How to Conduct a Job Interview

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Face-to-face interviews are the next step after shortlisting candidates from the virtual stack of resumes in your inbox.

Interviewing people seems like a simple task at first glance: smile, shake hands, small talk, ask questions, compare candidates, and hire a candidate. But there’s so much more to it.

You must ensure to hire the best possible talent—someone whose skills come off well during the interview. A single mistake may lead to you losing an individual who could’ve been a solid asset to your team. Or to hiring the wrong person who lowers morale.

So how do you conduct a job interview successfully to secure the best fit for the job and your company?

Hint: Don’t just “wing” it.

Why Conducting a Job Interview Is Worth It?

Would you accept a marriage proposal based on how good they look on paper?

The same logic applies when hiring someone for a job.

A job offer is a potentially life-altering event that must be carefully contemplated and only extended once you’re sure the interviewee has skills that align well with your company’s requirements. 

Conducting job interviews facilitate better hiring decisions, helping you narrow down the field of applicants—to weed out people who may not be a good fit for the company.

When done effectively, you can determine if the applicant has the skills, experience, and personality to meet the job’s requirements.

Plus, there’s more to a person than their credentials and qualifications. Interviews help you understand the candidate better as a person—how savvy they are, how confident they are, and how personable they are.

You can then determine whether the applicant would fit with the company culture.

Job interviews are helpful from the candidate‘s perspective too. 

Just like you’re trying to assess whether they would be a good fit for your organization, even the prospect is gauging you. Interviews can be a good place for them to learn more about the job and your company.

The Investment Needed to Conduct a Job Interview

Before the face-to-face interview stage, you’ll first need to post a job advertisement to attract high-quality prospects.

Although tons of employment websites like Indeed, Craigslist, and even LinkedIn let you post job ads for free, you should consider paid websites to get access to verified job seekers who are serious about getting a job. 

Premium employment websites will charge you anywhere from $45-$120 to put up your ad for a specific period.

Once the resumes start coming in, your hiring manager will screen and review every applicant who applied for the position and schedule a first phone interview with ones they like. This can take anywhere between 15-18 minutes per candidate, rounding up to about 2.5 to 3.5 hours of work.

The phone interview round takes longer, where the hiring manager might end up speaking to every candidate for about an hour, clocking the total time at about 9-10 hours.

Until this stage, the hiring manager has worked for over 14 hours. If you pay them $40 per hour (as per the U.S. national average of HR managers), you have a bill of $560 already, and you haven’t even gotten to in-person interviews.

Then finally, for the traditional interview process, the hiring manager will grill each of the short-listed candidates for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to gauge their skills and get to know them. As only a select few people reach this stage, you can assume the hiring manager will work for a total of 6-8 hours, which will cost you $320.

Your grand total stands at around $900-$1000 for the entire interviewing process—and that’s assuming you only get 50 applications in the screening and scheduling stage.

Luckily, you can save some serious money—and effort—when conducting interviews if you simply use recruiting software. These automated interviewing tools can help you save over 93% of the total interviewing cost, amounting to over $2,375 per job if you take our above example of receiving 50 applications.

Not bad, right?

6 Steps to Conduct a Great Job Interview

Let’s learn how you can use the brief time you get with a prospect to determine whether they’ll be a good fit for your organization.

#1 — Paint a Picture of Your Exact Requirements

You should have a proper idea of the kind of person you want for the job, in terms of skills, experience, and personality. Think about what you can do to determine a candidate’s suitability.

Ideally, you should make a checklist of all the requirements for the role and then tailor your questions and means of assessing the individual to evaluate all the established factors.

Another great tip would be to talk to top-performing employees currently in the role to develop insightful job-related questions. 

  • Ask them about their daily responsibilities in their current/most recent role.
  • Ask them about the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) they think are required for success in the position.
  • Ask them about their leadership style and what they are looking for in company culture.

Based on the answers you get to the above questions, you should determine which skills you are willing to train in the new employee. This will effectively give a clear way to weed out unsuitable applicants while interviewing.

#2 — Create a Game Plan for the Interview

Your hiring team is probably clear on the technical skills employees must have, but what about their personality traits? 

Do you want someone with good social skills or someone quiet and analytical? What level of communication skills do you think the job needs?

Try to come up with interview questions that can bring out the specific information you’re looking for. You must also be prepared for questions from candidates, especially inquiries concerning compensation, perks, and company culture.

We highly recommend reading the resume, and more importantly, the candidate’s work history. Make a note of any areas requiring more clarification, such as unexplained work history gaps or weird job titles.

This will help you personalize your questions. Plus, referencing a candidate’s previous work experience or achievement during the interview will make them feel valued, giving them a positive impression of your company.

#3 — Do a Detailed Interview Prep

Create a general structure for the interview process, covering all the key areas you want to address during the interviews. This will allow you to save precious minutes and show candidates you respect them and their time.

Take a long, hard look at the checklist and the list of questions you’ve put together. Fine-tune them further to make them more job-specific to truly assess a candidate’s potential. 

Try to memorize all your must-ask questions so you can maintain eye contact with the candidate. This will create a more casual and relaxed atmosphere, allowing the candidate to relax and focus on answering the questions to the best of their abilities.

You should check out their social media to learn a few pointers for making small talk.

You can also rehearse the process with a friend or family member, a colleague, or even in front of the mirror or webcam! This will make you feel more confident about your communication abilities while simultaneously clueing you into opportunities for improvement.

#4 — Try to Connect With the Applicant

Always remember that the applicants are also interviewing you and your company. So you want to make a good impression on them.

It’s best to begin your interview with an informal chat as an icebreaker. Trust us, small talk can do wonders.

You should also take this time to introduce them to everyone in the room, providing them with a brief breakdown of the interview structure and how long you think it’ll last. You can also use the pointers you connect on social media or their CV to make them feel welcome.

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 you, they can choose to look elsewhere even when you offer them the job.

#5 — Assess the Candidate’s Potential

This is arguably the most crucial part of the interview, where your assessing and people-reading skills will be put to the test.

You have to first gauge an applicant’s self-awareness by asking insightful questions and establishing competencies to understand whether they have the skills critical to carry out the role’s tasks.

Here’s a list of a few questions worth asking:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would you describe your work ethic?
  • What makes you good at your current or last job?
  • Why do you think you’re a good fit for this role?

Understanding how the candidate works and their openness to feedback and communicating with others is also vital.

Ask them to provide real solutions by putting them in hypothetical situations. Don’t be afraid to go into detail. Ask them to describe their approach, the kind of software they would use, the deadlines they’ll set, and the course of action they’ll take.

You have two golden rules here: 1. Always ask open-ended questions, and 2. Speak less and listen more.

You’ve already prepared your questions in advance, but you should be prepared to improvise a bit based on your candidate’s response. 

Running through “what-if” questions can be a good tactic to gauge their logical reasoning skills and on-the-job expertise, giving you a better understanding of what they’ll do in each scenario. 

Also, if you feel the applicant is giving generalized answers, you can always dig for more detail. Here’s a list of questions that can help them open up and answer more comprehensively:

  • What do you see yourself doing in five years?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What management style do you think brings out the best in you?
  • What’s a good work environment for you? Which factors would you prioritize to ensure better outcomes?
  • When working with a team, which role would you be most comfortable in?

The whole point of conducting the job interview is to have the applicant answer your questions.

In an interview with Blair Glaser, Stephanie Smith-Ejnes, VP of People and Organization for Sony Pictures Entertainment, emphasizes the importance of connecting with your applicants. She says, “Interviewing isn’t a ‘gotcha’ game anymore. It’s about connecting, even briefly, with the person across from you.”

#6 — Close on a Friendly Note

Hopefully, by this stage, you should have a proper idea of the candidate’s ability. Now that you have everything, you can finish the interview. 

Inform the candidate about the next steps, such as whether there will be a second round of interviews, when they should expect to hear back from you, and/or if there is any testing involved. 

Also, when you tell applicants you’ll be in touch over the next few days, make sure you stick to your word. Being left hanging after a job interview can be extremely disheartening and will not work well for your company’s image.

Once you’re happy you’ve covered everything you wanted to discuss, thank the candidate for their time, ending the interview on a friendly note.

Next Steps

After interviewing the candidate, go over your notes and reflect on how you think the applicant performed. If you’re still interviewing other people, you can quickly jot down your first impression and judgment about whether you feel they could be a good fit for the role.

Once you’re done with all the interviews, you can either extend the final offer letter to the candidate you liked best or hold second-round interviews to come to some sort of conclusion.

Here are a few more Crazy Egg guides to set yourself up for success:

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