7 tips for conducting interviews (and hiring the best candidates)8 min read
69% of companies find a flawed interview process behind bad hires. And as the one conducting the interview, a lot of the responsibility for a failed interview can fall on the recruiter.
How you plan your interview, the questions you choose, and how you ask them are all factors that determine if your interview will secure the best candidate for the job or you’ll end up with a candidate who ‘felt’ like a good fit.
But fortunately, with a little prep work, you can dramatically improve the quality of your hire from your interview. Here are seven easy tips for conducting interviews that result in the best hires.
Know what you’re looking for
One of the best tips for conducting interviews is to spend some time analyzing the key skills that the ideal candidate must have to succeed in the role.
For example, if you’re hiring for a customer support role, you might need your candidates to have 1) high emotional intelligence, 2) great communication, and 3) strong problem-solving skills.
If a candidate lacks these skills, they’ll likely not make great customer success resource. This means your interview must focus on finding (or confirming) if a candidate has these skills. You may want to consider working a pre-screening questionnaire into your process to help make the most out of your interviews.
Likewise, every job needs some indispensable skills – and as an interviewer, your number one job is to determine if the candidates have these skills. Running a generic interview script without knowing what you need to evaluate in your candidates you will struggle to spot the best candidates. If you want to conduct better interviews, list the most important skills, experiences, and qualities the winning candidate must possess.
Set the expectations
About 90% of your applicants rely on you to tell them more about your company and the job. Many companies address this during the interview stage. They use the interviews to set the overall expectations of the candidate and to give them an insight into the company and the role. But a whopping 61% of employees find the reality of their new job to be different from the expectations set during the interview process.
Which means to conduct great interviews, you must plan them so that you get time to address your candidates’ expectations around their:
- daily work lives;
- working hours;
- company culture;
- career advancement opportunities;
- wellness programs and other benefits;
- leadership competence;
- and salary.
Helping candidates set their job expectations is one of those tips for conducting interviews that you must add to your interviewing routine.
Pick the right interview process
Lacking a standard interview process can make you five times more likely to make a bad hire. The solution to this is to conduct structured interviews. Hiring structured interviews is one of the most useful tips for conducting interviews you can ever get.
A structured interview is one where you thoroughly analyze the job’s key responsibilities and prepare a plan to conduct the interview based on evaluating the needed skills for the role. This means you have documented:
- The key skills or competencies to look for in the candidates.
- The interview questions you need to ask to assess the candidates on the core skills they need to succeed in the role.
- A sample scoring system with a range of acceptable answers along with the points each answer is awarded. (These are just guidelines and you can always use your discretion when interpreting or scoring the answers.)
In structured interviews, you aren’t making up the interview process as you go. You’ve it set, premeditated, and ready to deliver.
Some hiring managers criticize structured interviews as they’re quite typical and lack spontaneity, but their success rate is much higher than that of unstructured interviews. Even unusual interviews are structured in that they are planned with the competencies and skills of a successful hire already in mind. An ATS will make conducting structured interviews simple, by tracking the interview process according to the role and saving question sets by department.
Get your questions ready
While this might seem like one of the most basic tips for conducting interviews, many interviewers fail to prepare the right questions to ask the candidates.
Ideally, you should always have a list of questions to ask the candidates (even when you’re conducting an unstructured interview). The questions you choose must also directly tie to the skills or qualities you’re trying to evaluate in the candidates.
In the customer support hiring example from above, asking some behavioral and situational questions can tell you if a candidate has what it takes to succeed at the job.
Likewise, based on the job you’re recruiting for, find the questions that will help you evaluate the candidates on the desired and critical job skills. Also, review each candidate’s resume well and note down any questions that arise from it that need to be addressed in the interview.
Be mindful of your body language
As an interviewer, you’re told to judge the candidate based on their body language. Why? Well, because a person’s body language tells a lot about them and also influences the quality of the discussion.
For example, if you’re talking to someone and the other person just starts using their mobile, you’ll know they aren’t interested in what you’ve got to say. Likewise, even your candidates (who are already nervous about the interview) are subconsciously reading your body language to find cues if they’re doing well in the interview and to confirm that they still have your attention. Here are a few body language tips to use when conducting an interview:
- Kickstart the interview with a friendly handshake with eye contact and a smile – While this may sound basic, sometimes a good welcome can be forgotten when in a rush!
- Have enough eye contact with the candidate. This signals to them that they have your full attention.
- Avoid looking at the floor or phone, as doing so is usually interpreted as a sign of disinterest.
- Smile now and then – it’s reassuring and can set the candidates at ease.
- Avoid leaning back as that might be taken as a sign of withdrawing from the conversation. Lean a little forward if you can as doing so signals that you’re actively listening and participating in the conversation.
To get your body language right, you can ask friends and colleagues to observe you as you conduct your next interview with some takeaway tips at the end. The aim should always be to appear interested, warm, and friendly when conducting interviews.
Sell the job
Now, this one’s like one of the more advanced tips for conducting interviews, but if you’re an experienced recruiter, you’ll find it useful. When you reach a point where you’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates, you often know sometime during the second half of the interview if you’re actually talking to the ‘right’ candidate.
If this is the case, spend some of your interview time to explain to the candidate why you think they’d make a great fit for the role and company. HR expert John Sullivan suggests using some of your interview time to let such candidates connect with someone on the team who might convince them about working with you.
Improve by seeking feedback
One of the most effective tips for conducting interviews that get great hires is to constantly improve your interviewing skills by seeking candidate feedback. To do so, you can follow up with your candidates with an email asking them about their interviewing experience and what you could do better. For more pointed feedback, you can send them a proper feedback form. If you’re a Recruitee user, you can design custom questionnaires/surveys for evaluating a candidate’s interview experience.
Also, sign up for career websites like Glassdoor where candidates can share their interview experience with your company. Keep monitoring them, so you know when anyone posts about their interviewing experience at your company.
You can also seek feedback from your current employees with a message like:
Thanks so much for being a part of the [company] family.
To find even more amazing people like you to join us, we’re working on improving our interviewing process.
It would be great if you could share your feedback on your interviewing experience with us.
Thanks so much,
Wrapping it up …
In addition to following the above tips for conducting interviews, make sure you’re free of biases when assessing candidates. And don’t assume that you aren’t biased as personal biases often creep in when evaluating a candidate’s interview performance. So, be aware of it and maintain objectivity when evaluating the candidates.
Also, as the one conducting the interview, your main job is to ‘listen.’ Recruiters often keep the talking-listening ratio at 20:80, which means that for the most part of the interview, you must listen to the candidate. Make sure not to ask any personal questions that might be seen as inappropriate or intrusive.
Above everything else, be respectful to the candidates who are interviewing with you, whether they’re qualified for the role or not. And if possible, give your candidates feedback on their interview so they can improve.
How to conduct an interview is mostly a subjective process, but you can’t go wrong by following the best interviewing practices such as the ones above. So what are your favorite tips for conducting interviews? Share them in the comments below!