Interviewing someone for a job is a delicate balance of getting all the information you need and making candidates feel comfortable enough to share their stories. Interviewing is a skill that takes time to master.
Interviews are primarily about making a connection with another person. But it could be challenging to make a connection if the prospect is very different from you. Perhaps they are much older or younger than your typical hires; maybe they have specialized technical knowledge, whereas you barely understand the jargon.
It’s true; the more you interview, the better you will get at navigating different personalities and life experiences. The goal is to connect and determine fit.
This guide will look at tips on improving your interviewing skills so you can conduct better interviews every time.
You’ve got homework to do
As busy as you are and as tempting as it is to minimize the time you invest in the first round of conversations, don’t.
Most of us have a set of questions we run through with all candidates (If you don’t, you should). But you don’t want to come across as a robot, right?
Know your goals for the conversation beforehand and adjust the questions accordingly.
Are you looking for information about their background and roles in a particular industry? Are there topics to avoid during this interview? If so, write them down, and make sure you steer clear of those topics.
Ask the hiring manager to clarify jargon or abbreviations for highly specialized skills if you need to. What are some comparable skills or tools that demonstrate similar skills? You don’t need to be an expert, but you don’t want to pass on a good candidate by mistake.
Have your timeline and next steps ready. Plan this ahead of time and make sure it is realistic. If there are several interview rounds, check vacation schedules and let the candidate know what to expect.
Ask the Right Questions
Asking the right questions is an art. It is about having your standardized set of questions and a plan B and C.
According to studies, half of us are introverts, and half, are extroverts. You will know your candidate is one or the other within the first few questions. An introvert may undersell their skills and give you direct answers. An extrovert may be excellent at thinking on their fit and have a refined sales pitch.
Interestingly, extroverts tend to like professions like HR. So “clicking” with a candidate in the first few minutes may be just a matter of personality. Skip the small talk if your candidate is an introvert; or think of ways to redirect the conversation if an extrovert goes on a tangent.
Make sure you are asking open-ended questions. You want your candidate to think about their answers instead of just giving you the first thing that comes to mind. Instead of asking, “Did you enjoy working there?” try asking something along the lines of, “What was your favorite part about working there?” This will give you a better insight into who they are as individuals.
In short, have a plan to get to know the candidates beyond the initial impression.
Bridge the age and experience gap
Are you interviewing someone older, younger, more experienced, or less experienced than you? Start by finding common ground. You can find commonality in where they grew up, their school, and a course or certificate. Finding something familiar will help you get off on the right foot.
Age: Don’t bring up their age, don’t mention yours. This is not just a legal requirement. We all make assumptions about what comes with age (outdated skills) or youth (lack of know-how).
Empathy: If you see the gap, so do they. They are likely as uncomfortable as you. Show that you understand that life is unpredictable. Brilliant students can’t find a job right out of school, great people can get laid off, people come back to work after a long hiatus, and some take a step back in their careers.
Experience: This is where your previous research comes in handy and helps you ask questions that are on target. More experienced candidates will appreciate the opportunity to go deeper, and less experienced candidates will appreciate the chance to talk about something they know.
An interview is a conversation, not an interrogation. As the interviewer, you want to make your candidate feel comfortable. Pay attention to non-verbal clues – theirs and yours. Make eye contact, smile, and avoid distractions (we see you multi-taskers).
Be friendly, not intimidating. This is not the time to tell your interviewee why they should choose your company over others. Don’t be judgmental about what they say. Try not to interrupt or change the subject when they say something interesting or unexpected. Instead, use this as an opportunity for deeper questioning later in the conversation.
Enjoy the Conversation
Success as an interviewer is about finding ways to connect, listen, and learn about another human being. Ask the right questions, bridge the gap, and come to the interview with a genuine interest in the person across from you. Everything else comes after.