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A Beginner’s Guide To Conducting A Job Interview

by Peg Manrique on Jul 14, 2022 1:03:12 PM

Whether you’re growing, losing key employees to retirement, or looking to replace workers who have departed amid the Great Reshuffle, there’s a good chance your business will need to fill open roles for any number of reasons. As you look to bring on new talent, you may be wondering how to conduct an effective job interview to find the right fit for your role and company culture. Let’s look at the key steps.

To help you understand how to optimize your job interviews to boost your hiring success, here we’ll address who should be involved in the process, how to conduct an interview, the best questions to ask, and how to use the discussions to inform your decision making. After reading this guide, you’ll know what you need to do to conduct effective job interviews for any open position.

Who should be involved in a job interview?

Depending on the type of interview you’re conducting, you may have different individuals – or even multiple people – involved.

  • Screening interview: You may decide to start with a screening interview over the phone. This type of conversation is typically done early in the selection process to narrow the pool of applications and can be run by your HR department or outside recruiter if you use one.
  • In-person or live video interview: After your screening interviews, you’ll want to determine who to invite for a formal interview. These interviews can be either in person or virtual if you have remote candidates and are usually one-on-one between an applicant and hiring manager.
  • Second or third round interviews: At this point, if you’re serious about a couple of candidates, you may want to have them come in to meet with their prospective colleagues, other staff, or company executives. These meetings can be one on one or a “panel” approach with no more than 4-5 people.

How do I run the interview?

The first thing you’ll want to do when an individual comes in for a job interview is set the candidate at ease. Thank them for their interest in the position and try to make them feel relaxed by starting the conversation off with small talk or general information about the company.

Next, you’ll want to explain what the job entails in more detail than what a job posting typically allows for by describing the key responsibilities and duties.

Then it’s time to start asking questions. As you do so, be sure to give the candidate plenty of time to answer and don’t interrupt. We’ll cover the types of questions to ask next. And invite them to interview you as well to facilitate open communication.

Finally, end the interview with a timeline so candidates understand the selection process and when they can expect to hear back from you.

Which questions should I ask during a job interview?

During an interview, you may want to develop a specific set of questions in advance. That way, you can be sure to ask the same questions of all potential hires you interview so that you can evaluate and compare applicants consistently. A structured process can also protect you in the event of allegations of discrimination in hiring and selection by ensuring a fair process.

Since screening interviews are generally used just to determine whether a candidate has the qualifications to do the job, we’ll focus instead on questions to ask during subsequent interviews that are designed to go into more detail about a candidate’s experience and skills, work history, availability, and qualifications and can also assess how they would handle a certain situation.

Here are some basic questions to ask:

  1. What strengths and skills do you bring to the role?
  2. What qualifications do you have that would make you successful here?
  3. What sets you apart as a candidate for this position?
  4. What work accomplishment(s) are you most proud of? How did you accomplish it, what mistakes did you make along the way, and how do you measure success?
  5. What is an area where you think you can improve?
  6. Describe a challenge or conflict you faced at work and how you addressed it.
  7. Describe a time when you were under a great deal of stress at work and how you handled it.
  8. What gets you excited about getting up and going to work?
  9. What have you enjoyed most in previous positions? Liked least?
  10. What are your long-term career goals and how does this role align with them? 
  11. Why do you want to work at our company?
  12. If you had a choice, would you prefer to work alone or as part of a team? Why?
  13. Why would you be a good addition to our team?
  14. If our decision was down to you and one other candidate what would you say to convince us to hire you?
  15. What things are most important to you in a work environment?
  16. Why are you leaving your current job?
  17. How would your present or former coworkers describe you?
  18. Tell me something about yourself that’s not on your resume.
  19. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
  20. What salary are you expecting? 

Are there certain questions I shouldn’t ask?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and some state laws prohibit you from asking certain questions that could lead to the appearance of discrimination during a job interview. For example, you can’t ask about a candidate’s:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Color
  • Ethnicity
  • Birthplace/country of origin
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Marital status
  • Family status

In addition, in some states, you may not be able to ask about salary history. For example, under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), you can’t ask about salary history information, including compensation and benefits. Moreover, FEHA also prohibits you from asking a candidate about their criminal conviction history until after a conditional offer of employment has been made or from asking about convictions for minor marijuana offenses more than 2 years old.

How do I interpret the results?

When a candidate responds to your questions, take notes that you can refer to later. And don’t just focus on what they say but how they say it, meaning, their choice of words and non-verbal behavior like eye contact. You’ll also want to pay attention to the questions an applicant asks since they not only show interest, but can also reveal possible concerns.

Be sure to collect feedback from anyone else who sat in on the meeting or interviewed the applicant, especially if they would be interacting with them on a daily basis. Then analyze all the information while it’s still fresh in your mind. It can help to establish criteria ahead of time for evaluating each interviewee like a scoring rubric that allows you to “grade” each one.

How to Get Job Interviews Right

As we’ve discussed here, there’s a lot of steps to complete when conducting job interviews to get the process right. If you don’t have internal HR staff and don’t have the time or expertise yourself to make sure you conduct interviews effectively, it may be helpful to work with an outsourced recruiter. If you’re thinking about working with an HR partner to help you find the best candidates for your open positions, read our guide on the top factors to consider when evaluating your options.


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