How to Conduct a Job Interview

How to conduct a job interview is best defined with a good, methodical approach that has consistency is key for any business entity.

For employers, having such a system in place allows an objective standard to be present in which companies can base their decisions. They can interview until they believe they’ve avoided all the pitfalls, and can feel confident that they’ve identified the best candidate for a job opening.

Conducting interviews is but one stage of the hiring process, and above all else, preparation, focus, and structure are critical.

Qualifications, credentials, and experience are all very important for businesses to consider.

Finding the Best Employees

The best employees don’t simply perform the job -- they solve critical business needs, and identifying these employees who go the extra mile for the company is a great means to ensure success.

Among the most prevalent attributes of top employees are their potential, adaptation to company culture, and contributions to the company.

Learning how best to identify these persons among the hiring pool may incur the use of job requirements, such as requiring certain certifications, accomplishments, references, and skills as a condition of employment.

Identifying employees with the ideal personality, interests, skills, and demeanor is critical. Many business look for the perfect employee, knowing that this will increase their odds of connecting with someone who is an ideal fit for the company.

The job interview phase is vital, and can seem simple -- after all, it’s little more than a meeting. However, shaking hands and making small talk, as well as asking questions, can help employers vet their candidates, as well as better inform their decisions as to who they should hire for any open positions

Some prospective employees and candidates, however, have one skill up their sleeve that make interviewing difficult -- they simply interview well, and can assure managers that they possess skillsets and experience they may not actually have. Charisma and speaking acumen step in for experience and qualifications often enough. Good, professional interviews are the result of lots of preparation on the part of at least the employer, and it’s critical for these entities to prepare themselves to face individuals who can nail an interview, seem like a good fit, but completely tank the company’s expectations.

Narrowing Down Candidates

In order to narrow the pool of individuals who are strong candidates solely because of their talking skills, many employers introduce training periods, have employees attempt to solve complex customer problems, issue severance payments, and recruit replacements, which are all things they’d rather not do because of budgetary constraints.

Experts agree that the cost of hiring a bad employee far exceeds the annual salary of a given position. That means that, if a company hires a programmer onto their staff for $50,000 a year, but makes a bad hiring decision, they could easily end up spending far more than $50,000 that year finding a good match for the vacant position.

Starting Your Search

Businesses would do well to start their search for the ideal candidates, and spend time considering the the merits of the job. Consider previous employees, what skills they had, why they held the positions and for how long, what knowledge they brought with them, and what qualities made them successful, or a failure, at the position.

These people and their supervisors are ideal targets for conversation on what factors come into play the most in the search for the right candidate.

Listing these factors is in the best interest of businesses, and it can help them make sure that all candidates for employment and anyone else involved with the hiring process is on board and in agreement that the criteria they’re setting forth is being met by candidates.

Candidates come to interviews and are sometimes interviewed by multiple employees. This can lead to all sorts of situations, but one common one is being asked a totally different set of questions by interviewers because they themselves have varying opinions on what a candidate should bring to the table. Another situation could be two or more interviewers asking more or less the same questions, with the interviewee giving similar answers each time they’re in the hot seat, and the interviewers come away with totally different opinions about the candidate’s answers. Collaboration is needed, but this can be bumpy for many candidates to overcome.

Ranking candidates after an interview phase is often misleading. If nobody in the hiring pool seems like the right fit, a company should keep looking, and not settle, lest they risk a bad investment and wasting money training new employees. They should focus on selecting candidates who are themselves completely familiar with the job, the requirements, and are familiar with what, when, and where they should be involved during the interview process.

Employers need to make sure that there are no tricks, loose ends, uncertainties, or surprises brought to the table by candidates for employment. The atmosphere should be comfortable, relaxed, and should be based around making simple conversation. The terms of the conversation should be neutral, safe, and nonthreatening to either party. To consider an example, religion and politics might be better left untouched during an interview. While it is good to get a sense of where an employee or employer is in relation to issues close to heart, both parties should keep things light during an interview as not to set off any alarms.

Interviewers may be able to get daytime television audience types to cheer and follow their every word, but the average hiring audience is far too sophisticated and business-savvy to fall for the tricks employees try to bring to the table.

The Interview Process

Interviews are at their most effective when they’re personal, up-close, and have a soft style that encourages employees to reveal newsworthy and relevant information to the interviewer. Both parties want truthful answers from the other, and this setting encourages exactly that.

Most interviews see common questions asked, and employees measure the responses that candidates give using narrow data points. Often, the most interesting and revealing responses a company gets come from open-ended inquiries where candidates were asked to express themselves freely on a topic.

Lawyers will advise to only ask a witness a question you already know the answer to -- interviewers can use this same technique to their advantage.

By asking questions about issues a candidate is likely clueless about, unless it’s something that would explicitly disqualify them from consideration, is counterproductive. Sometimes, it’s effective to ask simple questions that all prospective employees are asked, and to measure those answers against one another for uniqueness.

Interviewers typically try to portray dominance and try very hard to control conversations. In a lot of expert opinions, the one being interviewed, who is seeking the job, should be the one in the driver’s seat. After all, many companies seek to bring ambitious, problem-solving individuals aboard their staff. What better way to ensure the people you’re adding to your shortlist are problem solvers than to put the pressure of interviewing well on their shoulders? It’s a balancing act, as businesses don’t want to scare away potentially good employees, but this is one technique an interviewer can use to gauge the attitude of a candidate.

During a corporate interview, company reps often resort to boilerplate talking points, and allow the interviewees too much slack.

Businesses often interact with a candidate via email to ask and answer questions. These written responses are perfectly adequate, however, the results are usually not as good as the ones gained by conducting face-to-face interviews. Candid interaction provides a lot more information to both parties, and is thus encouraged as the primary means of vetting potential employees.

The results of a personal interaction like an interview are far less scripted, as there’s not much of an opportunity for either party to secretly research or prepare misleading answers. For example, if a company is hiring an employee who will be working with numbers, emailing them a numerical test would probably not be a good indicator of their skills as opposed to having them solve technical problems in their presence, as the candidate could have easily used a search engine to find the answers to the test, passing them off as their own.

Conducting personal interviews also helps to eliminate follow-up questions that are impractical, but common.

Interview Follow-ups

Many times, a follow-up question can reveal much more than the actual interview itself -- much more than either party likely expected.

Employers and interviewers both would do well to be considerate, and to be mindful and thoughtful. If they aren’t, the best candidate for the job may end up thinking that they’re not a right fit for the company. That could translate to thousands of dollars later on down the line.

Many people glance at resumes, giving them a few minutes worth of consideration before an interview. Asking intelligent, well-thought out questions that encourage engaging and compelling questions is critical.

One tactic interviewers can use is to pretend they’re the candidate who wrote the resume they’re reading. Look beyond the numbers, read between the lines, and a business can easily get a rough estimate of that individual's successes, failures, personalities, wants, desires, goals, and interests.

Of course, taking a cursory glance at the candidate pool’s social media accounts can be a great way to gauge their personality, and determine whether or not they would be a good fit. To consider an example, if someone were applying to become a police dispatcher, but had a social media account full of anti-police rhetoric, it’s unlikely that, should the police department the candidate were applying to find the social media post, they would ever offer that person a position.

During interviews, it’s best to keep in mind that the best interviews are actually just friendly conversations where a few key points are covered, and both parties walk away with a little more of an understanding of what’s at stake.

If a business employs or is otherwise familiar with people in a candidate’s social network, they can ask for details about a candidate’s potential fit within the company. For example, employees already working within the company may agree that a former colleague of theirs would be ideal for a vacant position at their current firm, and may provide that information to the employer for their consideration.

If interviewers ask thoughtful, interesting questions, candidates will open up more, and tend to speak freely. Follow-up questions take the candidate one step further than using potentially canned or prepared responses, and gives greater insight into the actual thoughts they may have about the job, or any questions asked by the interviewer.

Good candidates know their value, and are doing their very best to find a company that will foster their needs for growth, challenge, and mobility. It’s wise to give candidates time to ask their questions, and to be straightforward with them. If the right person for the job is right in front of a business’s eyes, they would do well to remain professional in that interview, and to do whatever is necessary to make sure both parties come to the table.

Many employees feel timid about asking follow-up questions of their own, even after leaving the company’s property. Some, however, believe that not following up on an interview is rude, and an affront to the company, especially after showing interest in holding a position there. If courtesy doesn’t seem too tied to the follow up process, know that it’s still in the best interest of both parties to do so, if at least to appear professional and to maintain integrity.

If you’d like assistance or more information on conducting a job interview, post your need to UpCounsel’s marketplace. Lawyers from UpCounsel consist of Harvard and Yale graduates, who have an average of 14 years of legal experience. They are top lawyers who have worked with the largest companies in the country, and are standing by to assist with your legal and business needs.