyone should take notes during the panel interview and have a debrief session after the interview.


Determine what questions you will ask

You will primarily want to ask open-ended questions during the interview to include questions about work experience, skills, education, etc.


Examples are as follows:

• Specific duties of current/last job

• Why they left previous jobs

• What they liked/disliked about previous jobs

• Computer/other technical skills

• Attendance record and performance in previous jobs

• Salary expectations

And want to stay away from questions that aren’t job-related. There are 2 types of questions to incorporate that I think are very effective:

(1) Behavioral Questions – These questions are based on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Essentially, you look at tasks/competencies/situations that are part of the job and ask them to share an example of how they have handled in the past. These questions usually start out with something like, “Tell me about a time when…?” Here are a few examples:

  • Give me an example of a goal you failed to meet, and how you handled the situation.

  • Tell me about a time when you solved a problem at your job that wasn’t part of your job description.

  • Tell me of a time when you took a risky decision and it didn’t pay off.

(2) Situational Questions –Situational questions are somewhat similar to behavioral questions. They help the hiring manager gain crucial insight into how a candidate would react in specific circumstances which may occur on the job. These questions usually start out with something like, “How would you handle..?” Here are a few examples:

  • Imagine you’re working on a project with a tight deadline and a team member is behind schedule with a critical deliverable you need to move forward. What would you do?

  • If you made a mistake and no one noticed, what would you do?

  • Picture a situation where you’re given two high-priority tasks. How would you determine what to do first?

For both of these types of questions, look for the STAR in their answer. You may have to probe to get them there!

  • Situation/Task

  • Action

  • Result

Get some of my favorite questions here.


Probing is also useful when you don’t fully understand a response, answers are vague, or when you want more specific information.

Here are a few examples:

  • Could you please tell me more about . . . ?

  • I'm not quite sure I understood. Could you tell me more about that?

  • I'm not certain what you mean by . . . Could you give me some examples?

Execute the interview well

Your goal is to put the candidate at ease so they will freely share, and you will glean the best information to make a decision.

Here are some tips:

  • Smile - Even if it's on the phone, smiling sets the tone for a positive interaction.

  • Put them at ease - Establish rapport quickly and get them relaxed.

  • Use their name a lot - People like to hear their name and it helps you remember better as well.

  • Mirror their body language and tone – This makes them more feel more comfortable and results in a greater willingness to share.

  • Be comfortable with silence - Count to 6 before making any attempt to fill in silence. The candidate will often share additional information that is helpful in your assessment if you wait it out.

  • Listen actively - Most of us know what to do, we just don't do it! Listen to hear the full message. Use your body language to show attention and interest (open posture, eye contact, leaning in, saying 'uh huh", avoid interrupting, summarize periodically). Finally, try not to formulate your response while listening.

  • Use the triple nod - It is just like it sounds, nodding 3 times. Research shows when you do the triple nod, the other person will speak 3 to 4 times longer making them feel listened to and important. And second, when you nod, you are basically agreeing with what the other person is saying and this results in what scientists call a “yes set” which builds connection.

  • Close the interview by giving them with the opportunity to ask questions and sharing next steps.


Provide a realistic job preview


Provide the candidate with detailed information about the job and culture so there are no surprises. A tour of the work area is also recommended if applicable. If you paint the job or culture to be something that it isn't, your candidate will not likely stick around if you bring them on board which will cost you time and money. So, give them as much information as possible to inform their decision.


Next week, I will conclude the series by talking about how to make a sound, informed decision of who to hire!

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