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It’s hard to get to know someone in an hour or less, but that’s exactly what interviews are expected to accomplish. An interview is supposed to help determine whether a candidate is a good fit for a position and for the company. To make the best use of a limited amount of time, careful planning is essential.
Get to know the position requirements and the candidate’s resume. Highlight any differences or gaps, areas of interest and issues requiring greater elaboration. Take notes to include candidate-specific questions based on the issues that have been highlighted. An interviewer who can show the candidate advance knowledge of his resume will stand a better chance of establishing a rapport and getting honest responses.
Effective meetings need solid agendas, and an interview is no different. The agenda for an interview identifies the purpose and scope of the meeting and a specific set of points that must be addressed to support the evaluation process. If the candidate will be speaking with more than one company representative, the agenda clearly identifies an ordered schedule, assigning a firm start and stop time for each session. The final session should provide candidates with close-down points, such as information about benefits and the expected timing for decisions to be made.
Use the same set of questions for all candidates and take careful notes of their responses. Standard questions make it possible to objectively gather information. Questions should be open-ended as far as possible, preventing candidates from delivering simple “yes” or “no” answers. If candidates’ answers are too general, ask them to elaborate. Don’t interrupt unless the answers are going in circles. If nervousness causes candidates to talk a lot without saying anything of value, guide them to more detailed answers with particularly detailed questions.
Keep interviews bi-directional, not one-sided. Candidates need to be given the opportunity to ask questions of their own. They are evaluating the value of working for the company just as the interviewer is evaluating whether or not each candidate will fit well into an open position. Interviewer questions and comments should create a positive experience for candidates, helping them to recognize why they would want to become a part of the team.
Pay attention to body language. As the interviewer, you should be relaxed and confident to put the candidate at ease. Avoid nervous tapping and maintain eye contact to show an active interest in what the candidate is saying. Look for confidence in each candidate based on posture and whether or not he is willing to keep eye contact. Be aware of other indicators, too. Open hands suggest honestly, whereas clenched hands suggest withholding information.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.
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