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6 Strategies for Conducting Better Job Interviews

We’ve talked about extensively how candidates can best prepare for their job interviews before (find all of our job interview tips here), but we’re running the spotlight this time on the people who conduct the interviews.

The truth of the matter is that interviewers are a lot like the people they interview—they get nervous too and need time to prepare. It’s understandable since a lot is at stake for this role, so it’s important to say and ask the right things.

Good thing we have this helpful guide that lets you do just that. Check out our tips below to help you become a more effective interviewer.

1. Come Prepared

Yes, the advice we give to candidates is the same advice we give to hirers. First, study the job requirements ahead of time—know the qualities and the skills to look out for before you proceed with the interview process. If there are things that are unclear to you or if you’re hiring for a team or company, talk to the people who are trying to fill the job requirement. Ask them about the most important qualities they’re expecting their applicants to possess.

Next thing to do is to study the candidates’ resumes well. Leave no room for mistakes—like forgetting about a particular detail you want to ask about—by taking the time and making notes on each applicant’s resume. Likewise, prepare for any questions that applicants may throw your way, so learn everything there is to know about the opening and your company. This may seem like a no-brainer type of tip, but it won’t hurt to take a peek at your company’s handbook to make sure you’re giving out information that’s complete and accurate.

From there you can come up with the best questions, taking into consideration the requirements of the position as well as the information you’ve gathered from studying the resumes. Make a list if you can so you won’t forget anything, but be ready also to come up with questions on the spot come interview day.

Lastly, just like what we always say to job seekers, “Practice makes perfect!” This is especially true for first-time interviewers or HR newbies. It won’t hurt to rehearse with somebody you trust to see how you’ll fare on the day of the interview.

2. Be Impressive

We’ve given out tips to candidates on how they can choose the company that best suits their needs and personality—that one of a kind pairing that makes the job seeker and employer seem like puzzle pieces that fit together. The most important take-away from it is for candidates to think of job interviews as a two-way street. Don’t forget that they are interviewing you too! So how can you make this advice work to your benefit?

It all starts with making sure the candidate feels welcome into your office, so make sure your frontline staff (security guard, receptionist, admin assistant) accommodates your visitors well. Brief them about what to expect so they’ll know what to do once the interviewee arrives.

Next is to make sure the room where the interview will be conducted is ready. Clear the room of any obstructions, and if equipment is needed check to see if it works.

Lastly, it’s important to show up on time. Show that you value the candidate’s presence by sticking to the agreed schedule.

Never forget that ultimately it’s still the applicant who will call the shots. You may find one that’s so perfect for the team but it would only work out in the end if he/she says “yes” to the job offer, so make the experience as pleasant as possible.

3. Mind Your Manners and Body Language

A raised eyebrow. A little pursing of the lips. A head tilt to the side. You may not be saying anything verbally but these little gestures speak volumes and show how you’re really feeling on the inside.

UCLA’s Professor Emeritus of Psychology Dr. Albert Mehrabian broke down human communication, declaring that 55% is devoted to body language, 38% to the tone of voice, with a mere 7% dedicated to spoken words. This shows how a huge part of our daily interaction is devoted to gestures and it’s in every interviewer’s best interests to take a closer look at how they communicate using body language.

It all starts with a firm handshake coupled with a nice, genuine smile. Maybe even offer them a drink if it’s not too much trouble. You’ll put the candidate at ease if you do. Next is your posture. Avoid slouching as that conveys boredom. Remember what our parents have told us growing up, so sit up straight. Try to maintain eye contact (but avoid staring too long!) while conversing, and lastly pay attention to what the candidate is saying. Listen carefully so you won’t miss out on anything. Adopt the 80/20 rule where the candidate should be speaking 80% of the time, and you talk for the remaining 20%. Remember, you’re not the subject so listen and only talk when needed. To avoid having the whole process seem like a police interrogation, do your best to make it light and conversational.

4. Choose the Best Interview Style that’s Appropriate for the Job

Here’s where the saying, “Different strokes for different folks,” rings the most true. After studying the job requirements and the interviewee’s credentials, choose the interview type that best suits the situation.

For example, not all interviews are suited for the one-on-one or traditional style of interview. Sometimes a job post may necessitate the need to conduct an interview via phone or Skype, such as when you’re hiring for people from abroad. Other times a change of interview technique may be required by the job’s nature. For instance, have you ever tried hiring for creative posts or jobs that require a lot of problem solving such as IT or management? You may want to try out the brainteaser-style of interview and create questions or scenarios that challenge one’s ingenuity and critical thinking skills. You can take inspiration from these brainteasers used by top companies from around the world.

5. Drop the “Why” and Focus on the “How”

The way you construct your questions can set the tone for the interview. Unless you’ve chosen to conduct the session as a Stress Interview, it’s best to come up with questions that will put the candidates at ease. That doesn’t mean going easy on them; instead, choose to be fair but firm. Your questions must give you enough information to help you create an accurate portrayal of the interviewee and the best way to do that is to ask “how” instead of “why”. “How” questions allow candidates to explain themselves, with emphasis on process and technique. “Why” questions, meanwhile, does the same but place more pressure on the candidates—because answers may come off as justifications—which may result to them going on the defense for the duration of the interview. As a responsible hirer, your role is to understand the candidate to help you make a fair and accurate assessment of their abilities and not to intimidate.

6. Don’t Be Too Nosy

You want to extract as much information as possible when you conduct these interviews, but there are questions that are still off-limits. Questions pertaining to one’s religious and political affiliations have no place in a job interview. Likewise, inquiries on one’s sexual preference, love life and disabilities are better left unsaid . This ensures you’re not being discriminatory with your candidates.

As a gauge whether your line of questioning is discriminatory or not, Janis Whitaker, the author of Interviewing by Example, says, “If you don’t ask all candidates, it’s probably some sort of discrimination.” And if it’s not specific to the job, [in employment law what is known as] a bona fide occupational qualification or BFOQ, in other words if it’s a question that has nothing to do with job requirements, most likely it’s discriminatory.”

Even with these rules in place, a few job seekers have reported being at the receiving end of some inappropriate job interview questions. Whatever you do, don’t follow in these interviewers’ footsteps!

In the recruitment business, the candidates and hirers each have their own roles to play. Expectations for both are high but studying guides like this one can make the process a lot easier. Take the time to take the necessary preparations and everyone is sure to win in the end.

What’s the most challenging part of interviewing candidates? Share with us your answers below.

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