20 Nov Interview Tips for the Interviewer
I don’t see much content centered on what interviewers do to get the most out of interviews. Here are some basics on what has worked well for extracting the most value out of an interview, for me anyways.
- Get nerves out of the equation. Look, unless you’re hiring a VP, or presentation skills are a critical job function for the role, don’t let the candidate’s nervousness get in the way. Interviews are an inherently unnatural interaction. I almost always take the lead. If the interviewee is clearly nervous, it’s my job as an interviewer to bring the dialogue into a two way conversation- as human equals, perhaps with different skills. The sooner we are as close to equal footing as possible, the sooner we can get to know each other. The interviewer has a power position. This gets in the way. Remove it. Keywords are grace and dignity.
- Canned questions beget canned answers. We’re all busy. I get it. A list of standard questions can ensure you cover some of the logistics you might miss in a casual conversation. But, save those for the end or as a follow-up. A printed list of questions would seem absurd on a first date. It’s as absurd in an interview. If you can’t get to know a candidate by having a dialogue that meanders in a meaningful way, bring another stakeholder who can (and work on this skill as an interviewer).
- Scan the resume. Do a bit of research on topics/experience of relevance and interest. But don’t think you have the person pegged based on the resume. If you’re interviewing hot prospects, they may not have had to update their resume for years. I like to scan from bottom to top five minutes before the interview. I look for adjectives and keywords that are used more than twice. Chances are those are things the candidate really cares about, has passion about, would love to shout to the world the importance of these. LET THEM! If the things they’re passion about (pro and con) line up with yours, you’ve made a meaningful connection. Ask specifics to determine whether they had a cursory role or if they got their fingernails dirty.
- Body language cues and miscues. Ditch the arms crossed, leaning forward, toe tapping, and all the commonly understood cues. The interviewer is usually more guilty of body language violations (read: disinterest, busy, arrogant even). Focus on the face. Is this person excited about a topic, or are they not. It’s that simple. Find out why they are smiling when they talk about a project that went well. Find out why their face looked stressed when discussing a project that went to hell.
- Get staged. So many interviews are doomed from the start. Make sure the candidate has clear driving and parking directions (read number 1 above). Make sure someone is there to greet the person, and the candidate knows their name. Have a backup person to ask for. Push coffee and/or water on the candidate. The chaotic reality of the workplace has no place in an interview. Don’t let your sloppiness be an excuse. “Things are always crazy around here.” Be tighter.
- If at all possible, give a positive or no-go indication. If you’re in a position to say, not a good fit, by all means deliver that message with grace and dignity. If things are looking positive, don’t make it abstract. “Next steps, are as follows: you are one of four great candidates. You will hear from us within X days, where we will indicate if there is a next step or not”.
- Ask what else they’re in front of: More transparency is better, and also makes for a good litmus test for your organization’s (and principally your) ability to make decisions and stick with them. Your candidate is a human being (yes, I’m sure). They have other people in their lives who they depend on, and likely some who depend on them. This job thing is just an hour or so out of your day, but this job thing is a big deal for your interviewee (and those other humans around them). Find out what else the person is interviewing for and why. If those roles are different than yours, find out why. What drives this person? What’s going to be the best fit for them? Can your role be adjusted to better fit into their lives? This is the first opportunity you have to show that you care about their wellbeing!
- Invite a stakeholder you don’t know very well. I’ve found that you find out more about your coworkers and peers by sitting in an interview with them than most day to day interactions. Interestingly, I’ve found that peers tend to ask questions that reveal their own frustrations and insecurities they have regarding their working circumstances. “How important is upward mobility?” This stakeholder has an opinion about the topic. Also a good chance to just observe. These people might be sitting around a conference room table together with you in the future.
- Be honest. The interviewee doesn’t expect that your workplace is nirvana. Don’t paint it as such. I have a tendency to ask new hires if the reality of the situation matches what I described when we first met. They usually say yes. This is a big deal.
- Have fun. Interviews are a form of networking. Both parties will get the most value when the process is enjoyable. This is one of the first interactions you will have with each other. You are a critical PM agent for your organization. Treat the interview as such.