How to be a better interviewer

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Daniel Evans

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How to be a better interviewer

Finding the best people for your business isn’t just about the best CVs. It’s about making sure that the candidates you shortlist are a good fit for your business – that they have the attitude, skills and approach that will make them a valuable addition to your team.

To do that, you need to make the most of the interview process. The questions you ask will elicit answers that show you what kind of person your candidate is. They will show you their strengths and the areas where they might need support or improvement. Critically, they can also show you if a candidate definitely isn’t right for your business – saving you the time and cost implications of a poor hire.

Most leaders never have interview training, and that’s a shame because interviewing is a real skill. Knowing how to approach your candidate – when to push for answers, when to move on and when to expand the question – will give you better quality information for making your hiring decision. So here are our key steps to becoming a better interviewer.

Read the job description

Sounds simple, but many interviewers don’t prepare enough, and that means questions can be unfocused and not relevant to the role. By refreshing your memory, you’ll be able to focus on the skills and attitudes you’ve asked for, and be able to ask your candidate how they will fulfil those requirements.

Be prepared to sell your company

Candidates are in a strong position at the moment, so an interview is an important opportunity to sell your company. A candidate who is interviewing for multiple roles will use the interview to make their minds up, so the way you present yourself and your business could make all the difference. Take the time at the beginning of the interview to talk about culture, benefits and work environment, so your candidates have a heads-up of what to expect.

Use CVs as talking points

CVs hold a lot of information, and some of that can be turned into interview questions. This is particularly useful because you are making the question personal to the candidate, and this encourages them to give a more complete answer. So, for example, if a candidate has talked about a time they achieved a certain goal, ask them to explain that in more detail and talk about the challenges and successes.

Be ready to expand questions

We’d always suggest that you go into the interview with a standard list of questions. This ensures that each candidate at interview gets pretty much the same experience. You can go a little off-piste though, if you think there’s a story worth exploring, or more to their example than meets the eye. Make sure you get through all the questions on your list though, so that you have complete information to work from.

Make notes or recordings

When you have a string of interviews to run, it can be easy to get confused about which candidate said or did what. Taking notes will help you to organise your thoughts and feedback once the process is over, and give you the fullest amount of information to work with. You may also choose to record the interview – but you must get permission from the candidate first and you must delete the recording once you have made an offer.

Think about unconscious bias training

This is obviously wider than the interview itself, but it is an important point. We all have unconscious bias in one form or another. And because it’s unconscious, we are not aware of the way it influences our thoughts, reactions, judgements or questions. It’s worth investing in bias training for hiring managers to help put all candidates on an equal footing at interview.

Unless your organisation has a culture of combative interviews, make an effort to help your candidate relax and feel comfortable. You will get far more information this way and it will help to make the interview a more enjoyable process from both sides of the table.

re lots of people who offer one-to-one mentoring schemes. It’s worth taking the time to look around carefully at what’s on offer – not every mentor is going to be right for you. Look for someone who has the experience, skills and approach that will fit best with your plans and your way of working. For example, some mentors might want to meet weekly, whilst others will do a monthly meet with catch-ups or check-ins the rest of the time. The type of mentor you choose is very important – you need someone who is going to understand the way you do things, hold you to account and give you the support you need.

Peer-to-peer mentoring

This type of scheme allows you to share your strengths and skills with someone at a similar level to you. So this might be someone in a different organisation but in a similar role, or someone who is doing a completely different job and has unique experiences to share with you. This is a good way to expand your horizons, understand the scope, challenges and highlights of other roles and environments and broaden your own experience.

Online mentoring

In a work environment where much of what we do has moved online, it’s not a huge step to look at online mentoring. This might be on an individual basis or as part of a group. It’s often offered as part of a wider training scheme – so if you are taking professional qualifications, for example, you might also have access to a mentoring scheme run by the qualification body. This allows you to share thoughts, insights and questions with people following the same career path without having to attend meetings or take too much time out of your day.

It’s widely agreed that mentoring is an excellent way of developing new skills and knowledge, sharing best practice, opening up opportunities for promotion and career advancement and helping you to set clear goals and take measurable actions. Why not take a look at the mentoring opportunities available to you?