5 Keys in Conducting an Effective Interview

You are holding an interview session for prospective employees in your business. You are anticipating with excitement to see the various personalities of candidates you will be interviewing. You hope you will come across the perfect one. One candidate after another, you interviewed and listened to them diligently. Something slowly caught your attention. You realised a trend in each candidate you interviewed – they were asking you more questions, exceeding the number of questions you were asking them.

Because of this, you found it difficult to determine the perfect candidate for your job. Each question you received were different, and as a result, you do not have a standardised set of questions to allow you to make better judgement in filtering the candidates. You would usually just ask three questions and then hire the person. You hired the wrong person, you had to train and retrain the individual, receive resignation letters one after another, and restart the entire process by interviewing and rehiring another candidate. Do you realise your actions are putting time and resources to waste?

This made you question yourself: were you actually prepared well enough as an interviewer? You know what you want in a candidate. You even explained your dream employee to your Human Resources Manager and left the responsibilities in interviewing and hiring solely to them. Yet, the outcome was almost similar or worse. You were always left with an unsuitable person filling up the job position.
effective interview
Take this opportunity to learn from Linda, who works in a Human Resources (HR) agency. Linda herself is experienced and excellent in conducting interviews. Interviewing and hiring are basically Linda’s biggest talents. She has always been able to hire the right person for the right position. But there’s a catch! While being good at interviews conducted by herself, Linda did not have managers who are on par with her when it comes to interviewing. When she assigned the interviewing task to her managers, the quality of the candidates could be seen as decreasing. This was a threat to her business. Linda did not know how to teach her managers to interview just like her. They obviously had different interview methods, which resulted in different candidate qualities.
effective interview
Thus, Linda resorted for help from a CFO to solve this issue with her managers. She allowed the CFO to participate in her interview a few times, so that he could observe and listen to her method of interviewing. The CFO came up with an analysis of the types of questions Linda asked in the interview, as well as the way she interviewed. From this, the CFO managed to duplicate her way and came up with a standard operating procedure (SOP) for interviewing and hiring.
First of all, you need to grasp the concept of what an interview is. Basically, an interview is a private meeting which involves a series of questions being asked by the interviewer, and corresponding answers being received from the interviewee. Interviews may be in individual or groups, formal or informal, and even structured or unstructured. Interviewing may seem like a whole simple question and answer process, but an effective one actually lies way more than that. An effective interview starts with you, the interviewer. You should bear in mind the following when you are conducting an interview:

1. Keep an open mind

effective interview
In some circumstances, you are not alone in the interviewing process. You may be joined by other parties such as the HR team, hiring managers, and even recruiters. Therefore, you need to ensure that all of you are on the same page. Take time to discuss and collectively agree on questions beforehand, to allow all of you to learn about the candidates better. If you do not have the luxury of time and resources, do refer to the 33 questions below; constructed by a CFO with 20 years of experience, you can just trust the process and watch yourself achieve positive results..

2. Ask open-ended questions

effective interview
While answers to structured questions may seem to be easier to judge as they are less specific, you should ask your candidates several open-ended questions as well. Their personal responses could tell a lot about them. This would allow you to see the candidates on a different perspective such as their behaviour, habits, capabilities in decision making and thinking out of the box, and problem solving approaches.

3. Listen more, talk less, just ask

effective interview
Place your focus solely on your candidate. Listen to them closely and do not miss a point. Prevent yourself from causing any interruptions to their interview session. Give them all their time to talk as this is THEIR opportunity to shine by answering your questions.

4. Take note!

effective interview
While listening to your candidate is the main purpose of an interview, you should also place attention to other aspects of your candidate as well, such as their body language or attire. Their image would determine if they are suitable for your company. In addition to this, take note of their enquiries as this could determine their wants and needs from your business once they are hired.

5. Set expectations

effective interview

Establish higher expectations to the candidates so that they would perform their very best during the interview and fight for the position. You could be fortunate enough to come across the best candidate which fulfils your idea of an ideal employee.

effective interview

As you have already learnt the five keys in conducting an effective interview, you should now have a rough idea on some suitable questions to be asked to your candidate to know more about them. Following is a series of 33 questions which could be greatly helpful for you to implement in your interview SOP:

1. Please introduce yourself in 1 minute.
2. What attracted you to apply for this job?
3. Did you attend any other interviews?
4. Tell me about your last job: what did you do & what was your most important task?
5. What did you like most about your last job? And why?
6. What did you like most about your boss?
7. What did you dislike most in your job? And why?
8. What did you learn from your previous job, what is the biggest one, & what else?
9. (a) Do you know what you need to do to increase chances of success on the job?
    (b) Do you know a good way for someone else to increase his/her chances?
    (c) Do you find it easy to tell them, or you find it not so easy (tough)?
10. Why did you leave the last company?
11. What is your strength? What else?
12. What is your weakness? What else?
13. What is the most memorable event in your life?
14. What is your biggest achievement?
15. What is your biggest failure?
16. What do you want to achieve this year? What else?
17. How much do you expect to earn this year?
18. What is your minimum expenditure per month? What is the biggest expense?
19. Tell me about your family. What are they doing?
20. If you were hired, what can you contribute? What else?
21. How do you think you can contribute to the company’s growth?
22. What makes you more suitable compared to other candidates?
23. Tell me about a work situation that gave you trouble.
24. [sales only] Please demonstrate to me how you would sell ABC product.
25. [sales only] Can you please demonstrate how you do a cold calling?
26. [operations & support only] Can you please explain to me how the XYZ document is prepared?
27. [operations & support only] Assume I am your client, please demonstrate asking for a document.
28. Do you read any books in relations to business or sales and marketing?
29. Do you have any hobbies or interest in sports?
30. Who is your best friend and how would he describe you in one sentence?
31. May I contact him/her (your best friend) now?
32. What is your expected salary? Why?
33. Thank you for your time, I like you but I am not sure if you will meet my expectations. What is your say on this?
As you could see, these questions include structured and open-ended questions, whereby selected scenarios shall be given to the candidates to demonstrate. By practicing having a standardised set of questions in an interview, you would be able to learn a lot about each of your candidates in an equivalent manner by the end of the session.
To make your interview more effective and organised, you should definitely go by the sequence of questions stipulated above. Not all questions shall be asked to every candidate as questions #24 to #27 are all specific to the position the candidate is applying for. You should pay close attention to the answer given by the candidate for question #23, as this would determine how good they are at stress management. To ensure your business runs in your direction of objectives, question #9 is highly important as it is asked specifically when hiring management level employees.
Based on the above questions, maybe you feel that there is a lack of methods of discovering your candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. Thus, feel free to ask them more – you do you! The set of questions are very flexible to your needs as they only serve as a major guideline for you. Most importantly, listen to the response of the candidate for the last question as it would or would not be a dealbreaker on not hiring the candidate. If their answer satisfies you, proceed with the second interview.
As a conclusion to Linda’s story, she successfully taught her managers effective interviewing as she implemented the usage of a set of standardised questions in her interviewing SOP, as per her CFO’s advice after observing her. Now, just like Linda, her managers too, can effectively hire the right people into the company.

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