Running a business or company will likely involve hiring employees at some point. You may have prior experience in this area or you may be completely new to interviewing, but either way, you must ensure you have the appropriate skills and knowledge to conduct successful interviews.
There are a number of key interview techniques involved, including the ability to listen carefully, ask the right questions, be able to probe for further information, and project and interpret non-verbal communication during an interview.
Prior to conducting any interviews, you should plan and structure the entire process, providing yourself and the interviewee the best possible experience. Badly planned and implemented interviews are frustrating and uncomfortable for everyone involved. You are unlikely to obtain the information you want, and you’ll probably come across as unprofessional and inexperienced. This is unlikely to leave the interviewee with a favourable impression of you or your company.
In order to create a positive, successful interview experience, we have compiled the following list of interview techniques to help you improve your skills…
- Take the time to read over the candidate’s CV or application form prior to the interview.
- Compare the CV against the job description and person specification. This will allow you to fully understand the requirements of the role and identify the candidate’s suitability as well as any aspects of their CV that require clarification or explanation.
- Choose and prepare a suitable venue that will be conducive to conducting a successful, comfortable interview. Consider accessibility, seating arrangements and the overall environment.
- Ensure the candidate has been provided with all relevant information they require about the role, the company, the interview and anything they should bring along on the day.
- Do not try to ‘wing it’. Take the time to plan a suitable structure for the interview process.
- Think about how much time you would ideally like the interview to last.
- Set out the list of questions you would like to cover, in general and for each individual candidate, and think about the order in which these questions are asked – the interview should flow and progress naturally and logically.
- Begin with introductions, informal pleasantries and the offer of refreshments. This will help to relax the candidate and put them at ease. Explain to the interviewee what they should expect during the interview and what you wish to achieve. Discuss the candidate’s experience and suitability for the role, asking open-ended questions to encourage more detailed answers and to get a sense of the candidate’s knowledge, experience, personality and attitude.
- Wind up the interview by giving the candidate an opportunity to ask questions and let them know when they can expect notification of the outcome.
This may seem glaringly obvious but listening to someone is vastly different from hearing and understanding what a person is saying. It requires focus, concentration and active listening in order to comprehend and retain the information that is being provided. Key requirements of effective listening include:
- Being aware of your own non-verbal responses and those of the candidate.
- Considering the way in which the interviewee answers questions and the words they use. This will help you to understand what is being said, how it is being said and what the candidate may not be saying.
- Responding with reflective or probing questions to answers that have been given.
- Being interested and engaged in what the candidate is saying.
- Maintaining eye contact and staying focused on the candidate. Do not let your mind wander or focus on something else.
- Refraining from interrupting the interviewee unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Asking for clarification if you are unsure of any answers given.
- Summarising the answers to ensure you have correctly understood.
This applies to both the interviewee and the interviewer. Communications expert Albert Mehrabian believes the vast majority of face-to-face communication is presented by our tone of voice and body language, with only 7% being attributed to the spoken word. It is therefore extremely important that you are able to identify and understand non-verbal communication from the candidate as well as being aware of what you might be conveying. Consider the following:
- Eye contact – are they engaged, looking down, gazing elsewhere?
- Position of body.
- Facial expressions – are they minimal?
- Do they take time to consider questions before answering?
- Does their voice sound calm and relaxed or do they appear nervous by speaking in varied pitches, stammering or mumbling?
- Are they fidgeting or do their hands appear to be trembling? This is likely on account of nerves.
- Do they have their arms crossed? This is often thought to be defensive but for some people it is simply a comfortable way to sit with their arms if they are at a table! You should also consider whether the room is cold or the environment you have created is comfortable, relaxed and welcoming for the interviewee. Sometimes they may just be defensive, but you should remember that the individual is likely to be very nervous so you should do your utmost to make them feel at ease.
It is important to remember that every person is individual and non-verbal signals may not be indicative of what you first suspect. You should consider getting to know the candidate better by asking further questions – this may help you better understand the interviewee and allow you to make a more accurate judgement about them. It is also important to consider any cultural differences that may be playing a part in their non-verbal communication.
Whilst you may be the one doing the interviewing, candidates are also making their own judgement about you and the company. Just because someone has applied for a job and attended an interview does not mean they will take the job if offered. They will also be considering the impression you make, and whether they would be happy working for you and your company.
- Develop rapport by being genuine, personable and welcoming.
- Be prepared, organised and professional.
- Be aware of your own non-verbal communication. Maintain good eye contact and think about your body language.
- Ensure the candidate is fully informed about the role and the company prior to and throughout the interview.
- Give a good impression of the company.
- Do not talk too much.
- Try not to come across as intimidating and rude. No further explanation is required here; it’s just not the done thing!
Well, that pretty much covers the essentials. Off you go and prepare yourself to be a top class interviewer.