Job interviews are stressful for applicants on a job hunt. But they can be just as nerve-racking when you’re the one conducting the interview, particularly if you’re a first-time manager. These job interview tips can help.
Given the high cost of a bad hire, you need to make sure that you get everything right the first time so you don’t have to restart the hiring process. If you're less experienced, it's especially important to get good hiring advice right from the start.
The best job interview tips for managers all have the same focus: Be thoughtful about the interview process, and spend some time preparing for maximum effectiveness. In that spirit, here are 10 job interview tips for new managers:
1. Set up for success
The first piece of advice on our list of job interview tips is something you need to consider well before any interview starts. Time is precious, so don’t waste it interviewing candidates who are a poor fit for the role.
Start by drafting an effective job description, which will help ensure you receive suitable resumes. The job description should list all the traits of an ideal candidate, including both technical and nontechnical skills, along with minimum qualifications. Clearly identifying job responsibilities and expectations will help candidates decide whether it makes sense to include your company in their job hunt and can also weed out candidates who don’t match your needs.
With an airtight job description in hand, it should also be easier to draft targeted interview questions.
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2. Enlist help
Establish an interviewing team, including colleagues whose opinions you respect and employees who will work directly with the new hire. Your coworkers can help you whittle down the choices and can offer good judgment about how well the candidate’s personality will fit with the team.
3. Get prepared
If you remember just one of the job interview tips we share, let it be this one. Above all, you must be well-prepared for your meeting with a potential hire. Many managers think they can wing it. And almost all of them are wrong. If you go in without a game plan, you're likely to lose focus or draw a blank halfway through. You also make it much more difficult to conduct consistent interviews and, therefore, evaluate all candidates using the same criteria.
More than anything, being prepared means having a list of questions on hand before the interview starts. Go through your job description again and formulate questions that focus on the key skills and responsibilities of the position. Then, review the job seeker's resume and devise questions that expand on important details about the person's background or hit on concerns you have.
4. Ask the right questions
Interview questions take a number of forms. Here are the four most common:
- Closed-ended — These interview questions are simple and straightforward. They can often be answered with a yes or no response.
- Open-ended — This type of question requires thought and elaboration.
- Hypothetical — With this type of interview question, the candidate is asked to respond to a situation he or she may face on the job.
- Off-the-wall — Though somewhat bizarre, these questions can provide insight into a candidate's personality and communication style.
Remember that with all of your questions, you’re trying to elicit information that you can’t get from the resume application.
After you develop your list of interview questions, go through and select those that are essential. Your goal here is to make sure you ask this subset of questions, no matter what. The other interview questions on your list can be asked as time allows.
5. Don’t rush into the interview
Here's one of the most easily overlooked job interview tips: Start slow.
The job hunt — and hiring process — is a stressful process. Once the interview begins, don't start by asking questions in rapid-fire succession. Instead, use small talk to to put the candidate (and yourself) at ease. Small talk also helps establish rapport with the job seeker.
Before too long, transition to some ice-breaker questions such as the following:
- "What do you know about the company?"
- "Why do you want to work here?"
- "What appeals to you about this job?"
- "Can you tell me a little about your professional background?"
- "What are you looking for in a new position?"
These are questions that any potential hire should have prepared for and should have no trouble answering. If the candidate stumbles through your initial questions, consider that a red flag.
These "softball" questions also give you some time to observe the applicant’s communication style and composure. Be sure to consider appearance, manners and any nonverbal cues that indicate enthusiasm (or lack of it) for the job. You can often tell as much by how a person answers a question as what he or she says in response.
6. Listen and engage
No one likes talking to an unreceptive audience. Make sure that you actively listen and engage with the candidate by adding comments after the person's responses and being aware of your body language. Nod occasionally, make appropriate eye contact and face the interviewee.
If you seem disinterested or bored, applicants will pick up on it and might become nervous. The position and your company might also become less appealing in their job hunt.
7. Take notes
This may seem like one of the more obvious job interview tips, but you'd be surprised how many hiring managers forget, or simply don't bother, to take note. It's absolutely critical you jot down key points during the interview. After the candidate leaves, quickly add more substantial thoughts and impressions.
When it comes time to evaluate all the candidates you've met with or discussion them with fellow interviewers later, you’ll have these reminders to jog your memory. After all, the interview process can stretch over days or weeks, and it's inevitable that some details will begin to fade or blur. Notes also ensure you're basing the hiring decision on solid information, not half-remember impressions.
8. Ask for work samples and references
One of the most helpful job interview tips to assess applicants' quality of work and experience is to look at samples of their work. Before you end the interview, ask candidates if they are willing to provide previous samples of their work or take a supplementary test — like a writing or coding exercise, depending on the job position. Some skills can only be judged in this way.
If the job seeker still seems like a promising hire at this point, asking for a list of references so you can start this step of the hiring process sooner rather than later. Requesting a candidate's references also shows the person you are seriously considering him or her for the job.
9. Act fast
The current demand for skilled talent means that top candidates have an advantage — their job hunt may yield multiple offers. So while you’re deliberating, your first choice may already be considering accepting a position with another employer.
Once you and the interview team reach a consensus, and all the candidate's references check out, you need to extend an offer as soon as possible, or risk losing out to a competitor. It's as simple as that: Don't delay.
10. Plan to negotiate
Salary negotiations are now commonplace, especially for professionals with highly sought skill sets. So the last of our job interview tips is similar to one of the first: Be prepared.
That means thinking of ways to sweeten the deal if you're having a hard time matching a potential hire's pay request. One option is to agree to a salary increase after a set amount of time if performance is strong. Another is to offer more in terms of benefits and perks, such as additional vacation time or the ability to work from home on occasion.
You also must decide beforehand how high you’re willing to go so your offer is not out of line with existing salary levels among the team.
Check out the latest Robert Half Salary Guides to learn the market rates for the position in your area of the country.