Best Way to Prepare When You Are Interviewing Your Candidates

Identifying the characteristics the interviewer is looking for is the most important, but not the only, preparation he must do for the interview. Other preparation should include the following:

  • Practice. Somehow practicing interviewing skills has become acceptable for interviewees, but not for interviewers. The reason seems to go back to the old notion of assumed expertise—interviewers are supposed to know how to conduct an interview. To practice is to admit that you don’t know everything. And that’s embarrassing.

Interviewing 1 Best Way to Prepare When You Are Interviewing Your Candidates

Go ahead. Embarrass yourself. There’s no better way to prepare for interviewing than to do a few practice interviews, and talk about them afterward. Ask the interviewee how she felt in the interview. If possible, have a third party watch the interview, either in the interview room, or better still, if you have the technological capability, from outside the room. Ask that third person to comment on what he observed. Videotape the session, and watch it again afterward.

If you are interviewing on university campuses, use students as practice interviewees. Or, if you hire students to work for you for the summer, ask them to serve as your guinea pigs. The students will learn something from the process, too. And, better still, they’ll know that you value recruitment, and take it seriously.

Before your interview, know what’s already taken place with respect to the candidate. For example, interviewers at the company should assume that questions about grades and references from an interviewee’s prior jobs have been resolved by the screening interviewer, and should not inquire into these subjects. Interviewees who are subjected repeatedly to questions about grades emerge from interviews feeling less positive about the company.

Read the candidate’s resume, twice—once well in advance of the interview, to prepare a plan for the interview, and once immediately prior to the interview to refresh your recollection.

Develop a plan for the interview. This need not— indeed, should not—be a detailed schedule of how you will spend each minute of the interview. Rather, it should be an outiine of which aspects of the candidate’s qualifications you intend to explore in most depth, and how. In order to do that, you will have to:

  • have a clear understanding of what characteristics are most important for the job.
  • review the candidate’s resume to assess which of those characteristics you believe are most and least likely to be present in the candidate. For example, if a resume indicated that a candidate had formed his own lawn-care business in high school and had been elected president of his college class, you might hypothesize that he was a motivated, self-starter with entrepreneurial, people, and leadership skills.
  • identify a few aspects of the candidate’s resume that you intend to explore in the interview. For example, if the resume referred to above had no mention of academic awards, grade point average, or class rank, you might decide to explore the candidate’s intellectual ability and attention to detail, if those were important to the job. (Interviewees beware: If you do not mention academic or other achievements, interviewers will assume that you have not earned them.)
  • have in mind what information you want to gather during the interview particularly if you are the first interviewer. This may include: the candidate’s academic performance, names and phone numbers of references, the candidate’s interests and general concerns (geographical location, compensation, opportunities for advancement, etc.), specific concerns the candidate may have about your company and information (such as outside interests) that will allow you to judge who in your company the candidate may match up well with if you invite her to come for additional interviews.
  • understand what aspects of the candidate’s background, if any, have already been explored or are to be explored by other people who will be interviewing the candidate. Look at the interview schedule and try to figure out what perspectives you can add to that of others on the list.
  • If the candidate is a student or a recent graduate, know something about his school, its grading system and the honors it awards. This will show the candidate you care about what you are doing and will also avoid wasting valuable interview time asking about these matters.
  • Know your company and its reputation. Chances are that many candidates will have reviewed available literature produced by your company. You should have reviewed that material, as well. And not cursorily, six months ago, but thoroughly and recently. Similarly, if there are recent newspaper or magazine articles about your company, you should have read them.
  • If you’re interviewing a candidate from a university or graduate program, you should also be aware of your company’s reputation on the interviewee’s campus. Your reputation is likely to vary from one campus to another. Being aware of that reputation will give you a better sense of what the candidate is likely to think of your company and should help you to anticipate and prepare for questions the interviewee may raise. Know what your company has to sell the candidate.
  • Clear your schedule, desk, and mind before the interview. If you are thinking about other tasks you have to perform that day, you will not devote the attention you need to the interview. If you are interviewing on campus, do not try to transact business during breaks in your interview schedule. Instead, use those breaks to see faculty members, visit with the placement director, review your company’s file in the placement office, look at competing companies’ sign-up lists or contact students you have seen in prior years or who have worked with you during the summer.
  • Allow plenty of time for the interview.

Interviewing Best Way to Prepare When You Are Interviewing Your Candidates

If preparation seems like a formidable task, that’s because it is. But it also happens to be crucial to conducting an effective interview and to avoiding the interview game. Without preparation, the interview becomes an aimless conversation.

Fortunately, there are payoffs for all of your preparation. Determining the job-related characteristics you are looking for will help you to avoid illegal-hiring practices that arise when you ask questions unrelated to the job’s requirements. Hiring the right people means you will be getting employees who become productive more quickly. And it also means that you will reduce the enormous financial and personal costs of high turnover. So don’t shortcut the preparation process.

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