Interviewing: How to make the most of your evaluation process
It doesn't take a specialist to
conduct a successful interview, but, like most things, it does take
useful guidelines and some practice. We believe this information
will help you evaluate the candidates we send to you and ultimately
to select one that will become a long-term, highly productive
1. Know who
Before you try to judge the
compatibility of a candidate, you should articulate who you are as a
company and what is required by the position you want to fill. This
is an important task, yet many companies don't take the time to
define their values and expectations. If you don't have a clearly
articulated corporate culture, your RWR recruiter can help you
develop a profile that best describes the character of your
organization. This profile will play an important part in your
interviews. Once you've articulated the values that are important to
your company, you can fashion interview questions that will uncover
the qualities and characteristics that are consistent with those
2. Know what
you're looking for
It is also important to define the
position and the role the candidate is expected to play in your
company and to be aware of whether and how the job requirements vary
from your company's overall value system. For example, a company
that thrives on an aggressive style may be looking for a manager who
is expected to mediate conflict; this role will require conciliatory
skills and a more soothing style than might be expected of other
people in the company. Your recruiter can assist you in developing
an accurate, detailed job description and an appropriate
3. Prepare for
The biggest weakness in most
interviews is the lack of clear interviewing goals. As the
interviewer, what is your assignment? Is it solely to judge the
professional qualifications of the candidate? Is it to find out
whether or not you'll get along with this person or whether or not
the people in your department will like him? Clearly define the
purpose of the interview ahead of time. Know exactly where you want
the interview to go, then gently lead the candidate there. Before
going into any interview familiarize yourself with the candidate's
background and prepare an outline or a list of questions. Without
doing both of these things, your interview can easily turn into an
aimless, unproductive conversation.
When you're interviewing a number of
people for the same position, you should create a level playing
field for the candidates and a standard for comparison for your
final hiring decision. Ask the same kinds of questions and cover the
same ground with each person. That way, when it's time to sit down
and evaluate your field of candidates, you'll be comparing apples to
apples. Don't write a script and recite it word-for word in each
interview, because it's important to allow for exploratory follow-up
questions. Make a checklist that includes all the areas you want to
cover with each candidate, review it before you go into the
interview, then refer to it during your meeting, if necessary.
5. Put the
candidate at ease
You get the best results when you
break through the persona a candidate feels he/she has to project in
an interview. Many candidates are nervous, many are trying to meet
what they assume are your expectations, and all are trying to be in
top form. To get as real a portrait of the candidate as you can,
make him feel comfortable. Open the interview by trying to find some
common ground -- a shared alma mater, a city you've both lived in or
visited, a mutual home state, or professional affiliations. Use this
as an icebreaker, but don't let the interview veer off into tales of
your old fraternity. Try to create a connection, then lead the
discussion to the issues at hand. Simply being friendly is an
effective technique for making the candidate feel at ease. Being
confrontational may show you how he responds in confrontational
situations, but it won't get you much farther than that. An
interview shouldn't be designed to test a candidate's mettle.
respect for the candidate
An interview is a mutual evaluation;
the impression you give the candidate will affect his opinion of the
company as a whole and play an important role in his decision should
you decide to make him an offer. So, show respect for the candidate
by giving him your full attention. Don't keep him waiting, and don't
take phone calls or allow interruptions during the interview. Treat
him as a fellow professional.
closely and make mental notes
You can jot down some notes during an
interview to help you remember important information, but keep note
taking to a minimum. It is difficult to listen and write at the same
time, and you want to absorb and respond to what the candidate is
saying. Also, by looking at the candidate rather than at your
notepad, you give the impression that you're really listening. As
soon as the interview is over, make detailed notes about your
impressions and the candidate's responses. Your checklist will help
you recall and organize the information. Don't trust your memory:
after three or four interviews, it could be impossible to remember
distinguishing information about individual candidates without
8. Beware the
One of the most common, and most
unreliable, factors in hiring decisions is the first impression.
Choosing people on the basis of how much they look like us, how
attractive they are, or how they strike us during the first few
minutes or seconds of a conversation is not a good method of
selection. (If you were meeting with a potential client, would you
let a poor first impression disqualify him as a potential long-term
customer?) Just because you click with a candidate personally or
find you have a lot in common, that's not an indication of his
suitability for the job. Although there's no way to avoid your
personal feelings in response to an individual, there is a way to
deal with them: when you meet a candidate, quickly and privately
acknowledge your initial reaction, then set it aside and get on with
9. Be clear
and give accurate information
Remember that an interview is a
two-way, information-gathering event. It's a meeting where both
parties expect to learn something. Articulate your expectations
clearly, and represent your company and the position as accurately
as you can without revealing confidential or sensitive information.
Leave room for questions, and be honest in answering them. Be upbeat
and positive, even when giving what might seem like a tough answer.
Don't use the interview to vent your own dissatisfactions or discuss
10. Start with
the resume, then move on
The early part of the interview
should be geared toward determining the candidate's professional
qualifications, but you shouldn't waste a lot of time having him
reiterate facts already listed on paper. Use the resume as a guide
to verify and qualify his experience. Here are a couple of good
questions to use early in the interview:
- Please give me a brief overview
of your job history beginning with your first noteworthy
- Which technical aspects of this
industry are you best equipped to handle?
With the characteristics you're
looking for in mind, use open-ended questions to identify the traits
of the candidate. "How" and "why" questions reveal a lot about the
candidate's experience, thought processes, and motivation.
Open-ended questions can also be extremely useful in determining how
well a candidate matches your company's value system. Be sure to
avoid unfocused questions that allow for broad, abstract answers.
Here are some examples of good, probing questions:
- How do you handle conflict?
- How do you handle an angry
- What do you do in your spare
- What have you done to reduce
costs or generate sales in past jobs?
- What achievement in the area of
___ are you proudest of?
- What kind of relationship do you
want to have with your co-workers?
- You're working under a manager
who has great ideas, but is very poor with detail planning. How
could you best work with this type of person?
- What kind of boss do you work
most effectively with?
- If you had only three adjectives
to describe yourself, which would you choose?
prepared to sell your company
If, after asking your key-qualifying
question, you determine that the applicant is a viable candidate,
you should be ready to start selling the position and your company.
Typically, the person you are interviewing already has a
satisfactory job; it is up to you and your company to make working
for you more attractive. When you reach this point in an interview,
try saying something like this: "One of your first projects here
will be to..." or, "You will be working in our most promising new
product area". Your enthusiasm at this time will create excitement
and encourage positive feelings that will be important if you decide
to make an offer. Really good people are hard to find. Make sure
good candidates leave the interview with the feeling that you and
your company are truly interested in them as potential employees.
Here is a checklist that reviews some
of the points discussed in this guidelines. You can use it to
prepare for an interview or as a starting point for creating your
own interview, checklist. By following these guidelines, you can
improve your interviewing techniques, evaluate candidates more
effectively, and make better hiring decisions.
Before the interview
- Decide on the specific skills
and qualities required by the position.
- Define your company's value
- Define the goals of the
- Prepare an outline or a list of
questions for the interview.
- Review the candidate's resume
During the interview
- Don't rely on first impressions.
- Be flexible, but use your
outline to make sure you cover every point.
- Make the candidate feel
comfortable; be friendly, but be professional.
- Verify the information on the
- Communicate clearly and
accurately. Keep questions and answers specific.
- Use open-ended questions to
explore the candidate’s character traits and thought processes.
- Be consistent; ask candidates
for the same position the same kinds of questions.
After the interview
- Make detailed notes as soon as
the interview is over.