Sure, Colbert, Kimmel, Noah, Bee and Winfrey make the interview process look like a snap, but that's because these TV talk show hosts had lots of preparation and practice — not to mention tremendous creative teams backing them.

Many hiring managers think they can just wing it during interviews, not investing the time, energy or concentration that effective job interviewing requires. That’s no laughing matter because hiring on the basis of a faulty interview can leave you with underperforming employees who cost you in terms of both time and money.

Create a protocol for interviews so you have a set way to determine the best hire for your business. Here’s how.

Decide who will conduct the interview

It’s best for the hiring manager to conduct one-on-one interviews with applicants first. He or she typically then chooses a few finalists to come in for a second interview. This is sometimes in the form of a time-saving panel interview, which includes the hiring manager and two to four members of the management team or work group who evaluate the candidate at the same time.

Robert Half has been finding A-list candidates for companies since 1948. Let us take on the time-consuming steps and the administrative details of bringing a new person on board.

Zero in on the candidate

Before asking the first interview question, review the job description, especially the hiring criteria, as well as everything the candidate has submitted: resume, cover letter, online profile and any other pertinent materials. This preparation is a significant part of the interview process because it allows you to hone in on what you’re looking for in the job candidates you’ll be speaking with. It should give you …

  • Firsthand information about the candidate’s background, work experience and skill level. It’s your chance to clarify what you learned from the resume, profile or previous interviews;
  • A general sense of the candidate’s overall intelligence, aptitude, enthusiasm and attitudes, and whether he or she fits the job;
  • Evaluation of the candidate’s motivation to tackle job responsibilities, desire to join the company and ability to integrate into the current work team.

Decide what to ask

Prior to the actual interview, write down questions you intend to ask, based on key areas of the candidate’s background. While it’s a good idea to have a core list of questions that you ask every candidate, it’s also helpful to jot down some targeted questions as you review the candidate’s job description and resume about areas in which you wish to gain clarification. Stay focused: Keep your list of questions in front of you during the interview.

Mix up the types of questions you ask, but ask more open-ended questions since they require more thought on the part of the interviewee than closed-ended questions and will help the candidate open up. Ask hypothetical questions — two or three at the most — that are framed in the context of an actual job situation. Feel free to ask an off-the-wall question to see how the candidate thinks on his feet.

Make every question count. Pay attention to the candidate’s answers; don’t rehearse your next question in your mind. Although you have your questions written down, don’t hesitate to veer from those if you want to reword or follow up on something, or to eliminate questions that were covered in a candidate’s response to another question.

Hire the best candidate

After you’ve given the candidate a chance to ask questions, close the interview by thanking him for his time, and tell him when to expect to hear from you.

As soon as the candidate leaves from the interview, collect your thoughts and write down your impressions and a summary of your notes. Collect feedback from other interviewers while the interview is fresh in everyone’s mind.

Selecting the right person for a position in your business isn’t easy. If you find yourself second-guessing your decision, let the hiring criteria serve as your guide. Make sure any changes you make to your hiring criteria are because of a workplace need and not because you’re enamored with a particular candidate for subjective reasons. Focus on your business needs during your interview process, and you’ll find the best new hire time after time.

Learn more about how to get the most out of your interviews with candidates by reading the Robert Half blog.