Insider’s Guide to Conducting an Interview

Everyone knows that being interviewed is stressful and exhausting, but not many people think about what it is like to be the one conducting the interview. There are probably many books about how stressful it is to conduct interviews, and I doubt that they are lighthearted. When you are conducting an interview, you must think about many things at one time: what keywords to listen for, can I legally ask that question, and remember to take notes. And you must do it several times in one day!

Here are my constructive suggestions about conducting interviews in the least stressful way possible:

1. Be clear about what you are looking for

The process of filling an open job position starts even before you schedule the first interview. It should start by making sure you have a written job description. Familiarize yourself with the job description and make notes of skills and attitudes that you most want candidates to have. Make your notes into a list and have a copy for each interview.

2. Have a standard set of questions that you ask each candidate

Having a list ensures that you ask each candidate the same questions, without forgetting any, and in the same order. This list should include basic interview questions, behavioral interview questions, and job-specific interview questions. Examples of basic interview questions are: Tell me about yourself, Where would like your career in five years? What attracted you to this job position? Examples of behavioral interview questions are: What was the last project you led and what was the outcome? What is your greatest failure and what did you learn from it? If your supervisor asked you to do something that you disagreed with what would you do?

Job-specific interview questions should be based on the job description and what you are looking for: If you were looking for a content writer one question might be about the style of writing the candidate prefers? You might ask to see writing samples as well.

3. Don’t allow yourself to get interview fatigue

Interview fatigue occurs when you must conduct several interviews without a break. Interview fatigue causes you to lose focus, objectivity, and listening skills. Be sure to schedule regular breaks during a day of interviewing; if possible, take a brisk walk up and down the hall, and try not to do more than three interviews back-to-back.

4. Keep your biases at bay

It is human nature to respond more favorably to people who have the same qualities and interests that you have; it often feels as if you have a personal connection with the candidate. Even though it is natural, you need to safeguard
yourself against it during an interview because it interferes with your objectivity. For example, suppose you learn during an interview that the candidate shares your love of hiking; it’s all too easy, unless you are paying attention to your own
reactions, to start listening with a different mindset. This shift in mindset can cause you to miss answers to questions, or even think to yourself, “I don’t need to ask that question.”

5. Don’t let it show when you are impressed by the candidate

While you should be friendly and attentive with all candidates, avoid “telegraphing” your reaction when you are interviewing an especially impressive one. From time to time, you may interview a candidate who just seems to “check all the boxes,” and whose poise and resume are equally impressive. Letting the candidate see your reaction too clearly, however, can create the impression (in the candidate) that he’s nailed the interview and has the job. Furthermore, a candidate who is not sure how well he is impressing you will continue to try hard to do so, throughout the interview, and this gives you a better idea of how he or
she handles stress.

6. Remember to describe the job position and company to the candidate

Even if you hand the candidate a written copy of the job description at the beginning of the interview, always verbally go over its main points. The job description introduces the candidate to your company, and going over it means that you can be sure the candidate understands what he or she will be expected to do. You’ll be able to judge, not only from questions that he or she asks but also from nonverbal cues, how interested the candidate is in the job. In addition, at this point you represent the company to the candidate, so be sure you let the candidate know what working for the company will be like.

7. Give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions

This may seem like an obvious tip, but you would be surprised how many interviewers skip this step. The questions that the candidate asks also give you more information about how attentive he or she has been, what his or her expectations are, and much more.

8. Be sure to let the candidate know what the next step is

One of the most common questions the candidate has, but may be reluctant to ask, is what the next step in the process will be. If you make it a habit to end every interview with, ‘Thank you for coming and the next step is…” you will get have created a graceful end to the interview, as well as likely avoiding follow-up calls from candidates.

These eight suggestions will help you get through hectic days of multiple interviews with a better idea of the strengths and challenges that candidates bring to the job. The bottom line suggestion: be prepared before the interview and know what you want to learn about the candidate during the interview. And take notes in the least intrusive way that you can, because you want to remember what you have learned!