How to streamline job interviews if you're a recruitment greenhorn

There’s no harm googling common interview questions – but there are better ways to smoothen the process.

By Michael Hewitt Consultant, CPL

THE RESPONSIBILITY TO interview potential new hires will usually be handed to you when you get to a certain stage in your career.

Most people are not trained interviewers so when you are told that you are responsible for hiring a new employee, you’ll usually do a few things:

  • You’ll think about the interviews that you have had in the past – but the people interviewing you in the past probably didn’t have any training either
  • You’ll google ‘Interview Questions’
  • You’ll ask your HR department for past questions

There is nothing wrong with doing the above if you haven’t had interview training, but I’d like to look at some ways that might get more out of your interviewees without asking the standard questions:

1. Keep it casual

You’ll get the most out of people if you keep the interview as informal as possible and put the candidate at ease.

A good way to do this is to start the interview by talking about you, where the company has come from, where it is now and what the future-plans are.

In the current market, interviews are a two-way street. The candidate will also be interviewing you so if you make the interview more like a conversation, you will get a good idea of what they are looking to get out of their next career move.

2. Make the interview experience as positive as possible

Consider it a marketing tool for your business. It’s very beneficial to have a candidate leave the interview thinking, “I could see myself working there,” even if they are not successful this time around.

Going to an interview or moving jobs is a ‘big deal’. After the interview, ensure that there is some feedback for the candidates that weren’t successful.

If you fail to do this, word can get out and other potential future applicants might hear, “I didn’t hear back from them after my interview, I wouldn’t bother applying there.”

3. Tailor the questions

As a hiring manager, you should think about the attributes and experience that you’d like to see from the candidate in the interview.

There isn’t much point in asking questions like, “Tell me about your strengths” or “Tell me about your weaknesses,” as you’ll probably receive a pre-planned response that won’t give you an honest insight into the way that they work.

If the role is technical you should make sure that the questions aren’t borrowed from a previous interview for a different role. They should be tailored to this job.

4. Tell the candidate about a problem the company’s having

This could be an issue with a client, process, project etc. If you explain a problem or an issue, you can then ask the candidate how they would handle it. Some candidates leave their jobs in pursuit of a challenge so mentioning one could be the reason they take the job with you.

5. Think about what differentiates your company from your competitors

It’s a question that I ask all my clients and it’s also a question I expect to be asked. You need to know the reasons why the candidate should move from their current employer to you.

Do you work on large projects? Do you have unique employee benefits? Do you take your team on team building days twice a year? Does the company invest in the development of its employees?

6. Don’t wait for the perfect candidate

Perfect candidates don’t exist. You should be looking to hire the best candidate for your company. If you wait for somebody to come along who ticks all the boxes, you’ll have a job vacancy that will very rarely be filled.

7. Talk about what career development looks like

Discuss how the role might develop over time, explain how other people have developed their careers in the company.

When doing this it’s important to manage expectations and talk about timelines, don’t overpromise anything.

8. Don’t keep candidates waiting for an answer

Try to keep your shortlist to a maximum of three candidates. Make sure that you have prior sign-off for a budget to hire the candidate before you get to the interview stage.

If there are delays in the process, communicate this with your recruiter or the candidate. If the time to close the deal is taking too long, it gives the candidate the opportunity to accept a job with one of your competitors. The candidate could lose interest and it could cause them to have doubts about the company’s ability to make decisions.

9. Use your recruiter to make an offer

Your recruiter should be very experienced in doing this. They will have a good idea of what the candidate is looking for, so they can advise you about what you should offer to secure the chosen candidate.

Low-balling and losing the candidate will cost a lot more than offering €2,000 more to the right person for the job. It will also show that you value what they can bring to the company.

10. It’s not all about the money

Candidates rarely move jobs purely for a pay rise. The most common reasons include a lack of progression opportunities, work-life balance, more of a challenge, lack of recognition, poor management and lack of communication.

Most people just want to be paid fairly for what they are doing. You need to really understand the candidate’s specific motivators for moving jobs and then when you make the offer, make sure you build the motivator into the offer.

Michael Hewitt is a consultant at recruitment firm CPL.

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