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April 11, 2014

Having a hard time hiring? Maybe you’re not very good at interviewing.


No offense—we’re all bad at lots of things, especially if we've never had any training. But you can make yourself a better interviewer by keeping one idea paramount in your mind:

The whole point of interviewing is to hire the right person for the job.

Obvious, right? But some interviewers seem to think their job is to disqualify candidates. And then guess what happens—they disqualify them!

But you've already weeded out the candidates who lack the necessary skills or experience. Everyone you interview should be qualified for the job. Your responsibility in interviews is to decide which of these qualified candidates is the best fit—and convince them that your job is perfect for them, too.

Make it a conversation, not an interrogation.

If the candidate you’re meeting is ideal for the job, her personality and chemistry will matter as much as her skills and experience. And the only way to gauge those intangibles is by holding a conversation—not by grilling her to see if she messes up.

Keeping it conversational means:

  • Don’t rely too heavily on scripted questions. Instead, follow up with questions that allow her space to express how she thinks and works. When she’s answered your question about a success at her last job, follow up with “Why was that solution so effective for that particular client,” or “How would you apply that approach if you worked here?”
  • Try not to dismiss answers as “wrong.” If you hear something unexpected, it could be because you’re talking to someone with a novel way of approaching solutions. “Can you tell me more about that?”
  • Ask specific questions. “Tell me about yourself” invites her to ramble on about things that you might not care about, wasting her time and yours. Instead, ask about her education, her previous job, or why she pursued this type of work.
  • Listen. The interview’s about her, not you. Let her do at least 75% of the talking.

She’s interviewing you, too.

The interview is a two-way street—a smart candidate will evaluate you as much as you’re evaluating her. A little professional courtesy goes a long way toward making your company seem like someplace she’d like to work:

  • Prepare. Demonstrate that you already know a good deal about her, or at least that you’ve read her resume. And don’t forget to have it in front of you!
  • Be on time. She will be.
  • Avoid interruptions. Route your calls to voicemail, and let your team members know you’re interviewing. She deserves your full attention.
  • Avoid the inappropriate. Under no circumstances ask about her kids, her romantic partners or medical issues.
  • Follow up. Every jobseeker’s biggest complaint is not hearing back from the employer. If you don’t hire her, send her a prompt note thanking her for her time. And if the decision’s taking longer than expected, let her know that, too. Don’t leave her hanging.

Team up.

If you’re interviewing someone for a position outside your specialty, it only makes sense to have a coworker from that department join you. They’ll be able to ask questions more specific to the job, and assess more accurately whether the candidate's skills and experience fit what the job requires.

Plus, they might actually work side-by-side with this person. It sure helps if they like each other from day one!

When you treat every interview as an opportunity to hire the best candidate possible, that’s exactly what will—eventually—happen.

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