How to Conduct an Employment Interview

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Job interviews are not necessarily fun for the interviewee or the interviewer. They are by nature stressful situations. However, you can eliminate some of that stress by preparing ahead of time. Being able to get right to the meat of the process can help to put everyone at ease.

Preparing for the Interview

  • Determine who will be involved in the interview process. Some companies appoint a single individual to conduct employment interviews, while others form an employment panel. Make this decision before scheduling any interviews. That way, you can inform candidates of what to expect so they can prepare.

  • Decide which type of interview process to use. Many companies have moved to a more informal process in which interviews are conducted over lunch or dinner. Other companies, however, use a formal interview process. A few have gone one step further and have begun employing an antagonistic interview process meant to determine how candidates respond under pressure. Any of these processes are acceptable, but should be prepared for in advance.

  • Review each applicant’s information thoroughly. Note anything that should be brought up during the interview.

  • Prepare a list of interview questions. Ask at least a certain number of questions of all candidates. If different questions are asked of each candidate, you will end up comparing apples to oranges instead of apples to apples.Choose questions that deal with the skills and behaviors required for the job, rather than just a certain type of attitude or style. Gear one or more questions toward making the candidate think, rather than delivering a standard answer. Introducing some pressure into the situation is good. Just don’t overdo it.

  • Review, or have company lawyers review, human resource law to ensure that all interview questions are legal. Failure to do so could open the company to lawsuits.

  • Establish how many candidates to interview initially. If the first group of candidates does not work out, you can plan a second wave. Set guidelines for the process and stick to them.

  • Set a date, time and location for the interviews to take place. Reserve enough time to complete the process properly.

  • Establish a point system or some other rating mechanism to narrow down the final possibilities. Ultimately, points won’t matter, but they will help eliminate candidates who are a less likely fit.

  • Decide whether or not to audio-tape the interview. Taping allows the employer to review sections of the interview that may have raised concerns. However, keep in mind that taping adds a layer of a stress to the process and allow a certain amount of latitude for that.Do not try to videotape an interview. Any attempt to get at the candidate’s looks or age can be considered discriminatory in nature.

Conducting the Interview

  • Outline the position for which candidates are interviewing. Be specific enough for them to decide whether or not to continue with the interview process. Give them an easy out if they decide the job simply is not for them.

  • Avoid snap judgments. Candidates who are friendly and impressive on the surface may nevertheless not be right for the job. Complete the set of interview questions as established so that judgments are based solely on qualifications.

  • Ask questions in a professional manner. Give candidates time to reflect as well as to respond. Avoid hurrying them into giving a quick, and perhaps incomplete, answer.

  • Raise issues or concerns about a candidate’s response immediately, tying it to an ability to do the job, not personality or method of response.

  • Allow the candidate to ask questions. Answer them as honestly and professionally as possible.

  • Conduct tests only if they are necessary to determine the person’s suitability for the job. If you test one candidate, you must test them all. Otherwise, your company could be accused of discrimination.

  • Tell candidates about the follow-up process so they know what to expect. If only the winning candidate will be contacted, say so. Give candidates a time line for hiring, if one exists. This way, candidates know how to handle other job offers.

  • Compile the data on each applicant once interviews are complete. Decide whether to hire someone or continue interviewing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Ask open-ended questions during the interview that require applicants to respond with more than a "yes" or " no" answer.
  • Consider a few interview questions geared toward assessing candidates’ attitude or behavior.
  • Let candidates know in advance if they will be tested in some respect.
  • If testing, inform candidates what constitutes "passing."
  • Clicking with a candidate on a personal level doesn’t necessarily mean that person is the best fit for the position.
  • Follow up with candidates. It is simply common courtesy.
  • Antagonistic interview methods are not for everyone. This type of interview requires a lot of practice to function effectively. Conducted poorly, the process could establish the wrong reputation for the business.
  • Do not ask questions that could appear to be gender- or age-biased.
  • Don’t discuss salary during the interview.
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