What Makes A Good Interview?

The Importance of the Interview

“What makes a good interview?”  We first must know what an interview is.  It is the most critical step in the hiring process and you should take it seriously.  It is your opportunity, as the manager, to not only review a candidate’s qualifications, but it is your chance to see if this person is the right fit for you and your team.  Remember, the ability to do the job is only part of what makes a great employee.  Passion, a willingness to go the extra mile, and dedication to the greater good of the team are qualities you should not overlook.  You can teach many “tasks”, but a great attitude and desire to succeed are naturally found in someone.  A great team member never says, “That’s not my job.”  So, determine if their skills are there then follow-up to see if their attitude matches up.

Scan and Select

Review all resumes beforehand and make sure they meet the qualifications for the position.  Do they have the education, the experience, and the skills this position requires?  If this information is unclear, you may need to conduct a phone interview before bringing them into your office.  If they do not possess the necessary qualifications, do not waste your time or theirs.  Chances are they will submit resumes to multiple companies so if you are not the right fit, let them find who is.  Once you’ve determined who your best candidate is – or maybe there are several – set up a phone interview.

On the Phone

When conducting a phone interview, you should ask basic questions designed to narrow the list of candidates.  Prepare ahead so you do not waste time.  Confirm their background, experience, and any other pertinent information.  Ask at least one question relevant to the position to get a feel for their level of expertise.  See how well they handle the call, from the way they answer the phone to the way they communicate.  Are they professional and do they meet the requirements?  If so, schedule a time for them to come in for a face-to-face meeting.

Face-to-Face

The meeting is your chance to talk to the candidate and gain valuable information.  Ask open-ended questions, the type that require them to think and elaborate, and let them talk freely.  You will learn everything you want to know, and more, just by listening.  As they talk, note their body language and gauge how comfortable they are.  Also, ask yourself the following questions: Did they prepare for the interview?  Did they arrive on time?  Is their attire professional and did they offer a firm handshake?

A hiring manager I know was interviewing candidates for a receptionist position at a medical practice.  She had interviews lined up all morning and had told the current receptionist to turn anyone away who was late.  It turns out she should have told her to refuse anyone who wasn’t dressed professionally.  All candidates were at least ten minutes early, but two of them were in what appeared to be pajama pants.  Their qualifications were excellent, but their lack of professionalism in such an important moment said it all.  What’s the old saying: “You don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression.”  As a manager, a person’s credentials should impress you, but so should the way they present themselves.

Go the Extra Mile

During the interview, take time to tell them about the position and make sure they have a true understanding of what the job entails.  If possible, bring them to the area where they would work and introduce them to the team.  It is important they understand exactly what the position requires so they can decide if this is truly for them.  This will save you valuable time in the future and minimize your attrition rate.

Lastly, be professional at all times and stay on topic.  Be ready to answer any questions they may have, including salary and benefits, especially if this is a position which requires a highly sought-after set of skills.  Understand they will expect some room for negotiation.  Everyone likes to feel valued, so give yourself room to accommodate.  At the same time, if you feel this person may not be the right one, there is no need to discuss compensation details.  Simply thank them for their time and move on.

If you make a connection and wish to move forward, let them know you will put together an offer letter and send it out within one week.  Use discretion when discussing salary and benefits in an interview.  Present these details in writing so there is no misunderstanding of terms.  When negotiating salary, remember to mention any other perks they may find valuable, e.g. a car allowance or a gas card.  You may also present these in the compensation package.

You’ve Got This!

Interviewing can be a tedious task, and it’s the least favorite of many managers.  Your ability to select candidates who will be assets to your team will strengthen your business and elevate its success.  Stay confident, keep a smile on your face, and take the time to pick the right candidate.

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Does The Interview Really Matter?

You are the manager, and it is time to hire your team.  Does the interview really matter?  As the boss, surely you can just talk to someone and know if they are qualified.  In a nutshell, no you can’t and, yes, the interview matters.

Remember the Motto and Be Prepared

Success in many things begins with preparation.  How will you interview?  Will you interview on the phone, via Skype, or in person?  Are you responsible for setting up interview times?  If not, does your assistant have your most current schedule and availability?  After interviews are set up, remember to give candidates the address and any necessary directions to the office.  Ideally, you should set up any technology you might need for the interview the day before to ensure it is operating properly.  This will give you time to troubleshoot, if necessary.  In addition to the interview itself, prepare yourself.  You are interviewing a candidate to work for you, but they will also be interviewing you to see if they want to!  Be professional and organized so they see you, and your company, as a place they want to be.

Introductions are Important

It is already nerve wracking being at an interview, so a friendly hello will put them at ease.  When meeting the candidate, introduce yourself and give them your title.  Shake their hand and repeat their name back to them.  “Hi Joe, my name is Mike, and I’m the General Manager here at our company.  I would like to discuss the open Associate position that we have.  Please come in and have a seat.”  Be informative and friendly.  Keep a pleasant smile on your face and speak clearly.

Need a Record?

In some cases, you may want to record or film the interview for training purposes.  Ask the candidate’s permission before you do so and clarify your reasons.  If they decline, accept it and move on.

Additional Things to Consider

Determine how much time you need to gather all necessary information during the interview.  The candidate will most likely have questions so have a time frame in mind for how long you will allow.  If you plan on taking the candidate on a tour of the facility or to meet other team members, consider that when determining the amount of time, you will allow for the interview.

Avoid These Things

Providing the questions to the candidates in advance may be convenient, but it prevents you from hearing their honest responses.  The candidate is giving you their time and attention, so be respectful and give them yours.  Also, group interviews are often stressful for a candidate.  When you determine a candidate is a good fit, you can consider a casual group meeting.

Be Natural and They Will Be Comfortable

People interviewing are naturally nervous so try to make them comfortable.  This will allow their true personality to come through.  Ask a general question as an icebreaker, and then listen to what they have to say.  Did their kid just play Beauty in a third-grade play?  At that moment, you are fascinated by that.  People love to talk about themselves and, get used it, they especially love talking about their kids.  This tends to help them relax because it is a comfortable topic of which they are confident.  It also gives you insight to them and shows they have compassion.  Once you give them a few minutes to brag on little Janie’s performance, move to the interview. Keep in mind you do not need to have a checklist and a clipboard, with a look of formality.  Interviews should be a natural conversation, giving both you and the candidate a feeling of ease.

And lastly…

Be friendly and enthusiastic.  This will encourage the candidate to express their personality, so you can determine if they will be a good fit.  You already know they are qualified on paper, the interview is really the time to see if they will gel with your team.  Be patient, interview those who are qualified, and make them comfortable.  It will not be long, and you will have your team in place.