How to successfully interview a candidate.

how to interview a candidate

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After putting your job out there, and reviewing CVs, it’s now time to narrow the pool of candidates and plan job interviews. Job interviews allow you to learn more about the candidate and also offer an opportunity for them to get to know you, your organisation and your culture. But how do you interview a candidate sucessfully?

What is a job interview?

A job interview is a conversation between an employer and a candidate who is looking for a job. The conversation is usually formal and is one of the most important steps in the recruitment process.

Just as a job interview is a chance for the employer to see whether a candidate fits the role and culture of the business, it is also an opportunity for the candidate to get a good feel of the employer and the company.

It’s a great opportunity for both parties to assess a mutual fit. This is why it is important to approach a job interview with a mindset of open dialogue and genuine connection.

Here are our tips on how to interview a candidate.

Prioritise interrupted times.

When you are conducting your job interviews, you need to allocate a specific time and choose a location where there will be no distractions such as emails, phone calls or colleague interruptions.

Not only is it respectful for the candidate whom you are interviewing, but this focus also allows you to concentrate fully on them, showcasing that you have a professional approach to the process. Making sure that this time runs smoothly and uninterrupted shows your commitment to the process and positively impacts the candidate’s experience.

Remember, planning the interview process carefully isn’t just about helping you evaluate the candidate. It can dramatically change the candidate’s perception of you, leaving a favourable lasting impression. 

Making sure that you pay attention to detail in setting up the interview can affect a candidate’s decision and their view of your organisational culture.

Prepare focussed question

It is really important to have some questions prepared that will help you understand a candidate’s skill set and how well they will fit in with the company. You want to ask questions that are good at getting candidates to talk in detail. This will help you see all of your candidate’s skills, and decide which candidates will fit in both skillfully and culturally to your business.

Don’t just stick with these prepared questions, though. You should always be ready to ask different things based on the answers that your candidates are giving. This will make the interview flow much nicer and could promote a flowing conversation where you get more insight into the unique skills of the candidates and what they bring to the table. There may be things that you find interesting about a candidate that wasn’t listed in the CV.

By asking questions that fit each candidate and being ready to change the conversation based on their answers, you’ll get a full picture of who they are. This isn’t just about knowing if they have the right tech skills. It also helps you see how they solve problems, think on their feet, and adapt to new situations, all of which are important in a team that’s always changing and growing.

Establish a Welcoming Introduction

The interview should start with you introducing yourself and your company. This is an opportunity to set a relaxed tone and give the candidates a glimpse into your organisation. This can help settle the candidate’s nerves and put them at ease.

Here are some tips on how to introduce your company effectively:

Share Your Story: Briefly talk about your company and its history, mission and achievements so far. This will help a candidate understand where you have come from and where you plan on the business heading,

Highlight Your Culture: Talk about what makes your company unique. You should detail the environment, team dynamics and any company events or traditions in your organisation. This shows a real insight to the candidate, showing them what it is like to be part of your team.

Discuss Growth and Opportunities: You should mention the company’s growth and successes, this shows candidates that there is potential for them to grow within their career.

Be Enthusiastic: Lacking enthusiasm will put a candidate off joining your company. Remember, candidates are usually interviewed at many other places. Don’t lose out on top talent because you didn’t come across as being excited about your organisation. Enthusiasm is contagious, and you’re more likely to attract people who have a genuine interest in working for your business.

Keep it Brief and Engaging: Whilst it’s important to give information, keep your introduction concise and engaging. You don’t want to bombard your candidate with information that leaves them feeling overwhelmed.

Discuss the Role in Detail

Before questioning the candidate, it’s a really good idea to go through the job description and give a detailed picture of the overall role. Go into detail about tasks, responsibilities and challenges a candidate might face in the day-to-day of the role. This helps the candidate place themselves in the roles and visualise themselves in the position, aiding them to assess their suitability.

Go beyond just reading out the job description and highlight specific skills, attitudes, personality and experiences that your company values. This is your chance not only to sell the role but the company, team and culture.

Remember to always keep a conversational tone when discussing the role as it encourages candidates to ask questions and engage with you and any other interviewers. This puts the candidate at ease and minimises them feeling overwhelmed or bombarded with too much information. It also shows the candidate that you are a business that is open and willing to engage in dialogue, which is a big plus.

You must be transparent and honest about non-negotiable aspects such as working hours, working environment (office, hybrid, or working from home) and certain skills. This makes sure that both you and the candidate have a clear, shared understanding – aiding you in making an informed hiring decision.

Connect with the candidate

Always remember that whilst the idea of an interview is for you to see if the candidate is the right fit, the applicants are also interviewing you and your company. So you want to make a good impression on them. Usually, a candidate is not only interviewing for a role with yourself, but for a few companies, so it would be a shame to miss out on the perfect hire because the candidate felt like you didn’t take much of an interest in them.

Small talk can do wonders for a candidate’s nerves and sets a really good tone for the rest of the interview. It’s best to begin your interview with some icebreaker chat.

If more than one person is interviewing the candidates, always introduce them to everyone in the room and provide them with a short breakdown of that person’s role. 

Keep your tone friendly, make eye contact, and adopt a friendly approach.

We also recommend pitching the job and the company to the interviewee within the first few minutes of the interview. 

It’s just as important for you to sell the opportunity to the candidate as vice versa. If you don’t get a good vibe from them, they can choose to go with another organisation.

Explore Background and Interest

It’s a great idea to ask your candidate about their previous work experience and what has attracted them to the role. Encourage them to go into details about their career history, and what they want in their career moving forward.

This conversation can help you understand how their skills and experience might match what you need for the role.

Also, you should ask them what attracted them to the company too, rather than just focussing on the role on offer. This will be key in figuring out if they will fit in well with the company culture and not just in terms of skill and experience.

Having this open conversation with a client, minimises the risk of hiring someone who could later turn out to be a bad fit for your company, which in turn puts extra cost into your hiring budget.

Start with more general questions

At the beginning of an interview, you should keep the questions general. This allows the candidate time to relax during the interview.

Asking candidates questions such as ‘Tell me about your previous experience…’ and ‘What made you apply for this position?’ are great ways to start the interview, and open the conversation up to asking the more specific questions you may have for the candidate.

Some other great interview questions to ask a candidate are:

How would your colleagues describe you?

This question is a great way to learn more about how the candidate views themselves in the eyes of their peers and colleagues. It should also give a good hint on their ability to work well as part of a team.

Are they classed as great communicators? Or perhaps the quiet one? Once you have a good understanding of the candidate’s personality, you should see if it aligns with your ideal candidate persona.

Why do you plan on leaving your current employer?

This is a great question to ask to see how they show respect to their current employer. 

There are going to be situations where a candidate is leaving their current position because of bad management or a toxic work environment, but they should still be respectful about their current employer and team during an interview.

Asking this will give you a better idea of how the candidate will treat their supervisors and colleagues if they were to join your company.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

A person who is ambitious with a clear set of goals for the short and long term is an invaluable asset to any company. This is especially true if they parallel their goals with your company.

As they grow professionally and financially, the company grows and expands too.

During the interview, confident job seekers will discuss that they seek a company with upward mobility as they help the company prosper.

A well-prepared candidate would have already planned to answer questions like these, which would have the interview go a lot smoother.

Gather important information from the candidate’s responses

When conducting an interview, you should listen carefully to what the candidate is saying and jot down the key points. You can then use this information to ask your follow-up questions to dig a bit deeper into the candidate’s experience. It’s a good idea that you have a checklist of the skills and experience you’re looking for so you can tick this odd when the candidate matches up with it. If you find that you have one unticked, you can then ask relevant questions to see if they have that particular skill.

Notice not only their answers but also how they communicate them. This gives you a better sense of whether they’ll gel with your team. This method helps you make a smart choice about who’s right for the role.

Listen More Than You Speak

When you’re interviewing candidates, you must get the right balance of speaking and listening. When you spend most of the time talking, you risk making the candidate feel like their input isn’t important or needed, which is likely going to put them off joining your company.

To avoid this, do more listening rather than speaking. Let the candidates have their say, and avoid cutting them off unless it is absolutely necessary. Tune into what the candidate is saying, and take note of any important points they make. Also, feel free to ask for more details when you need to. This will make the candidate leave the interview feeling valued and positive about the experience. Having a positive candidate experience is one of our predicted trends for 2024.

Encourage Candidate Questions

Encouraging candidates to ask questions is more than just a formality of an interview. It’s a way of finding out if they see themselves as part of your team. The questions they ask can show how well they have prepared for the interview, and also how interested they are in the role.

We understand that finding the right talent can be challenging. A report from the Recruitment & Employment Confederation shows that nearly 48% of employers face hurdles in filling roles due to skill shortages. This means that it is really important for your company to stand out from these candidates. 

When a candidate asks about things such as your company culture, growth and development opportunities, or the team they will be a part of, it’s not just them looking for an answer – it’s a fantastic opportunity for you to sell the business and make it stand out against the other companies which they may be interviewing with.

Clarify the Recruitment Timeline

Ensuring candidates are aware of your recruitment timeline is a key aspect of a respectful and professional hiring process. This clarity helps manage their expectations and reduces anxiety, which is particularly important in a competitive job market.

It’s beneficial to explain each step of the process, from the initial application review, through to interviews and the final decision-making stage. Let candidates know the expected duration for each phase and promptly inform them of any potential delays. This transparent approach not only helps candidates in planning their next steps but also reflects positively on your company as an organised and considerate employer.

Thank the candidate and end the interview

It’s important to thank your candidate at the end of the job interview to show your appreciation. A handshake, and walking to the door are small gestures, but they can make a big difference.

Once they have gone, take a minute to gather your thoughts and jot down any extra notes that you may have missed during the interview. This will help you with your decision on the next steps.

In conclusion, conducting successful job interviews takes preparation, respect, and engagement. By providing a clear structure, encouraging open dialogue, and demonstrating genuine interest in each candidate, you not only assess their suitability but also showcase your company as an ideal place to work. 

This approach to interviewing will not only lead you to the right candidates but also grow your company’s reputation as a thoughtful and respectful employer.

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