Five Steps for Giving Quality Interviews

Interviewing should be taken seriously and anyone giving an interview must be prepared. Learn ways to run a more effective interview, asking great questions that can keep candidates on their toes, and allow you to learn more about your prospects.

Your business depends on your ability to make a good hire. But making a good hire is not exactly an easy task. After sorting through resumes and selecting the few choice candidates considered worth your time is only half the battle. Often the hardest part of the hiring process is conducting a job interview that differentiates between who the candidate wants you to see and who is really sitting across from you.

Below are five keys to helping you conduct a better job interview and questions you can ask candidates to keep them on their toes:

Do your homework

You expect the candidate to walk in to your office with some knowledge of who your company is and what it is you do, right? It's in your best interest to prepare for the interview as well. Going into the interview, you should have already studied the candidate you are about to meet face-to-face. The least you could do is to become familiar with his or her resume, cover letter, and any other materials that were submitted to you for consideration of the job.

Before the interview is also the appropriate time to Google your candidate to see if anything interesting pops up. You should also find out if they have a MySpace or FaceBook page, and if so, what type of content appears on those pages. You might find something that does not mix with your culture or morals. Or, you might be pleasantly surprised as a candidate relives the days spent saving the whales, if you're into to that sort of stuff, too.

The benefit of doing your homework beforehand is that you don't waste too much of your interview time going through these materials together. You come in to the interview with questions or comments on their experience, background, work, and can spend the entire interview getting to know more about the real candidate, and not who they are on paper.

Some interesting icebreakers to kick off the interview are:

  • "How about those (insert local sports team here)?”
  • "What do you think about this weather, huh?"
  • "Did you have any problem finding the place?"

Don't Rush to Judgment

So often we base our opinion on someone by their appearance or the impression we get of that candidate within the first few minutes of meeting them. The problem with this is that it clouds our heads, and if your first impression is not a favorable one, it is an uphill climb for the candidate without them even knowing it.

Stop doing this! When a candidate enters your office for a job interview do whatever it takes to not form an immediate opinion of them. If it helps, say to yourself that you believe this candidate to be a certain a way, and then flush this out of your head any way you know how. Give the candidate a clean slate and let their talents and qualifications (or lack thereof) form your opinion. You don't want to blow off a potential top talent because his or her appearance reminds you of a neighbor you didn't like growing up.

A few good secondary questions to ask now are:

  • "Tell me about your last job."
  • "Tell me about a time when you did something that was a huge success."
  • "Why did you become a (insert title of position here) in the first place?"

Study Behavior

Asking behavioral questions requires candidates to draw upon their background and experiences to describe how they used skills that are relevant to your position. Their resume may be filled with "I'm a team player", "Organized", "Multi-Tasking", and "Born Leader", but anyone can include this on their resume. Asking questions that force candidates to speak about these traits enables you to discover whether or not they do in fact possess them. Be sure to ask plenty of these questions right in the middle of the interview and score your candidates on how quickly they respond and the amount of tap dancing they do. But be careful – if it sounds too rehearsed then chances are it is.

Behavioral questions to ask:

  • "Tell me about a time when you took charge of a situation and made something positive happen."
  • Describe a situation when you were given a tight deadline to perform, and tell me how you managed to get it all done."
  • "Talk about when you had to deal with a co-worker that was hard to get along with. How did you get along with them?"

Change Things Up

You're past the halfway point of conducting a better job interview, so now is the time to get a little bit crazy. Ask the candidate a question that has no right or wrong answer. It could be why the sky is blue or why grass is green? It could even be why do worms not have eyes? Whatever your question, judge your candidate on how well they answer and if they are thrown for a curve or not. If they stay on the ball and answer as if it was expected then you have a pretty sharp candidate sitting across from you. Even if they laugh a bit at first but manage to form a pretty good answer, you know you have someone who can improvise and react to situations. If they stumble about and seem completely flustered, you have to wonder about the candidate's ability to respond to pressure seeing as the candidate has a hard time speaking off the cuff. Remember, these questions are not meant to derive a correct answer. The purpose is only to gauge the candidate's reaction to a tricky situation.

Great abstract questions to ask:

  • "If nothing ever sticks to a Teflon pan, then how do they make Teflon stick to the pan?"
  • "Can a fish drown?"
  • "Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?"

Maintain a Consistent Evaluation Process

Just because you've concluded your face-to-face job interview, doesn't mean the process is over. Go back and examine the answers to your questions and score these answers against a guide that makes it easy for you to judge. This guide needs to be somewhat flexible as there is not an exact answer for qualitative data, but you can form a set of guidelines for what the ideal answer would be. Having a set guide makes it easier for you to fairly judge each candidate's response and select a candidate that fits your company's needs. You should be well on your way to making a better hire after following these five steps for conducting a better interview.

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