1. Stay organized
When you're hiring for multiple positions and evaluating many
candidates, it can be complicated to juggle the input from various
sources. Keep all of your data well organized so that you can
eliminate confusion and keep everyone on the same page.
With a company of 140 employees across five countries and growing
fast, Sarah Tait's People Ops team at Branch needs
to be extremely coordinated when conducting candidate interviews. To
do that, Branch emphasizes communication through pre-interview
huddles with the hiring committee and post-interview recaps (after
all data has been entered into their ATS, to maintain objectivity).
“The bigger that we got, the more variability existed,” says Sarah
Tait, Head of People Ops. In response, her team created interviewing
guides with example questions, and concrete grading rubrics for
evaluating applicants for technical jobs, like computer engineers. A
evaluation form can help you stay organized and maintain a
uniform framework throughout the interview process.
An ATS should
serve as your single source of truth — capturing candidate
information across the entire applicant lifecycle, as well as
enabling your interviewers and hiring managers to submit feedback
2. Align the stakeholders
Before you bring in a candidate for an interview, ensure that all
internal stakeholders at your company are on the same page about the
role. This can prevent major problems later on in the process.
William Uranga, Director of Talent Acquisition at Spokeo, points out, “It's a lot of effort to
screen someone, interview them, and then have them die on the table
because nobody can agree what they're looking for (the role), or
looking at (the candidate).”
At the beginning of the hiring process, discuss the position with
potential supervisors and coworkers. Why does this role exist? What
traits and skills do they think the new hire will need? What sort of
person would thrive in the role? You want to make sure that everyone
agrees on the purpose of the position and the qualities a good
candidate should possess before you’ve started interviewing
candidates. Otherwise, debate later in the hiring process can cause
unnecessary delays and possibly losing out on a stellar candidate.
3. Be conversational
Great interviewers are able to foster a conversational atmosphere in
a situation that often feels tense and formal. A candidate will be
more at ease if they feel like they are participating in a
conversation with you, as opposed to simply fielding questions from
a script. This will lead to more candid, and fewer canned, answers.
“Tailor your interview questions to the role and the person, versus
using a standard set of questions. Be more conversational,” says
Stacy Adams, the Head of Marketing at Vyond.
To cultivate your skills in conversational
interviewing, use situational, rather than leading questions.
Instead of asking: “Do you prefer working alone, or as part of a
team?” ask something like: “Tell me about a team project you did at
work. What was the project, what was your role, and what was the
outcome?" Continue the conversation with follow-up prompts tailored
to their answers.
4. Practice active listening
Being a good listener is an important, but commonly underdeveloped,
skill set. When interviewing, active
listening is just as important as asking the right questions.
It's not enough to make sure your candidate hits all the required
beats in their answers. If a candidate says something interesting in
their answer, use the opportunity to dig in further with follow-up
questions — don’t just move onto the next question on your interview
Stacy Adams is a strong believer in honing your listening skills:
“When you practice active listening, be sure to be engaged, pay
attention, and come back with further questions based on the
candidates’ responses, versus just reading a list of questions from
a piece of paper.”
Improve your listening skills by focusing your attention exclusively
on the speaker's words, face, and body language rather than
frantically taking notes or thinking about what you’ll ask next.
Avoid interrupting and only respond or give feedback once the other
person has finished speaking.
5. Probe for the candidate's underlying motivations
You don't want a candidate who can just parrot talking points about
your company’s mission statement; you want someone who has done
their research and has a deep understanding of how they can fit
into, and strengthen, your organization. Clarifying why the candidate
wants to work for your company and in this specific position will
help you make a decision on their fit.
Your job as an interviewer is to dig deeper with follow-up questions
designed to expose the candidate's root desires and motivations.
Sofia Quintero, CEO of EnjoyHQ,
says, “Focus on understanding the underlying motivations of the
candidate. [For example], ask what success looks like to them and
how they see your company helping them achieve their personal
6. Try to match for cultural fit
recruiting is a key component of long-term employee retention.
that employees who share important qualities with the organization
and their coworkers perform better at work and stay at their company
To determine if someone is the right fit for your organization,
you'll need to look beyond their qualifications to make sure they
share your company's values. Chris Lake, Head of Marketing at Vestd, says, “Know your company values. Know
them inside out. You should try to establish as early as possible
whether the person is a good cultural fit. If you have doubts, then
steer your questions accordingly. Hiring the right kind of person is
of paramount importance. It's not just about their skill set.”
Assess for alignment on values by asking cultural fit
questions designed to start a deeper discussion about the
candidate's values and key traits. Brian Nolan, CEO of Sellbrite, agrees: “Ask questions that "test"
each of your core values so you can easily determine if the
candidate would be a good fit.”
For example, if your company places a premium on putting the
customer first, ask the candidate for an example of when they went
the extra mile to help a customer. If your culture tends to be
self-directed, ask about a time they noticed a process that was
broken, and the steps they took to fix it.
7. Know your own biases
When assessing whether or not a candidate will fit into the culture
of your company, don't let your inherent biases cloud your judgment.
Hiring bias is a subtle, but serious, problem that can cause you to
pass over great candidates and give too much attention to poor ones.
Start by being aware of the hiring biases you're most
prone to. “Be aware of your...triggers and affinities so you know
the perspectives that are coloring your judgments,” says Leah Ward,
Chief of Staff at Teampay. This means
employing methods to challenge your assumptions about candidates and
to second-guess your first impressions. Do post-mortem reviews on
past hires to critically evaluate how you hire and why.
To tackle hiring biases, you have to first acknowledge that they
exist and raise awareness among your workforce — particularly your
interviewers. Consider instituting unconscious bias
training to start a dialogue and look for areas of improvement
within your hiring processes.
8. Ask curveball questions
Most candidates know what to expect when they go in for an
interview. They've already rehearsed answers to most of the common
interview questions, which means their answers may sound scripted.
How do you get around this? “Ask curveball questions,” says Chris
Lake. “You know, the ones that put someone on the spot. The kinds of
questions that may seem impossible to answer, or that might have
more than one answer. You want people to reveal a little about how
they think, and see how they go about joining up the dots.”
This doesn't necessarily mean silly questions like, “If you were a
donut, what flavor would you be?” All interview questions should
probe for useful information. For example: “What's the last thing
you really geeked out about?” or “What do your
friends/family/colleagues consider you the 'go-to' person for?”
These reveal more about your candidate and their personality, but
are less expected than “tell me about yourself,” thus yielding less
9. Honestly represent the position
According to CareerBuilder, two in three workers have
accepted a job that they later realized was a bad fit. Half of those
workers quit within the first six months. The most common reasons
were bad culture fit, mismatched management style, and a lack of
clear expectations. Another study found that 6 in 10
believe that aspects of their job are different than the
expectations set during their interview.
Remember: An interview isn't just about you evaluating a candidate;
it's an opportunity for the candidate to evaluate the company and
their potential role in it. That's why honesty and frankness about
the requirements and demands of the position are essential. Sofia
Quintero says, “Be clear about the expectations for the role. People
need to know what they are getting into.”
10. Don't be afraid of long pauses
We typically try to avoid long, awkward silences. Your first impulse
when a candidate seems unable to answer a question might be to jump
in with explanations or examples. This can actually prevent your
candidate from forming a thoughtful answer. Chris Lake says, “Don't
jump in to fill the gaps. A bit of breathing space in a conversation
is perfectly normal. Allow the interviewee to think, and to explore
answers at their own pace. Embrace the awkward silence!”
11. Practice until you're confident
Confidence isn't just an important trait for candidates to display.
Interviewers who are self-assured and comfortable in their role can
also put the candidate at ease, whereas scattered or nervous
interviewers may make the interviewee feel the same way.
If you're not naturally confident directing an interview, you can
build these skills up with practice. “I always recommend that my
interviewers role-play with a friend, family member, or former
colleague prior to an interview,” says Luisa McInnis, Division
Director at OfficeTeam. “It's a great
idea to practice in the mirror to see what your posture and facial
expressions look like as well. You want to be confident and