Job interviews can be tough as an employer. In most instances, you don’t know the candidate beforehand, and have to learn enough about them in a 30-45 minute interview to determine if you’re willing to let them behind the counter of your business (or on the factory floor, in the office, etc.). There is no surefire way to interview that will reveal which candidate is the best. However, there are guidelines you can follow that will help you learn about the candidates, and give you enough of a sense of them to make a good decision. Let’s start by looking at ways to prepare for an interview.
The first part of preparation is getting to know your candidate. One way is by reviewing their resume. In addition to reviewing the information they provide, review their LinkedIn profile, and make use of the information presented their. Be wary of using outlets such as Facebook, as you may be running up against discrimination rules. You don’t want to go into an interview with any biases about the candidate, so make sure you have the right attitude before they arrive. After you have reviewed the candidate’s information and qualifications, come up with a list of questions to ask the candidate. I will go into further detail on this below. Lastly, select an appropriate environment for the interview. A good rule is to select somewhere quiet and professional. Coffee shops are common, and some libraries have small study rooms you can use. Of course, if you have your own office, that would probably work the best.
When the interview starts, observe the candidate as you listen to them. Be on the lookout for “closed-off” posture, such as crossed arms. Additionally, take note of whether or not the candidate dressed appropriately. During the interview, don’t be afraid to delve deeper into questions. Nikoletta Bika, for workable.com, advises: “Asking one question about a past experience may not tell you a lot about a candidate. You don’t just want to hear their story. You want to understand their way of thinking, how they reached a solution, what was the impact of their actions and how others perceived them.” It can be very helpful to ask questions that force the candidate to expand on their past experiences. Miss Bika also reminds us that the “interview isn’t only about [the interviewer] assessing the candidate. It’s also a chance to present the company in a way that will persuade the best candidate to accept their offer.” This is a reminder that a job interview isn’t meant to be a one-way affair. You need to be selling your business just like the candidate is selling themselves. Also, it’s a good idea to take notes, especially if you are interviewing multiple candidates.
There are a number of good questions you can ask the candidate. While I’m sure you have heard most of the common selections, here are a few less-used interview questions that can help you determine if a candidate is the right fit for your business:
- Tell me about a time that you made a mistake at work. How did you handle it?
- What do you expect from your employer?
- “What are the three most important attributes or skills that you believe you would bring to our company if we hired you?” (com)
- “What did you like most about (a job on their resume)? What did you like least about this job?” (com)
These questions help you get a sense for what motivates a candidate, as well as how they interact with their coworkers. Most interview questions are meant to reveal something about the interviewee’s cultural fit, expectations, motivations, and skills. There are plenty of resources available to help you develop a set of interview questions (see below).
Always finish the interview by asking the candidate what questions they have. These can tell you a lot about the candidate. If they don’t have questions, or if they have very basic questions, it could point to a lack of interest or preparation. The questions they ask may be just as important as the answers they give you in determining what type of employee they will be.
Interviewing candidates is one of the toughest parts of growing as a small business. There is only so much you can tell about a potential employee’s character, work ethic, and skill in a single job interview, so be sure to do your research beforehand. Always remember that you have more than just answers to judge a candidate on (body language, apparent preparation). Also, remember to come up with your script and stick to it, for all of your candidates. Everyone has their own way of interviewing, but these guidelines will help you identify which candidates are the best fit for your business, and which ones to let go.
Special thanks to: Amy Dutton, Michael Wampler
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