How to Interview Candidates

How To Interview Candidates

August 15th, 2020

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.

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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 they 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.

If you are considering a group interview, read our article on how to conduct a group interview.

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


What is the STAR method when interviewing?

The STAR method is a technique used by interviewers that enables candidates to provide evidence of their skills, credentials, and experience by answering questions using the STAR method:

  • Situation.
  • Task.
  • Action.
  • Result.

Learn more about how to interview candidates.

How should the interviewer prepare for an interview?

  • Read through candidates' CVs and make note of key points to elaborate on during the interview.
  • Prepare your interview questions.
  • Be prepared to answer questions that candidates' may ask about the position and organization.
  • Schedule enough time for the interview and try and stick to the time-limit (roughly 15 - 30 minutes).
  • Know your company's goals and culture and be prepared to "sell" it to the candidate.

Read more about how to interview candidates.

How do you conduct an interview?

  1. Be prepared.
  2. Choose your questions wisely.
  3. Have an interview structure.
  4. Take notes and listen carefully.

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What are the top 10 interview questions?

  • Can you tell me about yourself?
  • Why would you like to work for us?
  • How would you describe your working style?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you overcame a challenge?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why would you like to work for us?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • What achievement are you most proud of?

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What are the benefits of interviews?

Holding interviews allows you to get a full sense of what the candidate is actually like. In face-to-face interviews, you can get a better impression of the candidate's personality, behavior, and poise in the context of discussing business and the type of work the candidate needs to be able to perform.

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What makes a good interview?

Aside from the preparation that goes into interviewing potential employees, keep in mind that you should also make the interviewee feel as relaxed as possible to elicit the best response from them. A good interviewer is welcoming, conversational, and considerate. To break the ice, tell the candidate a little about yourself or talk about a light-hearted topic before you get down to business.

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How do I make my interviewee feel comfortable?

  • Be nice and friendly.
  • Offer them a drink.
  • Don't be late.
  • Have a comfortable and inviting location.
  • Smile.
  • Introduce the company and the role.
  • Don't be unfair and expect too much of the candidate.

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