What To Look for When Interviewing a Candidate

what to look for when interviewing a candidate

A friend who is job searching recently asked me what I look for in a candidate during an interview. The answer, of course, is that it depends on the role I’m trying to fill, and the company I’m working for. I recently read something on LinkedIn that suggested you look at a candidate’s behavior in an interview and multiply it by 10. Candidate talks a lot? They’ll never shut up once you hire them, and so on. I completely disagree. Interviewing well is a skill, and it does not directly correlate to the skill of doing a job well, or even of being a good employee. A job candidate is under tremendous pressure to make a good impression during an interview, and that pressure often leads candidates to act in ways that are not their natural behavior. They may talk a lot or even ramble when nervous, but once employed and relaxed cease their rambling.

What To Look for When Interviewing a Candidate

It is HR’s responsibility to guide hiring managers in making good hiring decisions. We need to call out a hiring manager’s bias, and we need to ensure that hiring managers are looking at the right criteria in their decision making. We need to help hiring managers look beyond a candidate’s ability to interview so they can accurately gauge that candidate’s ability to succeed in the job.


Before beginning the interview process, HR and the hiring manager should discuss the specific skill set and experience needed for the role and determine how those skills will be measured. A skills assessment, situational and behavioral questions, a portfolio – depending on the job, these can all be good indicators. Remind hiring managers to ask probing questions to go beyond surface answers. A strong candidate may be nervous and give partial answers, but probing can discover a depth of knowledge that can be a great asset to your organization. The reverse is also true; someone who is good at interviewing may give a great response, but further probing can show that their knowledge is superficial and doesn’t go beyond a sound bite answer.

Job Fit

Once you are assured the candidate has the technical ability to do the job, it’s time to think about fit. Do they have the right competencies to do the job well? If the role is sales or customer service, are they comfortable talking to people? Can they develop relationships with clients? If the role requires the ability to work independently, how do they approach holding themselves accountable for meeting deadlines without external managing?


Finally, if the candidate has the right hiring competencies and qualifications, do they value the things your organization values? A boutique company whose branding is that they only offer the best of the best is going to look for employees who find satisfaction in being the best. An organization who provides the same service but markets themselves as having something for everyone may look for employees who always want to go that extra mile for their customer. It takes consideration and the willingness to look beyond a candidate’s interviewing skills in order to see what that candidate has to offer in order to navigate that right fit while still leaving room for diversity of thought and approach.

Posted in

Anne Tomkinson

Anne Tomkinson, SHRM-SCP, is an HR professional working in Washington, DC. She is passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion, and wants every HR practitioner to be an active thought partner in their organization. She blogs at HR Underground and you can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Reader Interactions


  1. Kristeen Bullwinkle says

    What do you think about pre-hire assessments like PXT Select that give you a list of suggested interview questions? Do you always make sure to add a few more to get at values or skills? Can you suggest good questions to get at values? Ones that don’t telegraph the response you’re looking for?


Pin It on Pinterest