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How to Conduct the Perfect Interview

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It's as much your responsibility to sell candidates on the benefits -- tangible and intangible -- of working for your organization as it is their role to provide well-constructed and insightful responses to your interview questions. The quality of interaction between you and the candidate is what determines how well the interview goes. Remember, the way your company treats candidates is an indicator of how you treat employees, so put your and your company's best foot forward for an ideal meeting.

Define Perfect

Setting the stage for a perfect interview first requires that you define what makes an interview perfect. A perfect interview doesn't necessarily mean that you make a job offer. It means that you've portrayed your organization in the most favorable light and that the candidate leaves the interview confident that she knows enough about the company and the job to make a decision should it come to an employment offer.


The candidate isn't the only one who must prepare for the interview. Review the candidate's application materials, including the online application, cover letter and resume. If a recruiter conducted a preliminary interview, review the notes from that meeting. Talk to the recruiter again if you need additional information about the candidate. It's possible the recruiter did some research on the candidate's social media and network history or learned something about his former employers that sheds light on his capabilities.

Question Preparation

Draft a list of questions that enable the candidate to comfortably and confidently describe her strengths and her weaknesses. Don't use off-the-wall questions, such as, "If you were an animal, what would you be?" Questions like that cause nervousness and throw the candidate off-base. Stick to a combination of behavioral and situational interview questions. For jobs that require technical or clinical expertise, create a few situational interview questions so you get clarity on the candidate's job knowledge.


Put the candidate at ease when he arrives at your office. Engage in small talk for a couple of minutes until he gets settled and signals that he is ready to begin the interview. Offer him a glass of water. Also, ensure that you won't be interrupted. Disruptions tend to cause candidates to wonder if you take the interview seriously enough to put things on hold while you conduct the meeting.

Two-Way Conversation

Encourage two-way conversation during the interview. Avoid talking so much about yourself that you take the focus off the candidate and her career aspirations and goals. Engage the candidate in more of a conversation than an inquisition. Ask critical and thoughtful follow-up questions, but don't grill the candidate. Pay attention to the candidate's responses and take notes, but don't focus so much on transcribing every word that you take your attention away from what she's saying.


End the interview on a positive note by explaining the entire selection process to the candidate. This prevents candidates from wondering what is the next step, which is what many job seekers dislike about interviewing. Tell the interviewee when you anticipate making a decision, only if you know the precise date on which you intend to make the job offer. Also, explain that you will follow up with the candidate and stick to your word.



About the Author

Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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