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New to interviewing candidates? How to impress them.

You need to impress the candidates as much as they need to impress you, so make sure you are prepared.

Here are 12 tips to get it right.

You’re not the only one measuring up the talent. Interviews also give candidates insight into your organisation. How do you measure up?

You’ve shortlisted and know which top 3 to 5 candidates to interview. With today’s war on talent, you want to make sure the candidate you choose accepts the role.

Now it’s time to remember that it’s not only candidates being interviewed who can be nervous. The same can be said for those on the interview panel. You may be new to interviewing and unsure of what to do or what to expect.

Here are 12 tips to help the process run smoothly.

1. Prepare the candidate

Most candidates will be nervous. You never get the best out of candidates suffering from nerves, so help prepare them. Start by providing this information before the interview:

  • reading material you want the candidate to be familiar with
  • the address where the interview will take place
  • panel member names and positions
  • the length of the interview
  • details of where to park if travelling by car
  • instructions of what to do when arriving (example, ‘Go to the front desk and dial ‘xx’.’, or ‘Ask reception to let Jack Frost know you’ve arrived.’
  • information on whether there will be a test (never spring this on the candidate during the interview)

2. Be prepared yourself

Be on time. If a candidate is late, you’d think they’re tardy. So why should you have the right to be late? Be on time and make sure all panel members are.

Dress professionally and comfortably, especially if it’s going to be a long day. Remember that candidates are assessing you as a representative of the organisation they might choose to work for.

Read the resume. Research that we’ve conducted at face2face Recruitment indicates that only 4 in 100 people read a resume. The rest spend 60 seconds scanning. If you don’t have time to delve deeply into the resume, at least read the last three positions to understand what the candidate has been doing. This also reduces the need to waste time in an interview or ask questions you should already know the answers to.

Design the core questions to ask each candidate. If there’s more than one panel member, divide the questions up. Mark the panel member’s name beside the questions they’re to ask to avoid confusion.

Design questions to get the most out of the candidate. Add some behavioural questions, like:

  1. Describe a time when you felt you hadn’t performed to the best of your ability. What did you do about it?
  2. Tell me about a time when you worked with a colleague who wasn’t doing their share of work. What did you do about it?

Prepare the interview room. Arrange seating so the candidate can easily see all panel members without having to turn around. Make sure you place a glass of water on the table where the candidate will sit.

Make sure all phones are on silent. You don’t expect candidate phones to ring during an interview, so why should yours? Panel members should never answer calls during an interview. They shouldn’t text either. It’s disrespectful.

3. The greeting

When introducing yourself to the candidate, give them time to stand (if they’re sitting) before you shake their hand. Once they’re ready, say hello while firmly shaking. Introduce yourself and smile. Introduce the candidate to other panel members.

4. The ice breaker

Give the candidate a few minutes to settle into the interview and calm down. The best way to do this is to ask open-ended questions not related to the position, such as the weather or a hobby or interest they’ve mentioned in their resume.

When people are nervous, oxygen flow to the brain is restricted. This stops people from thinking properly. The calmer a candidate is, they better they’ll be able to answer questions and the better you’ll be able to determine what they’re offering.

If you are the one who is nervous, slow your breathing and consciously take deeper, longer breaths.

5. Maintain eye contact

It’s important for candidates to have eye contact with panel members when they’re answering questions. There’s nothing worse for a candidate than looking at the top of someone’s head while they’re furiously writing interview notes. The candidate can’t gauge how they’re performing.

We receive so much information from the face. A smile encourages us to keep going, a kind expression indicates that a question has been answered, a firm look indicates that responses are off target.

It’s easier to keep eye contact when more than one person is on the panel. The person who asks the question should maintain eye contact. This way the candidate always connects with one panel member, while the others perhaps write notes and establish occasional contact.

Remember that you’re selling your organisation and your team during the interview. If the candidate doesn’t feel a connection through eye contact, you may lose them.

6. Ask candidates for questions

At the end of the interview always ask the candidate if they have any questions. This allows the candidate to turn the tables. This approach can change the dynamic a little and provide more insight into the candidate.

7. Be kind and help candidates is they stumble

It’s normal for candidates to be nervous, stumble occasionally, go off track or have their mind go blank. Candidates can leave an interview thinking: ‘I knew the answer or should have said this.’

You don’t want the perfect candidate to escape, so help out where you can. If a candidate is rabbiting on, gently stop them and repeat the question. If you’ve asked a question and can see the candidate hasn’t understood, ask it again, but in a different way. This can leave the candidate with a good feeling about who you are and what your organisation’s culture is.

8. Cultural fit

The candidate who presents themselves the best on paper may not be the best candidate for your organisation. Cultural fit must be about 40% of the equation; not just skills and aptitude. No matter how brilliant a candidate is, they need to align with your team and core values. If they don’t, never hire them—you’ll end up letting them go or they’ll end up leaving. Search for candidates who can grow into a position without ruffling feathers.

9. Thank candidates for their time and application

At the end, thank the candidate for submitting an application and coming to the interview. Indicate when they should hear back and what the process is.

Make sure each panel member says goodbye and shakes the candidate’s hand—with a smile. This finishes the interview on a good note and shows respect. Every action you take builds a picture of what it would be like to work with you and your organisation.

10. Offer quickly and protect your brand

As soon as you’ve decided on the right candidate, let them know as quickly as possible. You can follow up with a formal letter of offer a little later. Good candidates won’t last in this market. Don’t lose to a competitor because you took too long to offer the role.

Also send an email to all unsuccessful applicants and, where possible, provide feedback.

Communicating with all applicants in a respectful and timely manner will protect your brand. These candidates may not have been right for you today, but they might turn out to be perfect in future. Too many companies fail on basic courtesy, including acknowledging receipt of a candidate’s resume.

11. What you shouldn’t ever ask

  • Do you have children?
  • Are you planning on having a family soon?
  •  Are you pregnant or trying to fall pregnant?
  • What are your sexual preferences?
  • How old are you?
  • What religion do you follow?
  • Are you married?
  • What political party do you vote for?
  • Do you have a disability or impairment?
  • How much sick leave do you regularly take?

12. Don’t break the confidentiality or privacy rules

Everyone has the right to be protected during an interview or recruitment process.

It’s a breach of privacy and confidentiality to contact people who aren’t listed as referees, especially from the candidate’s place of work. Never talk to someone you think knows the candidate and ask about them. These breaches could lead to the candidate being bullied or harassed at work, or even let go from their position. Protect people as you would like to be protected.

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