How to Interview Candidates

Learn how to build a solid and effective team

How To Interview Candidates
Start building a better team today with these practical tips on how to effectively interview job candidates. Includes job interview questions.

Last updated November 19th, 2017

Effective interviews expose potential red flags, reveal strengths, ensure that there is a fit with salary, compensation, personality, and verify qualifications, skills, and abilities. They're an essential part of the hiring process.

How to Interview Candidates Effectively:

1. Create a job description listing the essential skills and experience.

If you want to hire the perfect person for a position, you need to have a really good description of the position. Don't get caught up with lots of bullet points, like "Office Experience," and "Computer Skills." A good description shouldn't over describe. It should focus on what is absolutely necessary for someone to be successful in the position, and describe what success looks like over specific periods of time - typically 30, 90, 180 days and 1 year.

2. Use the job description as a roadmap for creating questions.

For example, if you've determined that customer service skills are essential, you'll want to create questions related directly to that. How do they define customer service? What is the best customer service experience they've ever had? Review all your essentials in the description and build questions directly related to them.

3. Write out your questions beforehand.

You might think you can remember all of your interview questions, but the reality is that the greatest weakness of most interviewers is exposed when they try flying blind. Write down your questions, and be sure to give yourself enough blank space to jot down notes. Doing this in advance and using the same set of questions for each candidate will make the interview process flow much more smoothly. As an added bonus, sticking to the same basic documented script will also help you avoid any potential problems with job seekers who try to claim that they were discriminated against.

4. Take notes during the interview.

This is especially important if you're interviewing a number of candidates. It can be easy for them to become sort of a blur after you've done too many. Keep notes on each one, then type them up after the interview, and you'll not only have a reference that helps you keep candidates straight, but you'll be more likely to remember the details about them unaided. Doing this will also make the next step easier.

5. Get specific details, such as numbers, and come back to them.

Unfortunately, people often exaggerate or invent details to try to impress an interviewer. How can you cut through to the truth? By asking specific questions and following up. How many people did they oversee in their management position? What were their sales numbers last year? Get numbers, dates and other concrete details, then ask about them again later in the interview, or in subsequent interviews. People will almost never remember numbers they invented off the top of their head.

6. Make sure you're on the same page with salary expectations.

The easiest way to do this is to directly ask what they're currently making, and what their expected salary is. If what you can offer is below what they currently make, or well below what they're expecting, this probably isn't a match. People almost never want to go down in salary from one job to another. And if they agree to a salary that's well below their expectations, they'll probably start looking for their next job the day after they start.

7. Ask detailed questions about roles that lasted less than two years.

Short-term roles, especially more than one of them, can be a sign of problems. Ask questions about why the left. This can tell you a couple things. If they start complaining about colleagues and bosses, it's a red flag that they might be hard to get along with. Also, if they talk about issues they had that will be the same with the position you're offering, you know it's probably not a fit. For example, they left because they had to work weekends, and you'll need them to work weekends.

8. Be a good listener.

When the candidate is nervous, as is usually the case, and you're feeling relaxed, it can be easy to take over the conversation and do too much of the talking. Remember, you're interviewing them. You should do some talking, and answer questions about the business, but listen carefully, pay attention to what they're saying, and keep the interview focused on the candidate. Taking notes will actually help with paying attention quite a bit.

Final Thoughts:

A great interview will tell you what you need to know about the candidate’s work ethic, job history, future career aspirations and expectations of your company. Armed with this knowledge, it will be easy to select the right person to fill your open position.

Need some question ideas? We've got several guides to interview questions that will help.