How to Be a Better Interviewer

Most people who interview job applicants feel that they are pretty good at interviewing. They might have been a bit anxious the first time they had to interview someone, but the second interview went better, and the third better than that. By the time they had reached their tenth interview, they felt pretty comfortable with the process and their role in it. From that point on, they tended to see themselves as experienced interviewers, comfortable with the process and confident that they could “read” applicants effectively. And sometimes they were right.

Being a better interviewer is like being a good manager, or a good wide receiver in the NFL. It requires knowledge of the basics and the willingness to practice at making them work for you. That reminds me of the tourist in New York City, who stopped a native New Yorker one day and asked, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The New Yorker paused for a moment, and then said, “Practice, practice, practice.” It’s good advice for interviewers as well.

Here are the basics of good interviewing:

1. Make an outline of how to conduct the interview; write down your open-ended questions.
2. Don’t talk too much, and avoid spending much time in the interview “selling the company.”
3. Remind yourself of your personal biases and keep them from distorting your evaluation of the candidate.

Above all, remember that the information and impressions you gather from the interview are only one source of information about the candidate. Have more another person (or two) interview the candidate, and then compare notes and impressions. Add interview impressions to information obtained from background checks, personality and character assessments, physical exams, drug tests, references and other sources to obtain the most complete and well rounded picture of the applicant’s suitability for the job. And then, cross your fingers and make the hiring decision, reassured that you have done all that you can do to insure that your decision is a good one for both the company and for the applicant.

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