There have been a tremendous number of articles written for job seekers about how to do well in an interview — appropriate dress, conducting background research on the company, questions to ask the interviewer, etc. — but an interview is a two-way conversation. A skilled interviewer who makes the candidate comfortable will gain valuable information about the person and present a positive image of their company, improving the odds of the best candidate being hired.
This list of 15 actions will help you improve your skills and make your next interview a more productive and positive experience for you and the candidate.
1. Be prepared.
Prepare for the interview by having a list of qualifications and job responsibilities for the open position. Be ready to answer questions about the company’s goals and employee benefits.
2. Make the candidate comfortable.
Make the candidate more comfortable by introducing them to the company staff or offering a glass of water or cup of coffee. These actions will help the candidate relax and provide a more accurate demonstration of their qualifications. If they seem shy, try to put them at ease and encourage conversation.
Make sure that they have everything they need for the interview – such as date, location and if they’ll be in a group interview. Wouldn’t you be nervous if you walked into an interview unaware there would be a bunch of other people there?
3. Be consistent with your questions.
Ask each candidate the same questions. This will allow for consistency in the interview process and a provide a basis to compare candidates. Ask one question at a time and use open-ended questions to encourage more input from the candidate. Do not ask leading or closed-end questions.
4. Learn about the candidate.
Review the candidate’s resume and cover letter prior to the interview. Learn something about them by checking social media accounts and professional sites such as LinkedIn.
5. Be conversational.
An interview is a mutual exchange of information. Make the process feel like a conversation. Break the ice by asking the candidate about hobbies or interests. That will help the candidate relax and encourage them to speak freely about their accomplishments and qualifications.
6. Be flexible.
If the conversation takes a turn off topic, go with it. But do not let such a diversion change the total direction of the interview.
7. Work on your listening skills.
Develop your listening skills. Being a strong listener will show your interest in the candidate and encourage them to speak of their qualifications. I specifically apply this when hiring remote workers. It’ll help you get the best person available and keep them long term, even if they are working remote.
8. Act naturally.
While preparing questions and other information of an interview is important, do not rehearse so much that you appear robotic. Relax and encourage the conversation to flow naturally. Remember, most people can sense if someone is being fake. A candidate will articulate best if the interview is held in a more truthful atmosphere.
9. Don’t worry if there’s silence.
Do not feel pressured to fill the interview with constant chatter. Enjoy the moments of silence and use them to consider the candidates replies to previous questions. These breaks in the conversation can also give the candidate time to think of a question they may have for you.
10. Ask appropriate questions.
Questions are part of an interview, but you must carefully avoid questions that are inappropriate or even illegal. Asking about a candidate’s age, marital status, race or religion is illegal and can have serious repercussions for your company. Questions regarding birthplace, country of origin, arrest record and disabilities are also illegal during the interview process.
11. Don’t make the interview about you.
Do not monopolize the conversation during the interview. While the candidate needs information from you about the position and the company, they also need the opportunity to present their qualifications and demonstrate how they are the ideal for the position. The ratio of talking should be 80 percent from the candidate and 20 percent of the interviewer.
12. Make the candidate curious
Give the candidate the type of information that will make them curious about the company. This will create a good impression of your company and encourage this particular candidate to refer their friends and associates for future openings.
13. Listen for non-verbal language.
Listening is important but you should also learn to read non-verbal clues. Such signs can indicate the candidate’s level of interest and honesty.
14. Look for real solutions.
John Sullivan, an HR expert, professor of management at San Francisco State University, and author of 1000 Ways to Recruit Top Talent gives one of the best pieces of interview advice I’ve read. “How do you hire a chef? Have them cook you a meal.”
During an interview you need to provide an actual problem that you have faced and ask the candidate how they would resolve the issue, especially if there has been some problem pertaining to the job for which the candidate will be hired.
15. Follow-up with the candidate.
Contact the candidate after the interview to let them know the status of their application – regardless if they received the position or not. This helpful to the job seeker and leaves a good impression of your company. The candidate will be more likely to refer others to your company.