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Best Practices – Employee Interviewing

Posted on November 9, 2018

The job interview is a critical aspect of the hiring and recruiting process. Here are some best practice interviewer tips that you can use to help find the best candidate for your open position.

A key element in conducting an interview is preparation. Most of the time the candidate comes to the interview prepared. They usually arrive with a list of questions and several statements regarding their past achievements. The interviewer should match the candidate’s efforts by spending time preparing for the meeting. A list of questions should be formulated in advance that key into an exploration of the following traits: attitude, motivation, initiative, reliability, planning, insight, as well as their ability to do the job.

  • If the interviewer plans to interview more than one candidate, then a rating system should be devised (ranked 1-2-3) that will allow for objectivity. 
  • Remember, also, that your job in the interview is not only to assess the candidate’s skillsets, but to sell them on both the opportunity and the agency. 

Define your interview objectives before you start

  • The hiring manager as well as the position peers should agree upon: 
  • The position’s duties and the technical knowledge and skills required to do the job. 
  • Success factors: How did previous top performers in this job behave? 
  • Performance expectations: What do you expect this person to accomplish? 
  • Select your questions in advance 

Pre-select questions that evaluate whether a candidate has those skills and behaviors you’ve identified as essential for the job. Don’t rely on a job description and a candidate’s resume to structure the interview. Pre-selecting questions also ensures that interview questions are consistent and fair across all candidates.

You might include some or all of these types of interview questions:

  1. Icebreakers: Help to build rapport and set candidates at ease before beginning the formal interview. 
  2. Traditional Questions: To confirm that the applicant’s technical skills meet minimum standards. 
  3. Situational Questions: Ask candidates what they would do in a specific situation relevant to the job at hand. These questions can help you understand a candidate’s thought process. 
  4. Behavior-Based Questions: These require candidates to share a specific example from their past experience. Each complete answer from a candidate should be in the form of a SAR response—the complete Situation, Action, and Result. If a candidate skips any of these three elements, prompt them to fill in the blanks. It’s important to really dig into examples and ask questions until you feel you have a good grasp of whether or not the candidate has mastered the skill in question. 
  5. Culture-Fit Questions: These will help you select candidates who are motivated and suited to perform well in the unique environment of your organization. 

How to Interview Candidates: The Interview Process & Beyond

Before the Interview

  • Put candidates at ease — do your best to help candidates relax. Make sure each candidate is greeted and escorted, if necessary, to the interview location. Start with an icebreaker.
  • Don’t judge on first impressions- withhold judgment until you’ve had the chance to thoroughly evaluate a candidate’s capabilities and potential. 

During the Interview

  • Tell the candidate a little about the job- start with a brief summary of the position, including the prime responsibilities, reporting structure, key challenges, and performance criteria. 
  • Don’t be afraid to improvise- plan your questions, but don’t feel you must ask only those you’ve chosen in advance. 
  • Listen- a general guideline is to spend 80 percent of your time listening and only 20 percent talking. 
  • Take notes- write down important points, key accomplishments, good examples, and other information that will help you remember and fairly evaluate each candidate. 
  • Invite candidates to ask questions – Why do they want to be here- is it the challenge of the job, advances in the industry, or something specific about your company? Or is the candidate fixated on salary, benefits, and time off? If the candidate has no questions this should be a red flag, especially for senior-level employees. 

After the Interview and the Debrief

  • Let candidates know what they can expect. Be clear about what the next steps will be. 
  • Compare notes and reach consensus. The post-interview evaluation is the time to compare notes and advance the hiring decision. Each interviewer should be prepared to back up remarks and recommendations with specific examples and notes from the interview. 
  • Deepen the questions as you narrow the field: Subsequent interviews with finalists are valuable opportunities to learn more about them. Consider adding “show me” exercises such as a strategic planning exercise or a “walk me through what you’d do” activity involving a real business challenge the individual would be facing. 

Interviewig Dos and Don’ts

Interview questions that imply preferences to race, color, religion, age, sex, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, and disabled status, are violations of federal and state laws. Questions to avoid include the following subject:

  • Age 
  • Arrest Record 
  • Birthplace 
  • Citizenship 
  • Disability 
  • Family 
  • Marital Status 
  • Memberships that would reveal race, religion, sex, marital status, national origin, or disability status 
  • National Origin 
  • Photographs 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Race or Color 
  • Relatives 
  • Religion or Creed 
  • Sex 
  • Sexual Orientation 
  • Workers’ Compensation- any inquiry regarding past claims, injuries, etc. 
  • Carefully planned questions and a structured interview process that is the same for all candidates will ensure equal treatment of all who apply. Keep the focus on what the job requires and how each candidate has performed in the past. Perhaps most importantly, make fair hiring part of your company’s mission and value statement, championed from the top down and an integral part of the selection process 

Lauren Sims is the article’s author and the Director of Human Resources.

Whenever you require professional Human Resources or Payroll guidance to navigate the ever-changing landscape of California and Federal Employment Laws & Regulations, contact us for a no-obligation consultation.

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