3 Basic Tips for Conducting an Interview

With employment figures on the rise in the US, we may begin to see what was originally a large pool of talent become a bit smaller with decreasing numbers of qualified applicants available. Whether your company is looking to expand its workforce or it needs to fill a specific role, a more competitive labor market means ensuring that when the right candidate comes along nothing gets in the way of selecting the best talent.

This gives those of us in the HR profession a great deal of responsibility throughout the process of vetting potential employees. Good candidates will quickly migrate to companies that appreciate their time and talent so putting your best foot forward during the selection process could be the difference between winning a new hire quickly and leaving a gap in your company that could take months to fill.

3 Basic Tips for Conducting an Interview

Strategy 1: Create a selection plan

There is a crucial distinction between filling a job, which is transactional, and selecting the right talent, which is strategic. I encourage you to invest the time on the front-end of the process to design a selection plan that clearly articulates the candidate’s experience at each touch point with the organization. Similar to onboarding, the first few points of contact and interaction between a potential employee and your company are critical to making a great impression. Take the time to formalize this process and you can distinguish your organization from the competition. Depending on the size and structure of your company, you may already employ a structured interviewing process, so some of these points may serve as a reminder.

Regardless of whether you serve as the hiring leader or if you are on the periphery of the interview process, your knowledge will be beneficial to those who conduct the interviews. Always work with the hiring leader to devise a plan of attack that answers the following questions:

– Will there be a preliminary phone interview? If so, who is conducting it and what will be asked?

– Who is going to handle the main interview?

– Will you conduct a panel-style interview or several individual interviews?

– How long will each interview last?

– Will there be a tour or will candidates be in proximity to employees? Have you communicated this?

– Have you provided basic information for the candidate such as parking, the agenda for the day, etc.?

– Which questions have you prepared? Are they reasonable for the job? What is an ideal answer to each?

– Have all interviewers blocked out time on their calendars?

– Have you organized a follow-up meeting with all interviewers to share impressions?

– How will you keep the candidates informed on decision-making? Do you use automated rejections or a more personal touch?

Strategy 2: Dress the part

Unless you intentionally communicate with your internal interview team to ensure their dress matches your company’s dress code (or they ask you in advance) on the day of the interview, most folks who work in a business casual or casual environment will be underdressed compared to a prepared candidate. All interviewers need to make the effort and match the expectations they would have if they were a candidate (suit, tie, well groomed); it shows respect and makes sure that even at the most basic visual level your company is organized.

This should extend to the space where the interview will be conducted. Most companies have a dedicated interview room available that remains uncluttered from normal use and specifically focuses (via layout) on the process of interviewing. You may also ensure candidates have access to water or coffee. Making sure the location and interviewers look the part (when coupled with a well formulated plan of activity) sends a signal of composure and organization to your candidates.

Strategy 3: Ask relevant questions

The internet is just a search away from hundreds of recommendations for how to read posture, what sort of questions to ask, techniques for digging into a person to pull up the answers, and more. These seem like easy options when in a time crunch with a long list of candidates, but it is important to ask: do those questions actually mean anything for the position in question?

With the exposure of certain Silicon Valley hiring techniques over the past few years, many interviewers seem to be quick to try and take advantage of what those incredibly successful companies implemented. Unfortunately, many of those techniques were developed for highly specialized and company-specific reasons (and weren’t always effective) so they may not translate well at all to what you are doing. Asking a vague question might make the interviewee think on their feet, but might not mean very much to you…so why ask it? The least complicated route to finding the best fit is to put the time in developing smart, insightful questions, as well as determining the sort of answers that tell you what you need to know.

Good Business Starts With A Good Interview

The power of first impressions is very real and an important factor in acquiring and retaining talent. A good interview will come down to the Golden Rule: treat the candidate as you would like to be treated if you were in the hot seat. This doesn’t mean avoiding the tough questions to get the information you need; but, it does mean that everything you do must be purposeful and relevant to your plan. Finding and selecting the best talent for an opportunity within your organization can lead to years of productivity, prosperity, and good will — and that is an impression I think we would all like to make.

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Eric Magnussen

Eric Magnussen serves as the Vice President of Talent for Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) and is accountable for all aspects of the CTCA Talent function for a 5,500 employee organization. Eric is responsible for talent strategy, attraction and selection, employee development, succession planning, wellness and wellbeing, compensation and benefits. Connect with Eric.

Reader Interactions


  1. Connor says

    These are all good points and a good guideline for conducting an interview. However, I think in regards to finding the best candidates, you have to ask a couple different questions.

    1) Is the candidate a positive person?
    2) Is the candidate energetic?
    3) Are they aware of their strengths and weaknesses?

    The reason these questions are important – is because a person who is positive and energetic will usually have less times where they feel phased or unmotivated. Having an employee that is motivated to start on their own is huge if you want to minimize costs associated with training and over-seeing new hires.

    At the same time, they need to understand where they stand with their abilities. Watch out for candidates who are too agreeable. If they make promises that they can handle/have handled basically everything you throw at them with full confidence, they may be lying. Obviously this is not the case, but all too often, employees try to make promises they keep simply because they think it’s what you’d want to hear. Try and find the employees that will promise to do their best, but admit the things they don’t know.

    Hope these tips help too.



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