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Top Tips for First Time Interviewers

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Hiring is a tricky business. If you find yourself in a position where it has become your responsibility, then you know there is almost an unwritten understanding that you will know what to do and will find a great person to fill the role. We have found, however, there is little, if any, guidance on how to do this effectively. HR (who we know have more than enough on their plates already!) will most likely give you some templates, forward some resumes, and maybe even schedule the interviews, but once that meeting room door closes, you’re on your own. When it’s just you and the candidate, what do you do then? Here are a few tips to help with your hiring process.

Prepare

Be fully aware of the role description and each resume before stepping into the meeting room. Acquaint yourself with the interview guide you're given, ensuring it makes sense to you. Remember, it is just a guide, not a script, be confident enough (and prepared enough) to be flexible in order to gather the information you require.

Break the Ice

Small talk is an underrated skill, but an essential one. You will be nervous when running your first few interviews, as will the candidate. It is your job, however, to put them at ease and take the tension out of the room so you can get the best out of them. Pick a quick topic, talk about the weather or traffic, offer the interviewee a drink with a smile and ease them into the interview room. Once you have someone at ease, they will engage better and make your job so much easier.

Question and Prepare to be Questioned

Work with the guides you have but ensure that you have sufficient questions to get the information you require to make an informed decision. Get familiar with competency-based interviewing; meaning, don’t get candidates to just hypothesise answers, but instead ask for examples from a past experience. Don’t be afraid to probe a little, ask the candidate to qualify what they’re saying. Asking “why” is a great skill to utilise and allows you to get a fuller picture of the individual and their background.

Likewise, be prepared to answer questions yourself, as good candidates will come prepared with some. Interviews are a two-way street: Where you need to find out information to make a call in the best interests for your team and the company, a candidate needs to find out enough to decide if your company is right for them. In a candidate’s eyes at this stage, YOU are the company. They will probably ask questions about the role, the team, the company, the culture, the opportunities on offer, and the challenges they’ll face in the role.

Be armed with information to ensure that your interview puts your company at the top of their list when deciding where to take their career. Moreover, every candidate is in a position to influence people applying to your company, even if they don’t know it yet, so ensuring they have a good experience is crucial. Be articulate, passionate and considered in your answers to leave the best impression possible.

Own the Room

Don’t get intimidated during the interview. This can easily happen when you are interviewing an experienced person or an alpha type personality. It is easy to become a spectator in your own interview as they happily drive the meeting to their own agenda, and while this might tell you a lot about them, it isn’t an ideal situation for you to be in as the interviewer. You need to take control; remember it is your job to get as much information as you require to make an informed employment decision, so if that means politely cutting someone off in the middle of a monologue, then so be it.

Take Notes

This is essential. A lot can happen in an interview, conversations can move in many directions and your interest will ebb and flow. Notetaking gives you the advantage of being able to accurately remember what happened in what interview, as opposed to relying on your memory. After six interviews, candidates will start merging into one, so it is imperative you accurately record the interview. Be careful to really listen as you take notes. Sometimes interviewers become so intent on accurate note taking that they don’t take in all the information being shared.

Be wary of losing a connection with the candidate too. As a candidate, it can be very disconcerting to not get eye contact or genuine engagement when being interviewed. Meeting with someone sitting across from you who doesn’t look up and just scribbles down on their forms doesn’t make for a comfortable meeting or positive experience.

One last thing, if you're doing your note taking on a tablet or laptop, make sure other programs are turned off so that notifications don’t pop up and take your focus away. This is particularly relevant if you have glasses. While you may think you are multi-tasking, be aware that reflections from your glasses may be visible to your candidate. A candidate seeing Candy Crush reflected back at them when they are earnestly interviewing may be the kind of behaviour that finds its way onto review boards for the world to see!

Summary

Interviewing is not an easy task, but it is really important for the future success of both you and your company. Sure, it looks like you're just drinking coffee and talking with people, but the importance of making the right hiring decision cannot be undervalued and the interview is a crucial step in this process. You need to put the time and the work in to ensure you give yourself every opportunity to make the right decision. If you’re looking for more expert advice on interviewing, take a look at our other blogs on the topic, and feel free to get in touch.