Sure, you’ve ticked all the right recruiting boxes: written a great job description that’s attracted a huge pool of candidates, tapped strong performers for referrals, and even promoted your posting via social media. However, to move from recruiting the right people to hiring the right people, it’s essential to understand how to be a good interviewer.
After all, the interview is a critical part of the screen and assessment process, and mishaps in this arena can easily lead to hiring the wrong person for the job, which can be a costly endeavor. Some experts believe that making a bad hire can ultimately cost a company up to two times the employee’s annual salary when you consider the cost of onboarding, training, and the loss of engagement that high turnover creates in other employees.
Needless to say, to help both recruiters and hiring managers hone their skills in this competitive environment, Dino Insights has approached some of the top experts to ask two practical questions: how can you truly be a good interviewer and what tips can help you conduct the best interview possible?
1. Understand the Role You’re Trying to Fill – and Define Success
Before you meet candidates face-to-face, you should know exactly what you’re looking for in this new hire.
According to Lou Adler, CEO of Performance-based Hiring Learning Systems, a common quality great interviewers share is that they really understand the job at hand before interviewing candidates.
“If you don’t know the job, you’ll turn off every passive candidate in your pool,” he said. “The best candidates always have multiple opportunities, so when you think about the candidate you want, you have to know how to appeal to them, especially if they aren’t looking for a job. You must really understand the job and be able to convince candidates that this is the next best step in their career.”
That means looking at commonalities among your company’s top performers and asking them which skills and qualities they feel have contributed to their success.
Adler also believes that one of the most critical interviewer skills is the ability to define success. This, he said, helps recruiters identify who will be effective in the role.
“Defining success is different than defining skills,” Adler said. “What does success look like? You must be able to define what a successful performance is before you can find people who can do that work.”
Adler advises hiring managers to come up with a list of 4 to 5 points for success prior to interviewing a candidate. These might include monthly goals, projects, or other elements of the role. He then suggests writing behavioral questions that correspond to how a candidate would approach meeting these goals.
2. Get Some Perspective
It’s never been easier to do a deep dive into a candidate’s background. Internet searches, including examining social media profiles, can help provide valuable context on a candidate. Taking the time to perform this step can elevate you from a so-so interviewer to a very good interviewer.
For example, you might find yourself interviewing a candidate with the right skills but a three-month-long employment gap on her resume. By doing a little digging on social media, you could learn that the candidate had spent that time volunteering overseas – or that she has been fired for poor performance. Either way, the additional research would have produced valuable information.
Public profiles like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Github are generally fair game. However, be mindful of the fact that digging too deeply into a candidate’s social media accounts and bringing up your “findings” during an interview could be considered intrusive and even downright creepy, especially in the case of more personal social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.
And if you’re ever in doubt, you can always just ask the candidate directly!
|Qualitative Research||Quantitative Research|
|What It Does||Instinctual/Emotional in Nature Uncover how people feel and think about a particular subject||Rational in Nature Understand what people do, when they do it, and how it’s done|
|How It’s Done||Engage with fewer people but spend more time with each person||Engage with lots of people, often through a 15 to 30-minute online survey|
|Unique Benefit||Ability to probe and dig deeper into particular responses Adds a human element to findings, rich with stories and anecdotes||Ability for more robust data analytics to create complex models|
3. Build a List of Strong, Structured Questions
The Society of Human Resource Management suggests that there are four main categories of interview questions to consider, regardless of industry: work history, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and insights into the role at hand. Choosing questions from these areas will help assess not just experience and skills but cultural fit. Furthermore, there should be a balance between questions with a specific intent or answer in mind and open-ended questions that give the interviewee space to improvise and elaborate.
4. Create a Candidate Scorecard
In some instances, you may have more than one top candidate for a role, which is why Matt Charney, chief content officer at Allegis Global Solutions, believes in creating a candidate scorecard before the interview process begins.
Candidate scorecards can vary widely depending on the industry, role, and level of experience; however, they should all include the following:
Evaluation Criteria : an easy-to-understand approach to rating candidates. Consider a 3-point or 5-point number scale, the Likert Scale, or a classification system that ranks candidate qualities as ‘excellent’, ‘average’, or ‘poor’.
Areas of Evaluation: core hard and soft skills, qualifications, and patterns of workplace behavior critical to succeeding in the role. These can take the form of job-specific questions, checklists of key competencies, etc.
Overall Recommendation: a space for an interviewer to use the aggregate of their ratings and their overall impression to either advocate for the candidate or otherwise. This is critical as it may not necessarily align with the rest of the scorecard for one reason or another.
Example of a Candidate Scorecard Image source
5. Create a Relaxed Environment
No one performs well under stress, so good interviewers know how to put the job seeker at ease. Be friendly and warm. Smile. In other words, treat the candidate the way you’d like to be treated, explains Angela Copeland, founder of Copeland Coaching.
“If you want to be a successful interviewer, realize that the interview process is a two-way street. In other words, be on time, speak to them in a respectful manner, and don’t play games,” she said. “If the job seeker gets the hint that they’re not respected, you will lose control of the interview. Just when you find a candidate that you like and want to hire, they may walk away from you.”
6. Don’t Skip the Small Talk
Sometimes the best parts of an interview come up naturally in conversation. It is in these moments that you can really get a feel for a candidate’s personality.
Again, this is where independent research on the candidate is useful as it can uncover conversation gold. Successful recruiters credit research for learning small bits of personal information about a candidate – say, that they have a dog; this provides a nice way to break the ice during the interview.
7. Practice Active Listening
Learning how to be a good interviewer will require you to hone your listening skills. Being a good listener may seem obvious, but it is often tricky. Interviewers sometimes focus so much on recording the responses to their questions that they don’t really listen to the responses a candidate is giving them.
Recording the interview (audio and/or video) is one way to be sure you collect valuable information while having the freedom to pay attention to the candidate’s tone and body language. Doing so will offer valuable information about a candidate’s personality and goals.
Just as important as choosing the right questions is getting comfortable with silences. It may be the candidate who is in the hot seat, but it can be equally nerve-wracking for the interviewer, especially if you are shy or new to the process. The temptation is to fill the silences. But don’t do it. A top interviewer tip is to use the power of silence in your favor. Often, the candidate will keep talking, which could produce additional information that you wouldn’t otherwise have gathered.
8. Involve Others
We all need a second opinion to avoid unconscious bias in the hiring process. Emily Brown PHR, SHRM-CP, CPBA, who is theco-founder of HR Logic Solutions, calls this phenomenon ‘Similar to Me’ bias.
“The most common mistake that interviewers make is giving preferential placement to candidates who are similar to them either on a professional or personal level,” she said. “And many interviewers have no idea when they are operating under its influence.”
Having multiple people interview a candidate is, for this reason, a good idea. However, keep the number small. In most cases, two to four one-on-one interviews with different team members should suffice. Being interviewed by a panel of 10 people would be draining for anyone, and one-on-one interviews with more than three or four people can make for a long, exhausting day for a candidate.
9. Sell the job
According to Charney, not selling the role is a mistake many interviewers make. This interviewer skill is especially important when recruiting passive candidates.
“This is the best opportunity for employers to pre-close a candidate,” he said. “…In today’s job market, almost every candidate is currently employed, so many don’t necessarily have to change jobs at all; those who do are likely in the process with other companies, and likely direct competitors.”
Charney suggests taking a candidate-centric approach to interviewing, which means having meaningful conversations about the role.
“Too many interviewers mistakenly assume that the candidate is going to take the job if offered, and that hubris is a fatal mistake for many hiring processes. Remember: ask not what the candidate can do for you, ask what you can do for the candidate,” he said.
10. End the Interview with Next Steps
Candidates may have more than one opportunity on the table. End the interview with clear expectations for when a decision might be made or when you’ll inform them of next steps, and stick to it. It’s not only polite, but it will save you the headache of having to respond to multiple candidates inquiring about where you are in the process.
11. Follow-up promptly
It’s critical that you act within the guidelines you shared with the candidate at the end of the interview, especially if you plan to make the candidate an offer or bring them in for a second round of interviews.
“Interviewers often set an expectation with the job seeker about the timing of the next steps of the interview process. Then, [the interviewer] doesn’t ask follow-up questions in a timely manner. This is a fatal mistake on the part of the interviewer,” according to Copeland. “Not knowing the status of a job interview is one of the most upsetting experiences any job seeker can have. When you don’t follow up on time, the job seeker loses trust in you and they lose respect for your company… and they move on to the next opportunity quickly.”
“If there is a delay in the hiring process, Copeland tells recruiters to communicate that to the candidate to maintain their trust. These courtesies should also extend to candidates you don’t plan to hire. If you have determined that a candidate isn’t a good fit and are releasing them from the interview process, write a short, professional note thanking them for their time.”
Experts Share Their Top Interview Questions:
You’ve read our 11 interviewer tips. Now, learn how to be a good interviewer directly from the experts. We asked our sources about their favorite interview questions and why they are so effective.
1. Look outside the resume
2. Cover the competencies
3. Tell me about yourself
4. Addressing timelines
5. Ask about values
“When asking interview questions around company culture, interviewers should use caution so as not to add their own bias to the conversation or influence the candidate. Your questions should map directly to your company’s core values and determine if a candidate shares the values or values them in a similar manner.
Our company has a value that is related to a scientific mindset and making decisions supported by data. In a recent candidate conversation, I asked the candidate, ‘What is your least favorite thing about your past company? To which the candidate replied gathering data and reporting on metrics.’ [Since] there could be a number of reasons why reporting is painful at a past employer, it is important to have a follow-up question that identifies if the candidate’s values align with your company’s values.”
-Clinton Buelter, author and senior technical recruiter for HomeAway.com
How to Be a Good Interviewer
Define success What will a successful person in this role accomplish in their first month, first quarter, and first year of employment?
Research your candidates Doing independent online research will help give you more insight into who you are interviewing.
Build a list of standardized questions and create a candidate scorecard. By creating a list of questions that will be asked of every candidate, you’ll be able to rank candidates using a scorecard.
During the interview:
Create a relaxed environment This includes engaging in small talk with the candidate to put them – and you – at ease.
Practice active listening. This means not only paying attention to a candidate’s responses but to their facial expressions and body language. Recording the interview using Dino’s tool could help you achieve this step.
Get a second (or third) opinion To avoid unconscious bias, have one or more colleagues interview the candidate. Adding more than one perspective into the hiring process makes for a more even playing field for candidates.
Sell the job Interviews are a two-way street. Part of your job is to make the candidate want to accept an offer if it is made.
After the interview:
Explain next steps – and stick to the schedule Candidates may have more than one opportunity they are considering so letting them know when they can expect to hear about your role – and then informing them in a timely manner – builds trust. If something comes up and hiring is delayed, call or email your candidates to let them know they are still being considered.