How to Conduct an Interview: 6 Ways Managers Can Prepare

By Robert Half on August 4, 2020 at 7:00am

Conducting an interview looks easier than it is. And that’s precisely why many hiring managers don’t always prepare as well as they should for this critical step in the hiring process.

Giving little thought as to how to prepare for an interview can lead to costly hiring mistakes. These include missing the opportunity to recruit a talented professional because you didn’t ask the right questions, failing to make a positive impression on the candidate, or both.

It’s even more important now to refine your approach to interviews because you may need to hire some or all job candidates remotely. If you haven’t mastered the basics of how to conduct a job interview in person, you’re unlikely to deliver a compelling performance in a remote interview.

So, don’t wing it. Here are six things to do before conducting an interview:

1. Revisit the job description

Thoroughly review the job description, which will drive the job posting, even if you were the one who originally created it. Things can change so fast in the current business environment, key elements could now be out of date. If you skip this step, you could end up attracting the wrong people for the job.

The job description should describe the desired technical and soft skills as well as outline all current responsibilities and expectations. If you’re unsure about anything, ask people in the organization who have most recently worked with someone in the role for their input.

2. Closely review the candidate’s work history

One mistake hiring managers often make when conducting interviews is asking candidates to repeat information they’ve already provided. This not only makes you appear unengaged with staffing the position, but it also eats up valuable time in the interview. It will leave little opportunity to dig into questions that can help you evaluate whether the potential hire would succeed in the role.

So, prior to your meeting, thoroughly review any information the job candidate has provided to date. That includes their resume, cover letter and online profile. Note any areas requiring clarification, such as puzzling job titles or unexplained gaps in work history. When conducting an interview, you may also want to hone in on non-work activities that may reveal aspects of the candidate that could have a bearing on job performance.

3. Create a general structure for the process

Sketch out a basic schedule that will allow you to cover all the key areas you want to address during interviews. A well-organized process also shows candidates that you respect their time.

As for scheduling the interview, be flexible. You might think, with so many people working remotely now, finding a time to meet during the day would be easy. But for some people, it’s more challenging. For example, a best practice prior to the pandemic was to schedule interviews early in the day, before work would kick into high gear. However, if people are managing children at home, the morning may not be an ideal meeting time.

So, if possible, offer a few time slots for the candidate to choose from. To simplify things further, you might even consider using an online appointment scheduling tool.

4. Prepare and memorize your must-ask questions

Write down the items you know you’ll need to ask the candidate about based on the job description and your hiring criteria. Try to commit these core questions to memory. Then, you can focus on maintaining eye contact with the candidate, whether you’re meeting in person or by video. That can help you create an interview experience that’s more conversational and relaxed.

5. Use a mix of question types

In addition to your must-asks, leave room for other questions that can help you develop a better picture of the candidate overall. Try using some combination of these interview question types:

  • Closed-ended questions call for a simple, informational answer — sometimes just a yes or no. An example: “Have you worked in an industry different from ours?”
  • Open-ended questions require thought and oblige the candidate to reveal attitudes or opinions. For instance: “What interests you most about this position?”
  • Hypothetical questions invite the potential hire to resolve an imaginary situation or react to a real one. Here’s one: “If you had an opportunity to revise your early career path, what would you do differently?”

6. Practice how to conduct an interview

Just as you expect candidates to be polished during job interviews, they expect the same of you, too. The job market may be a bit more challenging for candidates at the moment, but that doesn’t mean in-demand professionals aren’t going to be selective about their next career move. Your tone and degree of professionalism matter.

This can take practice. You could rehearse with a colleague over a video call, practice with a friend or family member at home, or run through a mock interview in front of your webcam or a mirror. This process will help you build more self-awareness of your communication abilities. At the same time, this will clue you in to opportunities for improvement.

Don’t have time for candidate searches or conducting interviews? Robert Half can help. We make hiring easy, whether you need to staff roles on-site or remotely.

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