Interviewing – Part 2
(…continued from part 1)
In the first article on interviewing we focused on preparing and starting an interview. In this article we will discuss how to handle the main part of the interview – the body – as well as closing and following up on the interview.
The body of the interview
After the setting-at-ease phase you can now move on to the main part of the interview.
Giving the candidate a feeling of your organisation’s culture is important. Often this can’t be clearly written down but you are responsible for representing it in the interview.
Keeping in mind that you don’t want to dominate interview time, you should start with a short summary of the position, include the key responsibilities, reporting line, key challenges and performance criteria. This should help the candidate to focus their answers to your questions.
Although the interviewee should have had a full JD and has had the time to research your organisation telling them a little more about the job is appropriate. In some situations you may actually have to sell the job to the interviewee, but you certainly should always have your organisation’s employer brand in mind.
Start off low key
Begin by asking low key questions about the candidate’s background and interest in the position and try to get the candidate to explain how they see themselves in relation to the position. Listen for how they can contribute, what they can give to the organisation, this is a strong positive.
Throughout you must keep your mind on listening to the interviewee, the benchmark you should try to keep to is for you to talk no more than 20% of the time and allow the interviewee to talk for 80%.
Although you have prepared the list of questions which you must go through the goal is to hold a natural, conversational interview and this takes practice. Be responsive to what the candidate tells you, and build follow up questions from their answers.
There is considerable skill to taking notes of what the candidate is saying without interrupting the natural flow of the interview. One strategy is to have your questions printed with space for you to note down the key words in the answers. After the interview, while it is all fresh in your memory, write up these notes into your records. Don’t try to write everything the candidate says, just the important points and key accomplishments, you only need information that will help you remember and fairly evaluate each candidate.
Possibly the most valuable part of the interview is when you invite the interviewee to ask you questions. Strong candidates prepare carefully for this moment and weak candidates ask standard questions. The very weakest candidates ask about salary and benefits at this point, or worse, say that they have no questions. Your goal here is to dig deeper into the interviewee’s attitudes particularly why they want to work in your organisation.
If the candidate has no questions this should be a serious warning, particularly for senior level positions.
Ending the interview
As you bring the interview to a close you should always say when the candidate will hear back from you about the outcome or the next step in the process. Be clear and stick to your promises regarding feedback.
If the candidate is clearly not a good fit and that becomes more obvious during the interview you can also be honest about that. If you have the authority to do so and it is clear to both of you then go ahead and explain why you won’t go forward.
If the process is now going to be passed out of your hands to someone else in the organisation explain the road-map ahead.
After the interview
After writing up your notes you are ready for post-Interview evaluation of the applicants. You should also follow up with anything you promised in the interview, for example when an interviewee asked you a question which you couldn’t answer and promised to supply the answer later.