Five (more) interview tips to find that perfect staff member


Do you find interviewing overly stressful? Maybe you’re doing it wrong!

We’ve previously explored some of the most important tips for getting your interview right, including a well-prepared panel of interviewers, an emphasis on listening, and lots of note taking.

With interviews being a crucial tool for recruitment, you can always find ways to improve. So here are five more interview tips that can help you find your perfect candidate:

1. Ask an icebreaker

Asking an icebreaker question at the beginning of an interview is the perfect way to put your candidate – and you – at ease.

Icebreaker questions needn’t be too complicated or overthought – a simple: “Did you have any problems finding our office?” or “How has your day been?” is enough to start the ball rolling.

Even though icebreaker questions aren’t supposed to be about the job, they can still give you some good insight into your candidate. For a customer-facing role like a receptionist or a donor-facing role like a fundraiser, being able to build rapport with strangers can be a valuable skill.

It can also be good to reveal a little about yourself at this point – a bit of self-disclosure often helps other people to relax and trust you – for example, talking about how your own day has been going, or how you’re feeling.

But don’t put too much stock in the icebreaker – especially if your candidate is quite nervous – as it may take them a bit more time to warm up.

2. Check your biases at the door

It’s human to judge people – no one can avoid it. Research from Princeton University shows that we make judgements about people we meet in as little as one tenth of a second!

But that doesn’t mean that we need to trust our initial judgements – indeed “trust your gut” could be the worst advice for an interviewer and can contribute to racism and lack of diversity in many organisations.

What’s much more valuable as an interviewer is to try to understand and spot your own biases.

Understanding our own biases is one way to overcome them.

The other key way to avoid bias is to use a structured interview process, where each interview question is tied to a competency that the candidate needs to excel in the job.

3. Ask follow up questions

Sometimes you can learn the most interesting information about your candidate by asking a follow-up question.

That’s because good candidates will have a pre-prepared answer for most of the usual interview questions, but a follow-up question forces them to go deeper and be more thoughtful about their response. This can provide you with a much more candid answer which will give you greater insight into the person you’re talking to.

The key to a good follow-up question is making sure that you’re listening intently to their original answer, then ask them something like: “why?” or “what did you learn?” or “how did the situation turn out?”

By asking thoughtful follow up questions you will also show a candidate that you’re really interested in – and listening to – what they have to say which will potentially put them at ease and elicit more thoughtful responses from them.

4. Take a break between each interview

It’s important to give yourself and your panel a break between interviews to allow you time to reflect on the interview that you’ve conducted and prepare for your next candidate.

Use this time to talk about the interview with the other panellists while it’s still fresh in your mind.

While you may not have enough time to do a full evaluation, you can at least flag the key areas that you need to talk about later. Make sure that at least one of you notes down any areas that need to be discussed in more detail, or any other actions you need to take such as questions you want to ask referees. It will be much harder to recall these things once you’ve interviewed other candidates.

Also spend that time organising your notes. It’s hard to ask questions, listen and take notes at the same time so chances are you’ve made a bit of a mess of things. By making sure you understand what you’ve written and putting your notes in order, you’ll make it easier to evaluate the interview more thoroughly, later.

Finally, use the time to refresh your memory about the next candidate. Hopefully you’ve done lots of research already, but a quick glance at their resume so that you are fully focussed on them will make things run much smoother.

5. Know how you’re going to evaluate your interviews before you start

If you’re part of a panel of interviewers, deciding what system you’ll use to evaluate candidates from the very beginning will ensure that you’re all on the same page – and will avoid confusion later.

There are a myriad of different ways that you can evaluate an interview – but it’s best to pick a system that will allow you to objectively measure the success of each interview against a standard set of criteria.

For example, you might use a ratings system where you allocate each answer to each question a score out of ten. You could take that further by weighting each question differently depending on importance. (More detail on how to do this here.)

Not only does a scoring system allow you to quickly and easily compare your impressions of an interviewee against your colleague’s, but a standard by which to judge all candidates can stop you from choosing someone just for the sake of choosing.

Without having a standard to evaluate against, you might find yourself either picking the best of a bad lot to avoid having to run the whole recruitment process over again, or alternatively just choosing the person you like the most. And both of those can end up being a recipe for disaster for your organisation.

Check out more interview tips for finding a perfect candidate in: 6 interview tips to find that perfect staff member

Do you have any great interview techniques you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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