Conducting an interview

Interviews are particularly useful for getting the story behind a candidate
The bases for a good interview are simple enough. An interview should go beyond a candidates resume to more specific in-depth questions that should bring a candidates skills, motivation, interests and experience to the forefront. Any extra information away form a resume that a candidate gives during an interview can be significant in the choice whether to hire them or not. Interviews are essential for forming impressions. During an interview, you as an employer, not only gather more information about a potential employee but also create a picture of the candidate away from the resume and form an image of them as a person. This can be helpful in remembering and placing a candidate in a pool of applicants and also for building a feel for the person and their suitability for the job in question.

While an employer knows what skills, experience and type of person they are generally looking for, unearthing the right qualities in a candidate requires traits such as patience, assertiveness and a good interviewing technique.

The point of an interview is to uncover the real personality and skill set of a candidate. An interviewer must be careful not to judge a candidate on their presentation but rather on the quality of their skills and expertise. Interviewers need to find the superior candidate rather then the one who just presents himself well.

Common mistakes in an interview come under the three misses

  • Misconception
  • Miscommunication
  • Misunderstanding
  • Setting the scene
    • Make sure you are adequately prepared for the interview with paper, pens, water etc. The setting should not be distracting and the interviewee should feel comfortable
    • Make sure to explain the privacy laws around the interview if applicable and if recording the interview, make sure to explain this also
    • Make sure you are able to record what is said in the interview, either by recorder, your own notes or somebody taking notes for you.

    Choosing what type of interview to conduct;
    There are many ways to go about conducting an interview.

    • Informal conversational interview- this is open and adaptable, it takes the place of a conversation rather then a structured interview, it goes with the flow and is useful when trying to gauge a candidates personality and mannerism
    • General interview guide approach- this is where the same general areas of information are collected for each interview. This type of interview is slightly structural while still being conversational and allowing some degree of freedom and individuality
    • Standardized- open ended interview- this type of interview asks questions from which candidates are free to choose how they answer them. These types of interviews provide responses that are relatively easy to analyse and compare.
    • Closed fixed response interviewing- in this type of interview all the candidate are asked the same questions and are then asked to choose from a list of answers. This type of approach is quick and efficient and also suitable to those who are not used to interviewing and are uncomfortable with it.

    What to ask about in an interview
    An interview should be fact finding and also help to create a story of a candidate; it should allow the interviewee to express their skills, interests and abilities more adequately and in more detail then a resume.

    • It is advisable to start out by explaining what the job is and what it entails, including the type of person you are looking for with what experience and skill set.
    • Ask the majority of the easy questions first and then insert some more throughout the interview. A long list of fact type questions can disengage the interviewee so it is important to diversify.
    • It is often advisable to ask about the present before the past or future as this often easier for the candidate to answer and can initiate a flow of conversation
    • Areas to explore include; behaviours ( both past and present), opinions and values on a topic, feelings, knowledge and background facts
    • Do not ask questions that can be answered by a yes or no answer as this can interrupt the flow of an interview and make it a difficult experience
    • Make sure when phrasing your questions not to indicate that there is a right or wrong answer, keep it neutral. Keep questions open ended and clear. Make sure that the phrasing of your questions is neither aggressive nor judgmental, especially in why questions.
    • Stay in control and don’t allow candidates to dwell too long on a topic. Make sure to follow up on other topics that are not fully explored. Seek clarification if unclear on a candidates response
    • Encourage responses by nodding and keeping your facial expressions neutral.
    • Encourage candidates to expand on answers that stop short candidates may assume you know what they are talking about or may not regard information as relevant, where as you may find it pertinent to the application
    • Sometimes candidates may not express themselves adequately or become tongue tied. Restating a question or expressing your doubts or lack of understanding over an answer may actually lead to the candidate clarifying an issue, sometimes with positive results.
    • Don’t forget to give the interviewees an opportunity to ask their own questions, as these can be very revealing. They also help good candidates demonstrate their worth.

    Some guiding questions to use

  • Can you be more specific?
  • What other approaches did you consider before your tried that approach
  • What was the resulting action?
  • Are you saying …?
  • Am I right in understanding that..?

    Remember: your aim as an interviewer is to understand the interviewee. Following these guidelines will aid you in a conducting a good interview and help you find a suitable candidate for your organisation.


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