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Best practices for interviewing job candidates


Are you gearing up to interview candidates for a job opening? Here are some best practices that will make your life easier and your ultimate hiring decisions clearer.

Interview the very best

This seems like an obvious practice, doesn’t it? After all, you’re winnowing down most of your applicants before you ever get to the interview stage. Still, many hiring managers make the mistake of interviewing far too many people or the wrong people, wasting both their own time and that of the candidates. Group interviews, interviewing 10 or more people, and failing to screen candidates for basic fit by phone before inviting them to an in-person interview are all common interviewing mistakes.

The Hiring Manager's Guide to Effective Interviews

Depending on the role and the quality of your applicants, you will probably want to interview 2-6 people. And remember that it’s totally okay to re-post the position and keep looking if you don’t find anyone suitable for the role. If you still can’t find anyone suitable to interview, you might be looking at a mismatch between the work and the proposed salary range. You might also benefit from getting professional help with recruitment, especially if it seems like you may need to start casting a geographically wider net and inviting people to relocate.

Seek, don’t sell.

Interview time is limited and precious. Don’t waste it on a sales pitch! When a candidate seems highly qualified, it can be hard to fight the urge to try to sell them on the company. This is especially true if the position in question has been vacant for a while and you’re eager to get it filled as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, rushing to fill a position with the first person who seems like they would work out can lead to more trouble down the line. 43% of employers say that needing to fill a position quickly was a contributing factor for making a bad hire, and 24% say that a bad hire cost them more than $50,000.

The better solution is to spend that time looking for the best mutual fit. This doesn’t mean that you don’t spend any time talking about the company or the position, but rather, that you do so in a way that helps both you and the candidate uncover whether there seems to be a good fit in skills, culture, and goals.

It helps to remember that you’re not looking for the perfect employee. You’re looking for the perfect employee for is role, on this team, in this company, at this time. One company’s unicorn can be another business’ nightmare. But the only way to tell one from the other is by being honest about the reality of the job in question, including the challenges as well as the joys and perks.

You can’t predict the future, so focus on the past.

Would you be able to manage your time effectively in a role where you have a lot of responsibility for your own schedule?

Yeah, sure!

Do you think you’d be happy working in a totally paperless environment?

Why not?

Alas, there is no crystal ball when it comes to hiring, and it’s just as bad for the interviewee. Humans are notoriously bad at predicting what will make them happy. We think about our future selves as magically different people from who we’ve been before. Messy people truly believe they can become tidy, uptight people imagine that they’ll loosen up, and pretty much everyone thinks that if a business is a happy environment for others, then it will necessarily be a good fit for them, too.

Behavioral interview questions that delve into what the candidate actually did, learned, or felt in their past positions have a much better track record than hypothetical questions about possible futures. These are those “tell me about a time when …” questions that get into specifics rather than platitudes, and then delve into the specifics of how and why those particular situations did or didn’t go well.

And of course, it goes without saying that “What flavor of ice cream would you be?” is the least helpful kind of questioning at all. Don’t be that interviewer.

You already have what it takes to be a great interviewer.

Which is to say, you know that you have room to improve and you’ve got the desire to get there. Looking for more specific tips? Download your copy of The Hiring Manager's Guide to Effective Interviews to get started.

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