Best Way to Hold a Job Interview

Which applicants should you interview?

Compare the written application with the employee profile and invite for an interview those candidates which fit it most closely. In most cases, six to eight interviews should be sufficient for a sales position. Always write to the unsuccessful people, thanking them for their application. This is a common courtesy, too often ignored by employers, which will reflect well on you and your organization.

Always telephone the people that you wish to interview to arrange a mutually convenient appointment. This will show that you are a caring person who understands that candidates will not necessarily be able to drop everything to attend at your bidding.

Hold Job Interview Best Way to Hold a Job Interview

Planning the interview

Read each application form or CV carefully and decide what additional information you wish to obtain at the interview. Plan the format of the interview as follows:

  • Introduction to relax the interviewee.
  • Obtain relevant information from the candidate.
  • Explain the job and give details of the company.
  • Tell the candidate when you will be making a decision.

How long should an interview take? This will depend upon the seniority of the post and the complexity of the job. However, for most sales positions, 45 minutes to 1 hour should be sufficient if you propose to make a decision after single interviews. Should you decide to hold second interviews for a shortlist of three candidates, then 30 minutes will be enough for the initial interview. Always allow yourself at least 30 minutes between interviews to make notes about the last interviews and prepare yourself for the next.

Conducting the interview


This should include a welcoming statement, introduction of yourself and tell the interviewee the form that the interview will take.

Example: ‘Good morning Mr White, thank you for coming to see me. My name is Bob Green and I am the sales manager with whom you would be working. Please take a seat. During the interview, which will take about 45 minutes, I would like you to tell me more about yourself and your working experience, then I will tell you more about the job and the company and finally what the next stage will be. If you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to ask me. Is that OK?’

Obtaining information

You will only gain information by asking questions. However, you will not relax the candidate by asking too many at the beginning. An ideal opening question would be: ‘Tell me about your work experience since you joined Wilson & Co four years ago’. Then sit back, shut up and listen. Allow the candidate to speak, do not interrupt their flow. Encourage the person to speak by remaining silent, nodding or making appropriate continuation noises. Make a mental note of any areas on which you require more detailed information. When the interviewee has finished, ask questions to clarify any particular points.

Do not ask hypothetical questions which are beyond the experience of the person: as the American folk singer Joan Baez once said, ‘Hypothetical questions get hypothetical answers’. There is a saying that ‘past behaviour is the best indication of future behaviour’. Thus it is quite acceptable to ask such questions as, ‘The last time that a customer complained to you about the products or delivery, how did you deal with this?’

Avoid old tricks such as handing the candidate a pen and asking him or her to sell it to you. It is a meaningless exercise. Similarly, do not be tempted to ask leading questions such as ‘You would agree, wouldn’t you, that…?’ You will only get the answer you expect.

Remember, the object of this part of the interview is to let you assess the candidate’s ability to do the job and fit in with the team. If the application form asks for information about hobbies and interests, ask one or two questions in this area. This will give you a clearer insight into the person’s character.

Job Interview Best Way to Hold a Job Interview

Giving information

By the time you reach this point, you should have assessed the potential of the candidate. If you know that you will not be progressing this application, give the interviewee just a brief description of the job and the company. On the other hand, if you believe that the person is a good prospective employee, give him or her more detail. You must be the judge.

One sales manager said, ‘Selling is a pressure business, so I always put candidates under pressure at interview, it tests their mettle!’ First of all a selection interview is a completely different situation from a sales interview and secondly, selling is only a pressure business if the sales manager makes it so.

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