A modern guide to stepping up your interviewing game.
If you Google ‘job interview’, lots of tips for candidates will appear, but not so many for the people on the other side of the table. So where do you find all you need to know to nail a job interview from an employer’s perspective? Right here, that’s where.
But before you get started, please bear one thing in mind. The Art of Job Interviewing shares a process that applies to every company, but the details for your hiring process should always be worked out by you and your team. After all, that’s who the winning candidate will come and work with. Make your hiring process personal and you'll make it much better. Good luck!
Over the course of three chapters we’ll show you all you need to master the art of job interviewing:
Before the interview
How to successfully prepare an interview with your team in 11 steps.
During the interview
How to conduct a productive and insightful interview in 7 steps.
After the interview
How to ensure the right result after the interview in 3 steps.
A good interview process will not only lead you to the right hire, but keep everyone happy, even the people you have to turn down. That's the thing about the interview process, its impact extends much further than the hire at the end.
As interviews are so important, people share their experiences of them with their friends, family and anyone who will listen - and as we often remind ourselves, the world is small and reputations are long. How you handle everything from the first invite to the final call will affect how people inside and outside your company perceive your Employer Brand.
So if you do everything you can to make the entire interview process clear, personal, honest and engaging, you’ll become an employer that your candidates and their networks will want to work for even more.
A good interview process will give you a clearer idea of what to look for during interviews and lead you to the right person.
A well-structured interview process will help establish your reputation as a company with a great candidate experience.
Well-trained interviewers protect your company from unintentional discrimination which results in better hires.
After you’ve reviewed all the applications with your hiring team (the people with whom you’re responsible for filling this specific job opening) and made a final selection, it’s time to start interviewing! The more preparation you do, the better the results you’ll get in the interview.
Structured interviews have been proven to be twice as effective as unstructured interviews. But what are they? Well, in a structured interview every candidate is asked the same questions, all interviews follow the same order (phone call, onsite interview, trial day), while an unstructured interview is spontaneous and doesn’t follow any structure at all. That sounds fun, but it makes it hard to compare candidates. Not only that, biases could run loose (we’ll get into that later). That's why we prefer semi-structured interviews in which you use an interview agenda to structure your conversation but don't script every question in advance.
Creating an interview checklist and scorecard might sound like a lot of work, and putting all this in place will take more preparation time. But if you get this process right, you will seriously boost your chances of making the right hire for every future position.
After each interview you put your findings into a scorecard. This allows job interviewers to score an applicant's interview in a consistent way that allows for a fair comparison of candidates. And that’s what it’s all about, really.
Based on your job brief you create a scorecard, a simple overview where you can score all candidates on skills, values, motivation and everything else you think is important for the job. Make sure to include all stages of your interview process (assignments and interview rounds) in your scorecard, so you have an overview of all your team's findings when you compare candidates.
Note: Don't use your scorecard during the interview, that's where the interview checklist comes in. More about that below.
After creating your score card it's time for the interview checklist. This is a simple list with everything you need to cover during the interview. It's where you write your notes and what you use when filling in the score card after the interview. Even though you use your checklist, there shouldmore than enough room for spontaneity, so you get the best of both worlds.
Things you might want to include:
• Introduction to the company
organisational structure, mission, vision, strategy
• Areas you’d like to discuss based on your hiring values
that are based on your company values
• Areas you'd like discuss based on the desired skillset for the position requirements, responsibilities, hopes for the future
• What the candidate journey looks like
who does the interviews, how many interviews, is there an assignment?
salary expectation, possible starting date, perks and benefits
• Next steps
Are there other candidates, time frame
There are lots of question techniques out there that claim to help you find out whether the candidate possesses specific skills that you’re after. Our preferred technique is STAR.
Facing a whole bunch of people across a table during an interview can be really intimidating, so never go into an interview with an interview team bigger than two.
It's important to carefully select the two team members who will do the interview. We strongly recommend that you invite at least one colleague who will work closely with the future hire, preferably a team lead or a senior, so they can get a good look at their future colleague and ask (and be asked) insightful questions.
For those of you new to the Hiring team: it's the group of colleagues responsible for successfully hiring a new team member. They're involved in the recruiting, interviewing and selection process.
The number of people involved and their responsibilities may differ from company to company and job to job, however, the roles typically include:
- HR manager
- Team Lead
One of the team members is the facilitator who makes sure everything happens on time, in the right way.
Find a location that fits your company values and the job opening. We know some companies who let the candidate choose the location for the first interview and others who love to do their interviews in a café - it’s completely up to you, just make sure you feel comfortable there and that it relates to your company. If all this sounds a bit strange, then doing the interview at your office is great too.
Finally, it may sound obvious, but don't forget to make sure that there will be coffee, tea and other refreshments available.
Sometimes you meet a candidate for the first time and you're convinced it's the right person for your team. If you're confident enough about your gut feeling to vouch for this candidate, that makes you the loop Champion. From now on you're the hiring manager for this specific interview loop. This means that you will be available throughout the interview process to make the candidate feel safe and welcome.
The loop Champion makes sure that communication with the candidate is good, promises are kept, and the candidate knows what to do and expect throughout the process.
If this sounds like a lot, don't worry - not every hiring process needs a loop champion. Only make room for one when you're really, really enthusiastic :)
Most of the interview experts we talked to always do a quick phone interview before sending out invitations for the first face-to-face interview. In a short call (15-20 minutes is enough) they ask the candidate for a short personal introduction and their salary expectations. This ensures that both the candidate and the employer are on the same page before they (potentially) meet for the first time.
Here are a few things that we suggest discussing during the call:
- Why this company?
- Why this position?
- Candidate experience
- Candidate expectations
- Salary indication
It's a great idea to introduce the interview process to your team. Show them how to use it, tell them what to look for during an interview and explain the importance of semi-structured interviews. Remember, the more structured, the less biased :)
You look forward to going to work every morning and every candidate should be equally excited about coming to join your team. The best way to show them why is to share the values and vision that make your company unique.
Nobody knows these better than you and your team, so get together to discuss which rituals and work best represent you. Once these are clear, everyone in the team can sell the company to anyone.
The interview team shouldn't share their opinions, notes and scorecards with each other until they’ve documented their findings in your hiring software (like Homerun, for example). This will help make sure that they don’t influence each other’s opinions.
We’re all human, and we’re all biased, so the best thing to do is just accept this. To stay as neutral as possible during the interview process, identify what your biases are in advance and try to be constantly conscious of them. It helps to keep an eye on your scorecard so you don’t lose focus or get blindsided.
Another way to avoid bias is to always back up your opinion with rational statements when discussing candidates and their qualities with your colleagues. Not only will this make you sure about your gut feeling (or not), but it will help convince your colleagues to
1. First-impression error
Allowing an initial judgment of a candidate — good or bad — to affect one’s feedback or decision.
Allowing the opinions of others — good or bad — to affect one’s feedback or decision.
3. Halo-horn effect
Allowing one major strength or weakness of a candidate to affect the overall feedback or decision, rather than thinking holistically.
Applying for a job is a scary thing. The more someone is at ease, the better impression of them you'll get. The best way to do this is to give your candidate a wonderful experience during your hiring process. The best way to start is to follow these steps after you've selected the candidates for the first round of interviews.
Make sure the candidate knows when and where the interview will take place and what they can expect in the interview. Explain the process and cover how many interview stages there will be. Telling candidates this - and who are they having the interview with and which topics will be covered - will help them relax and let both sides be at their best on the day.
Preparation is good for both sides! What this will be depends on which stage of the process you're at. At the start, you might just ask the candidate to do some reading, so send some information about your company together with any relevant good reads.
If you want to get a taste of their talent, set them a small task in advance of the interview - but make sure it matches the job type. For example, at Homerun we always ask people to create a free demo account to make them familiar with our product. At a later stage of the process you may decide to add a more detailed (and demanding) assignment.
After you’ve prepared your team, process and candidates, it’s time to start interviewing! Here's how to conduct a productive and insightful interview in 7 steps.
Start off with short round of introductions - nothing heavy, just tell the other person who you are, what you do and a little bit about the company. Summarize the interview process, say how many candidates you’re talking to and discuss next steps (don't forget to say when the candidate can expect to hear from you afterwards)..
Keep an eye on the interview checklist to make sure you cover all prepared topics, but don’t let it run the show. The most important thing is a productive conversation. And yes, productive means keep it short and sweet :)
If you want to make notes during the interview, do it on paper not on your computer. Putting a screen between you can act as a barrier and make it look like you’re not interested in what’s going on in the room. This means you'll have to wait until after the interview to put your findings in your hiring software, without speaking to your hiring team buddy - more about that below.
Be on time, or even better, be there five minutes early. Whatever you do, don’t let the interviewee wait, or they’ll think that you don’t care about them. The person in front of you could be the future of your company, and nothing’s more important than that, not even your mum ringing for a chat. So phones off, focus on. Behave like you would do if you were on the other side of the table: show interest and be your best self.
Ask what their preferred starting date is, whether the interviewee is talking to other companies and double-check salary expectations. Don’t do this right at the start - otherwise you might come over as too formal - but pick a moment that feels right.
So make sure you give the candidate the opportunity to ask questions too. Keep your answers concise and let them elaborate on theirs.
Even if a candidate won’t go on to work for you, he or she will form a strong opinion of your company based on their candidate experience - and one that he or she will share with everyone who asks how the interview went. So make sure you do everything you can to make your candidate experience a good one.
At Homerun we believe hiring is as a team sport - you’re all pulling together in the same direction and spending a lot of time together, so a hire needs to work on a personal as well as professional level. That's why we always ask someone to join our team for lunch before making the final decision.
After you and your hiring team have talked to all the candidates it's time to make up your mind and ensure your team makes the right decisions. Here's how to ensure the best results after the interview.
So the interview is over. What’s next? Although it’s tempting to immediately share your opinion with your co-interviewer, we recommend you get your thoughts down on paper first (or on your scorecard or in your hiring software, wherever you keep track of your reviews). Write tight (clear and concise) then open your mind and your mouth to the rest of the team.
Get together while the interview is still fresh in your minds and opinions aren't biased by other people’s thoughts. Once everyone in the interview team has shared their findings, open up and start discussing whether to proceed with the candidate or not. Make sure you put these conclusions into your hiring software for the record.
Whatever the outcome is, make sure you share it with your candidate - the sooner, the better.
1. Share next steps
Explain what the next stage will be. Will it be an interview or an assignment? Who is it going to be with? What will the focus be? Most importantly - what’s the time frame?
2. Be quick
Even though someone wants to work for you, that doesn’t mean they’re going to wait days for you to make the next move. Many candidates talk to several companies at the same time and you don’t want to lose talent because someone else was just faster, right? So keep the momentum going and schedule the next meeting as soon as possible.
3. Share doubts and first findings
Did the hiring team have any doubts about the candidate? Whether it's about their CV or personality, share these doubts with the candidate so that they can prepare better for the next round.
4. Ask about their experience
Did the candidate expect to make it to the next round? And what did they think about the interview process? Their feedback will help you improve the interview process and interviewing skill, so don't forget to ask!
Missing out on a job sucks. It hurts too, so when you have to tell someone the bad news, do it how you’d like it to be done to you. This doesn't mean offering a shoulder to cry on, but if you’re personal, clear and constructive then you can still make the unlucky candidate feel valued and give them something to build on in the future.
1. Phone, don’t email
Nobody likes bad news, but it’s easier to handle if you hear from it someone instead of reading it on a screen.
2. Explain why
Always give a reason, or reasons, why they didn't get the job. That’s why we suggest that one of the people who conducted the interview makes the call, as they can give direct feedback that rings true. When elaborating on the decision, refer to your hiring values and the specific skills set you’re looking for. This will make your decision easier to understand for the candidate. Finally, always make it clear that someone can call for more feedback.
3. Offer an introduction
If you’re impressed by the candidate, but he or she simply isn’t a good fit for your company, offer to introduce them to other companies you think are a better match.
4. Ask about their experience
Did he or she expect to be rejected? If you keep rejecting candidates who didn’t see it coming, you might have to improve the way you manage candidates’ expectations. If you can, ask them what they think about the interview process too. This will help you improve your process and skills too.
Over the last few years we’ve learned two things: sharing is caring and every company is different, special even.
Hearing other people’s experiences helps us all learn, which is why we’d love you to join the conversation at the The Art of Work and help us all grow and carry on the good work.