“How do I conduct a candidate interview?”
I received this question from a client recently; it occurred to me that while I dispense ample advice to candidates on preparing and polishing themselves for interviews, I rarely discuss the process from the other side of the desk. I’m glad this client asked, not only because it inspired me to write about it but also because it’s an often-overlooked part of the recruiting process. The sad fact is that not only are most interviewers not trained in any methodology for conducting an interview, but far too often, the mechanics of an interview are but a second thought. Employers and interviewers need to be at the top of their games when they meet with prospective employees, particularly in this job market.
Most of my clients have been in the candidate’s shoes, so my first piece of advice regarding this question is simple: think of all the inane, time-wasting, stupid, irrelevant questions you’ve been asked in interviews. Now, don’t ask any of those, and don’t mimic any of the behavior you’ve found irritating throughout your career. Beyond that, here are some specific things you can do to make yourself a better interviewer so you can recruit top talent.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from candidates is that they get to an interview, and it is clear that this is the first time the interviewer is reviewing their resume. There is no excuse for this. Take 3 minutes and read over each candidate’s resume before meeting with them. Make notes of interesting points or things that you would like to ask.
This relates to “read the resume.” Be ready with questions, be prepared to answer tough questions, and armed with some knowledge about the role for which the candidate is interviewing.
By the time a candidate comes your way, their ability to do the job has (hopefully) been vetted already. So beyond the technical skills required, what behaviors or personality traits will be critical for success in the role? This is what you want to asses in the interview.
Don’t rely on “So, tell me about yourself” to guide the conversation. Review the candidate’s LinkedIn profile and resume, and have specific questions prepared that indicate that you did your research on the candidate.
Don’t dominate the conversation. Give the candidate ample time to ask questions as well.
This is related to “come up for air.” Let the candidate talk so that you can get to know more about them and understand their thinking and collaborative style.
Past performance is indicative of future performance, but it is a poor assessment criterion for potential performance. You need to think in terms of potential. In other words, it’s not enough that a candidate for an engineering role can code and solve problems. Can this person accept feedback and criticism, develop and grow from it, and do things they’ve not done before?
Above all, remember to make the candidate comfortable and recognize that the interview goes both ways. Take notes so that you can provide concrete feedback to all other stakeholders; if you are able, apprise the candidate of the steps in the process. By conducting an effective interview, you can avoid the pitfall of wasting time or, worse, making a poor and costly hiring decision.