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Hiring? 5 Tips for a Successful Candidate Interview

Hiring? 5 Tips for a Successful Candidate Interview
Credit: Dima Sidelnikov/Shutterstock

Interviewing and hiring new talent might seem daunting. You have to find someone with the right talent and experience, but you also want someone who shares your company's values and will fit in well with the culture.

"It is very important to find the correct 'fit,'" said Matt Thomas, president of WorkSmart PEO. "Simply hiring the candidate with the best resume or the person who developed the best rapport in the interview process is not enough."

To help you be more prepared and confident before you evaluate someone for a job, here are a few important things to keep in mind when you're conducting an interview.

To make sure all parties involved in the hiring process – HR, hiring managers, recruiters, etc. – are on the same page, Stefanie Frenking, head of recruiting at Spreadshirt, recommends a quick meeting prior to the interview.

"[Discuss] specific questions, concerns for the candidate and what prioritized topics should be covered during the interview, to make sure you are both on the same page," she said. "Go into the interview with a positive attitude and open mind."

While you want to do your research, and understand as much as possible about the applicant, you also don't want to develop any predispositions.

"While we reference the candidate’s previous experiences and skills beforehand, we try to not assume anything, allowing us to gain a better understanding of what he or she brings to the table," he said.

David DeRam, co-founder and CEO of Greenlight Guru, shared similar views, stating that he approaches interviews as an opportunity to interview a candidate, and to be interviewed by the candidate. That way, there's no room for blind judgements or miscommunications.

"A good interview is equal parts learning about the candidate and the candidate learning about us," DeRam said. "Looking for a good fit and outlining why they should want to join our team."

The most important thing an interviewer can do before the interview is properly research the candidate, said Kim Dvorscak, director of business development at staffing firm Kavaliro. Vetting a candidate by doing a quick Google search or looking at their social media platforms can help you determine if that person will fit the position and company culture, she said. Then, look more closely at their resume.

"Make sure you have reviewed their resume thoroughly," Dvorscak said. "From there, prepare questions for the candidate that are relevant to both their resume and the position they applied for."

Research also comes in handy for interviewing a candidate who has a set of skills you're not familiar with.

"Just knowing the key words or acronyms from the job responsibilities isn't enough to provide an educated assessment of their talent, and it is definitely not fair to your candidate," Dvorscak said.

A simple position-specific search can yield information on comparable job descriptions, offer pay comparisons, and even suggest interview questions and answers.

While you don't have to stick to "standard" interview questions, you do want to watch what you ask and how you ask it. Any questions or commentary that could remotely imply a discriminatory bias, such as those pertaining to gender, religion, marital status or family planning, are strictly off-limits, said Frenking.

"Never pursue questions that pry too far into a candidate's personal life, as they can cause some discomfort or awkwardness," she added.

Frenking also advised approaching questions about previous employers with caution: As the interviewer, you should never engage in any negative comments about a candidate's former boss, co-workers or company.

"The reasons to leave a position or company are diverse, and listening to the candidate describe their experience and thought process is the best way to gain insight about their work history and professional journey," Frenking said.

Additionally, you want your questions to be specific to them. That way, they'll provide personal responses that allow you to understand their expectations as an employee. Some prime examples, provided by Thomas, include:

  • Why do you think you'd be a good fit here?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • What do you value in a workplace environment?
  • What gets you up in the morning?

"These questions are more open-ended and allow the candidate to think outside the box about his or her daily lifestyle and work habits," Thomas said.

DeRam added that experiential questions are good indicators of a candidate’s soft skills. Ask about a time they completed an assignment late, had a conflict with a supervisor, lost a major client, etc., he said.

For an interviewer dealing with a nervous candidate, "a simple smile and some non-job-related questions can go a long way," Dvorscak said. Asking about the person's commute to the interview or how their day has been so far are good ice-breaking options, she said.

It might also help to talk the candidate through the structure of the interview before you begin, so the person knows what to expect.

"As the interview progresses with your nervous candidate, take note on how or if they become more relaxed, as this is an excellent indication of their adaptability," Dvorscak added.

If a candidate is so nervous that they are unable to answer your question, Frenking recommends rephrasing the question and adding an example, or elaborating on the question with more detail.

"If the candidate is still confused or simply too nervous to get their thoughts together, tell [them] that you will come back to the question later," she said. "You can then start on a fresh new topic that might be a little less challenging to get the candidate back on track ... redirect the interview for a more solid outcome."

Having a true two-way conversation – rather than the hiring manager doing all the talking – lets the candidate know you are genuinely interested in their skills, said Dvorscak. She advised asking open-ended questions and giving the candidate an opportunity to answer. You should also give them time to solicit information from you as the interview goes on.

"I think a great interview is always the result of a great conversation," Frenking added. "It should not feel like question-answer-question-answer. Rather, the next topic should come through naturally and authentically. In my experience, if the interviewer can open up a little about themselves, it helps the applicants to open up as well."

Additional reporting by Business News Daily staff. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't working as a Business News Daily and Business.com staff writer, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. The only time Sammi doesn't play it safe is when she's writing. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.