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How to be a good interviewer

Being a good interviewer involves thorough preparation, methodical approach, showing genuine care for candidates, improving judgement to avoid biases, and learning from past experiences. It's about creating a positive candidate experience, making accurate assessments, and enhancing the employer brand.

Nikoletta Bika
Nikoletta Bika

Nikoletta holds an MSc in HR management and has written extensively about all things HR and recruiting.

Good interviewers make a conscious effort to get the most out of the interview process. Interviewing is hard work, but getting to hire great people and strengthening your employer’s brand is worthwhile.

Advice for becoming a good interviewer

Prepare well

Unprepared interviewers risk appearing indifferent. And they may not be able to evaluate a candidate correctly or persuade them to accept a job offer.

Before you interview, cross these items off your checklist:

  1. Read the candidate’s resume and print out a copy for reference during the interview.
  2. Review any work samples that a candidate submitted (this is particularly important if you’re hiring designers or writers.)
  3. Check the job description again to make sure you can discuss the role and its requirements.
  4. Prepare a list of questions to ask (use interview scorecards to manage questions more easily and take notes.)
  5. Refresh your knowledge of your company’s mission and structure, as well as the benefits and perks for the position you’re hiring for.

It’s also a good idea to think about whether there’s anything specific you want to clarify during an interview. Denise Wilton, Workable’s VP Creative, says:

“I think about that candidate specifically: what made them seem like a good fit and how could I check that in their interview? What concerns do I have and how can I address them?”

Be methodical

Unstructured interviews (that feel like free-flowing conversations that lack an agenda) can easily become subjective and non-job-related. Unstructured interviews help candidates feel more comfortable, but they don’t result in the best hiring decisions.

Adding some structure to your interviews will make them more effective. Even if you don’t have time to structure your interviews completely, try to simulate a structured interview as much as possible:

  • Choose questions carefully. Generic interview questions (like “what’s your greatest weakness?”) are overused and brain teasers are ineffective. Prepare a short list of questions tailored to the role you’re hiring for. Behavioral and situational questions help you judge a candidate’s soft skills (like problem-solving and critical thinking.) Aim to ask the same questions to all candidates and be aware of illegal questions to avoid.
  • Practice note-taking. Use effective note-taking techniques, like the Cornell Method. Be sure to focus on candidates’ answers, instead of your judgements (for example, write “he told us he hasn’t dealt with difficult customers before” instead of “he’s inexperienced.”)
  • Rate candidates’ answers with a consistent scale. A ‘poor’ to ‘excellent’ or ‘low’ to ‘high’ scale can work well. To reduce the halo effect, use your notes to rate all candidates’ answers at the same time, after conducting all of your interviews, instead of rating candidates individually right after each interview. Rate every candidate on one question, before moving to the next question.
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Show you care

Caring about candidates makes for good candidate experience and boosts your employer brand. Even if a candidate doesn’t get a job offer, they may still feel good about a company that treated them well. When interviewing candidates:

  • Open on a positive note. Greet interviewees on time and make them feel welcome: smile, offer them something to drink and maintain eye contact as much as possible.
  • Ease them into the process. Introduce yourself and your fellow interviewers, briefly describe your role and why you’re hiring. This helps humanize your hiring process for candidates. Then, ask candidates to introduce themselves or walk you through their portfolio or work samples, if applicable.
  • Focus on the conversation. Being distracted by calls or thoughts about future meetings can damage your rapport with interviewees. Instead, focus on what the candidates says.
  • Answer their questions. Candidates want to learn about your company and open role. Give them the chance to ask questions and give them honest and direct answers. Answering questions will also give you the chance to pitch your company to candidates.
  • Take your time. If possible, don’t schedule anything directly after an interview. Some candidates may have more questions than others and will appreciate more time with you. Rushing candidates out isn’t a pleasant way to close an interview.

Improve your judgement

Unconscious biases can cloud our judgement and lead us to wrong decisions. Combating those biases is key for good interviewers. Here are some ideas to achieve this:

  • Take an Implicit Association Test (IAT.) The first step in fighting biases is becoming aware of them. Harvard’s IAT can help you become more aware of your biases.
  • Learn how cognitive biases work. Understanding different kinds of bias can help you recognize them when they’re at work.
  • Think about your unique prejudices. Personal concerns, preferences and experience may interfere with our judgement. For example, if an interviewer believes that overqualified employees will eventually get bored with their job, they may refuse to hire them. That way, they may miss out on talented people who might still have been valuable team members.
  • Slow down. Resist the urge to made a decision about a candidate before their interview ends. It’s best to make your decisions after you’ve met all candidates and have consulted your notes.
  • Distrust body language cues. Body language isn’t an exact science; some non verbal cues may indicate many different things and vary across cultures.
  • Team up with someone. If possible, ask one of your team members to join you when interviewing candidates. Your team member’s unique perspective paired with your own can help you make more informed and objective hiring decisions.

Learn from your mistakes

A good interviewer views mistakes and failures as opportunities to improve. Here are a few things you can do to learn from your interviewing experience more deliberately:

  • Keep records. Recording and filing your notes helps you as an interviewer since you can refer back to them any time. And your company can also use them in court, in the unlikely event that they face a lawsuit.
  • Monitor results. Ask your teammates who are responsible for tracking recruiting metrics for information about candidate experience and quality of hire metrics. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your company’s online reviews on Glassdoor. Take constructive feedback to heart and work to improve on feedback you receive.
  • Seek advice. Look for resources online (e.g. videos and tutorials) and, if possible, ask more experienced recruiters or interviewers in your company for advice. If you plan to interview often, you could also make a case for attending interview trainings or workshops.

Frequently asked questions

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