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


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

Last year we 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’s 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. If you find it easy to build rapport with them, then that’s a good sign that they may the right cultural fit for your organisation.

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. Look for non-verbal cues

It’s not just what an interviewee says, but also how they act when being interviewed (and even before) that can give you great insight into whether that person is right for the job.

Reading non-verbal communication – like a candidate’s body language – isn’t an exact science, but there are some things that you can look out for in an interview to give you a more complete picture of the person your interviewing, such as:

  • How they treat your receptionist: If you can, observe what the candidate is like when they arrive at the office. Are they courteous to your receptionist? Do they seem relaxed or flustered? Seeing them in action when they aren’t in the interview room can give you a better insight into their personality.
  • Your candidate’s posture: There’s a lot of literature out there about how to read body language. Slouching or hunching, for example, can be a sign of an over or under confident candidate.
  • Lack of facial expression: People convey emotion through their facial expression, so – particularly for staff who will be working directly with clients or other people – a lack of facial expression can reveal someone who may have trouble relating easily.

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 interview 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 – which we won’t go into detail about here – but it’s common 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 even take that further by weighting each question differently depending on importance.

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

He says that without having a standard to evaluate against “you might find yourself being pressured in your mind to pick the best of a bad lot instead of running the whole thing over again.”

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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