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How to Conduct a Great Interview

Recruiting great people is critical to the success of every organisation. Conducting an effective interview enables you to determine if a candidate has the right skills, knowledge and abilities to perform the job successfully, as well as uncover if their attitude, motivations and values fit with the your organisations culture.

"There's actually a lot of preparation that goes into a good professional interview," says Janis Whitaker, the author of Interviewing by Example. "Most people can't wing it off of the top of their heads." So follow these tips to ensure your next job interview is conducted successfully.

Preparing for the Interview

  • Preparation is crucial for meaningful job interview.

  • Read through the candidates CV thoroughly before the candidate arrives, noting down any questions that will help you draw out more information about their personal qualities and professional skills.

  • Write a list of interview questions that reflect the job tasks and skills, knowledge and abilities listed in the position description. Or if you are lucky and someone has written the questions for you, read through the applicable Interview Guide before the candidate arrives.

  • Think about how you will describe your organisation in an accurate and positive way as well as the position on offer.

  • Identify (& where possible reserve) an appropriate space to hold the interview; ensuring it is comfortable and as free of distractions as possible.

  • Provide the applicant’s CV & the Interview Guide to any colleagues that will be attending the interview.

Asking the Right Types of Interview Questions

When conducting job interviews, there are several different types of questions which when combined together help to provide a complete picture a candidate’s background, skills, knowledge and abilities.

  • Fact-based or general questions: "How many years did you work at [company x?]Most interviews include some questions that clarify information listed on the candidate's resume. Questions that ask about why the candidate wants to pursue a job in a specific field or with your organisation also fall into this category.

  • Situational or hypothetical questions: "What would you do if you saw a co-worker doing ## which is inappropriate?" Asking the candidate what he or she would do if placed in a certain circumstance is a situational question and is ok, but a lot of people answer those type of questions by saying 'of course I would do this' which has limited value to understanding what a person actually has done.

  • Stress questions: "Why should we hire you? You’re past experience in this type of role is limited." Stress questions intentionally put the candidate on the back foot. The objective of these questions is to learn how the candidate reacts to direct, tough questions. This can have some value for people in customer service role but should be used carefully and rarely.

  • Behavioural questions: "Tell me about a time when you initiated something that resulted in increased sale or productivity?" The theory behind behavioural interviewing is that past performance is an excellent predictor of future performance. The interviewer asks for specific examples that demonstrate skills. EG, instead of asking, "Do you have initiative?" the interviewer would ask for an example of a time when the candidate demonstrated initiative. Most behavioural interview questions start with phrases like "tell me about a time". "You're not really asking if they have done something," Whitaker says. "What you're doing is asking them to explain to you how they have done it. So it's difficult to exaggerate or fake the answer."

Referring to the position description, write down the key characteristics, knowledge, behaviours and abilities needed for the role. Make time to cross check these against the questions found in the Interview Guide. An Interview Guide is designed to ask the applicant to explain how they demonstrated specific attributes in the past, citing specific examples.

Conducting the Interview

  • Begin the interview by introducing yourself and any other attendees.

  • Explain the format of the interview, and offer a brief overview of your organisation, including what you do, your size and culture.

  • Provide an engaging and accurate description of the role on offer, including upcoming changes to the organisation and career progression opportunities.

  • When conducting the interview, listen carefully to the responses and take notes for future reference. Be aware of attempts to evade questions, and probe deeper if required or ask the question again if you didn’t get an answer.

  • Pay careful attention to the applicant’s personal style, attitude and values, as this will help you to form a balanced opinion of their suitability in comparison to the culture of your organisation.

Concluding the Interview

  • Ask the applicant if they have any questions about the role or organisation. This is a good way to test if they have thought through the position and listened during the interview process.

  • Thank the applicant for their time and interest, and inform them when they are likely to find out the decision.

  • Try to summarise your notes as soon as the applicant leaves. This will ensure your impression of their personality, skills and abilities is fresh in your mind and can be used to make a decision after you have met with other applicants.

Tips for Success

  • Do your homework. Study the candidate's CV/resume before the interview.

  • Be nice. Use nonverbal gestures like smiling, leaning forward, and nodding your head to make the candidate feel comfortable. The more comfortable they are, the more positive rapport you can build, and the more successful the interview will be for everyone involved.

  • Take notes. After several interviews, it's easy to get candidates' skills, knowledge and experiences mixed up. Make sure you write notes while interviewing.

  • Use the whole interview to evaluate the candidate. Don’t make a hasty judgment based on the first few answers. Candidates are often nervous and can take a few questions to relax and respond more freely. Give them time. That is what the interview is for.

  • Don't talk too much. You can talk about the position and the organisation, but the candidate should do most of the talking.


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