Everyone knows that job interviews are stressful for the candidate. But interviewers have a challenging role to play, too. They must ask questions that elicit the type of answers they need in order to determine who is a right fit for the position and the company.
The success of the interview depends just as much on the interviewer as it does the candidate, so it’s important to be prepared and confident before you evaluate someone for a job. Here are a few important things to keep in mind when you’re conducting an interview.
Research the candidate
The most important thing an interviewer can do before conducting an interview is properly research the candidate, said Kim Dvorscak, business development manager at the Kavaliro staffing firm.
“Make sure you have reviewed their resume thoroughly,” Dvorscak said. “From there, prepare questions for the candidate that are relevant to both their résumé and the position they applied for.”
Vetting a candidate by doing a quick Google search or looking at his or her social media platforms can help you determine if the candidate will fit the position and company culture, too, Dvorscak added.
Fully understand the role and its requirements
Research also comes in handy for interviewing a candidate who has a set of skills you’re not familiar with.
“Just knowing the key words or acronyms from the job responsibilities isn’t enough to provide an educated assessment of their talent, and it is definitely not fair to your candidate,” Dvorscak said.
A simple position-specific search can yield information on comparable job descriptions, offer pay comparisons, and even suggest interview questions and answers. You can also consult with a subject matter expert (SME) prior to conducting an interview, especially if the job is in the technology field, Dvorscak said. These experts can shed light on skills to look for and red flags to be aware of.
“Interviewers should consult with at least one [SME] to generate a specific list of the most important aspects of the job and what is required to perform it successfully,” added Greg Willard, Ph.D., a senior vice president at data science company Cangrade. “Not only will this make the interview more relevant to the job, but job candidates and interviewers will also view the interview more positively.”
Get the candidate on the same page
An unprepared candidate is a disappointment, said Dvorscak, adding that she suggests sending details and tools to the candidate via email before the interview.
“I include a ‘what to wear’ document, interview tips, what to bring, suggest they prepare questions, etc.,” Dvorscak said.
If the candidate still shows up unprepared, just move on, she said. If the candidate is not serious enough about the opportunity to put in the necessary effort, he or she will likely not be the right fit.
Know how to ease a candidate’s nerves
For an interviewer dealing with a nervous candidate, “a simple smile and some non-job-related questions can go a long way,” Dvorscak said. Asking about the person’s commute to the interview or how his or her day has been so far are good ice-breaking options, she said. It might also help to talk the candidate through the structure of the interview before you begin, so the person knows what to expect.
“As the interview progresses with your nervous candidate, take note on how or if they become more relaxed, as this is an excellent indication of their adaptability,” Dvorscak added.
Limit the number of questions you ask
Since it is important that all candidates get the same opportunity to answer the same questions — without feeling rushed — it is generally best to limit the number of interview questions, Willard said.
“A good rule of thumb is to ask no more than four to six questions in a 30-minute interview, and no more than eight to 12 questions in a 1-hour interview,” he added.
Don’t monopolize the conversation
“Let [the candidate] do the talking,” Dvorscak said. “We are all passionate about what we do and where we came from, but too often interviewers talk too much and listen too little.”
She advised asking open-ended questions and giving the candidate an opportunity to answer. You should also give him or her time to solicit information from you as the interview goes on.
“Having a true two-way conversation puts the interviewee at ease and lets them know that you are genuinely interested in their skills,” Dvorscak added.
Additional reporting by Chad Brooks. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.