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Job interviewing: A complete guide
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How to Conduct a Job Interview: A Complete Guide

A modern guide to stepping up your job interview game.

Google “job interview” and you’ll find a ton of articles with interview tips for candidates…
but not so much for the interviewers. When you’re given the tricky task of hiring a new team member, where do you find the information you need to be a good interviewer?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

This job interview guide shares a hiring process that can apply to every company, but keep in mind that the details for your hiring process should always be specific to you and your team. After all, you’re the ones who will be working with your winning candidate.

When you make your hiring process personal, especially your job interviews, you make it better. Let’s dive in together!

What you'll learn in this job interview guide

A hiring process example

Even though every job is unique, most hiring processes follow a fairly similar pattern:

Offer
phase
Job
offer
Hired
Value fit
interview
Portfolio
interview
Team
lunch
Whiteboard
session
Interview
phase
Screen
phase
Phone
screen
Apply
form

Top tips for conducting a job interview

Before we get into the nitty gritty, here are our TL;DR top tips for conducting an effective and memorable job interview to help you land the right candidate:

  • Prepare questions in advance: While we’re big advocates of going with the flow in a job interview, you should be prepared with a list of questions to ask before the interview. Interviews can be stressful, even for the interviewer! It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to ask important questions. Of course, you can always ask additional questions as they come up in your conversation.
  • Be polite and empathetic: Interviews can be intimidating so you’ll want to help put the candidate at ease from the start. You can do this by treating the interview like a conversation with someone you’re trying to get to know — be curious, friendly and show genuine interest in what the candidate has to say. It’s helpful to remind yourself what it’s like for the interviewee on the other side of this interaction.
  • Re-review the candidate’s application: You might remember some important details from the candidate’s application but we can bet you’ve forgotten a lot already. Reviewing your candidate’s CV and application in advance shows them that you’ve taken the time to prepare and get to know them. It also helps you ensure your interview is productive and relevant.
  • Talk less and listen more: Give candidates time to answer your questions so that they can show off their skills and expand on their work experience. Try not to take over the interview and remember that the candidate should be doing most of the talking. Leave ample time at the end for the candidate to ask questions, too.
  • Take notes: It’s hard to keep track of candidate answers in the hiring process. Take notes while you’re interviewing so you can review the answers later, get your team involved in hiring, and share notes later. Learn more about team notes in Homerun.
Employer Branding
Job Interviewing: A complete guide
Why

The importance of
conducting a great interview

A good job interview process will not only lead you to the right hire, but it’ll also keep everyone happy—even the candidates you have to turn down.

The job interview experience extends further than just to the candidate you hire at the end. Interviewees share their experiences of their job hunt with their friends, family and peers.

As we often remind ourselves, the world is small and reputations are fragile. Whether we like it or not, how you as an interviewer handle the first phone screen to the final call will affect how people perceive your brand as an employer.

If you do everything you can to interview well and make the entire job interview process clear, personal, honest and engaging, you’ll be seen as an employer that your candidates (and their networks) will want to work for.

1

Hire better candidates

A good job interviewing process will give you a clearer idea of what to look for during interviews and lead you to the right person.

2

Stronger employer brand

A well-structured job interviewing process will help establish your reputation as a company with a great candidate experience.

3

It helps
avoid bias

Well-trained job interviewers protect your company from unintentional discrimination which results in better hires.

Before

Before conducting an interview

After you’ve reviewed all the applications with your hiring team and landed on final selections, it’s time to start job interviewing! We’re big fans of being overly-prepared for job interviews: the more preparation you do, the better the outcome will be. 🤓

Prepare the job interviewing process

1. Create an interview scorecard

After each job interview, organize your findings into an interview scorecard. This helps job interviewers score an applicant's interview in a consistent way, allowing for a fair comparison of candidates. And avoiding hiring bias is what it’s all about, really.

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Job interview scorecard essentials

Based on your job brief, create a scorecard. Use this simple tool to score all candidates on skills, values, motivation and anything else that’s relevant to the job. Make sure to include all stages of your interview process (including assignments and interview rounds) on your interview scorecard, so you have a bird’s-eye view of all your team's findings when you compare candidates

Note: Don't use your interview scorecard during the interview—that's where the interview checklist comes in. More about that below.

2. Create an interview checklist

Now that you have your interview scorecard, it's time for the interview checklist. This simple list includes everything you need to cover during the interview, including specific job interview questions.

This is where you can write notes on the candidate and what you use when filling in the scorecard after the interview. Even though you have a checklist, there should be more than enough room for spontaneity during the interview. It’s the best of both worlds!

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Job Interviewing checklist

Things you might want to include in your job interviewing checklist:

  • Introduction to the company
    Organisational structure, mission, vision, strategy
  • The desired skillset for the position
    Job requirements, responsibilities, hopes for the future
  • Specific job interview questions about the areas above
    For inspiration on job interviewing questions, have a look here
  • What the candidate journey looks like
    Who on your team conducts the interviews? How many interviews will you have? Is there an assignment?
  • Practicalities
    Salary expectations, possible start date, perks and benefits
  • Next steps
    Are there other candidates? What is the hiring time frame?

The questions you ask candidates in interviews depends a lot on the role you’re hiring for. Check out our handy job interview question templates for role-specific questions.

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What questions should I ask?

People often ask us which questions they should ask during a job interview. Our response is always the same: there’s no perfect question, as the situation is totally different for each job. A web developer’s skills and background are completely different from a communications expert, so hone in on what makes each of them tick.

Do's and Don'ts
Here are some things to keep in mind though:

•  Ask open-ended questions
Questions that cannot be answered with a simple Yes or No.
Make people think. Get more out of people.

•  Don’t ask questions with an answer in it
Instead of, “Do you have experience with marketing tools such as Google Analytics?” Try, "Which marketing tools do you have experience using?"

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Pro-tip: Question techniques (STAR)

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. To help you find out, we like the STAR technique for job interviews.

What’s the STAR job interview technique?
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. This strategy can be helpful in response to competency-focused questions around a situation. Here’s what that looks like in action:

  1. Situation
    “Tell me about a disagreement with a coworker or manager.”
  2. Task
    “Tell us what your responsibility was in that situation example.”
  3. Action
    “Tell us how you completed the task or overcame the challenge.”
  4. Result
    “Finally, tell us about the outcomes or results generated by your actions.”

Note: This model is very well-known, so feel free to tweak it and make it your own. By giving STAR your own spin, your questions will be more interesting and engaging, and you’ll look like you’ve put more research into the interview too.

3. Brief your hiring team

For those of you new to hiring: your hiring team is the group of people in your team responsible for successfully hiring a new team member. They're involved in the recruiting, job interviewing and overall selection process.

Facing a panel of people in an interview can be really intimidating, so our advice is to avoid having an interview team of more than two of your team members.

It's important to carefully select the two team members who will conduct the interview. Invite at least one team member who’ll work closely with the future hire, ideally a team lead or a senior team member. That way they can get to know their potential future teammate and ask insightful questions. They should also expect to be asked similar insightful questions from the candidate in return!

Share the interview checklist with the interviewers you’ve chosen and make sure they know how to use the interview scorecard you’ve created.

4. Set a location

Pick an interview location that matches your company values and the job opening. We know some companies 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 choose a place that makes you feel comfortable and that it reflects well on your company. If all this sounds a bit unusual, not to worry! Hosting the interview at your office works just as well. It may sound obvious, but don't forget to make sure to offer candidates coffee, water and tea.

If your company is fully remote or hybrid, finding a physical interview location might not be relevant to your company. But it’s still important to make sure your candidates are able to attend the interview. Whether that’s a phone call or video call, make sure you’ve sent them the correct phone number, meeting link and password for the call. You should also include any other resources that might be helpful (for example: instructions for how to use your video interview software, if applicable).

5. Make room for a 'loop champion'

Sometimes you meet a candidate for the first time and you're convinced they’re right person for your team. If you're confident enough in 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 smooth
  • Promises are kept
  • The candidate knows what to do and what to expect throughout the hiring 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 especially enthusiastic!

6. Start with a phone screen interview

Most of the job interview experts we’ve talked to about how to interview someone recommended to always start with quick phone interview. The phone screen happens before invites are sent for the first face-to-face interview.

In a short call (15-20 minutes is enough) ask the candidate for a brief personal and professional introduction. You should also ask for their salary expectations. This ensures that both the candidate and the employer are on the same page before they (potentially) meet and continue in the job interview process.

Here are a few other topics we suggest discussing during the phone screen interview:

  • What this role entails
  • What type of role the candidate is looking for
  • What sort of company the candidate would like to work at
  • The candidate’s experience and expectations
  • Salary preference

📣  Up your interview game and ask these remote interview questions to help you find the right team member

Prepare your team for job interviewing

It's a great idea to introduce the interview process to your team. Show them your interview scorecard, how to use it, explain what to look out for during an interview and explain the importance of semi-structured interviews. Remember, the more structured, the less biased your hiring will be.

7. Promote the company

You want a candidate who’s excited about the possibility of joining your awesome team. Help them get there by sharing the values and vision that make your company unique. Nobody knows these better than you and your team.

Share concrete examples of why someone would enjoy working at your company. For example, maybe your company puts a strong focus on helping team members balance their work life and their personal life. Mention that! You should also keep in mind that for many people choosing to apply somewhere is also an emotional choice. So make sure they have an authentic impression of your company culture.

8. Don’t influence each other

The interview team shouldn't share their opinions, notes or interview scorecards with each other until they’ve documented their findings in your hiring software. You can do this when you use a tool like Homerun. This will help make sure your team members don’t unintentionally influence each other’s opinions.

9. Try and avoid bias

We’re all human, which means we all come with our biases. The first step to avoiding bias is to acknowledge it.

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 go off track.

Another way to avoid bias is to always back up your opinion with rational and factual 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 your colleagues in their decision.

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Most common job interview biases

  • 🤝 First-impression error: Allowing an initial judgment of a candidate — good or bad — to affect one’s feedback or decision.
  • 🧑🤝🧑 Groupthink‍: Allowing the opinions of others — good or bad — to affect one’s feedback or decision.
  • 😖 Halo-horn effect: Allowing one strength or weakness of a candidate to affect the overall feedback or decision, rather than thinking holistically.

Prepare the candidate for the job interview

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Job interviews are a scary process for a lot of candidates. When your candidate is at ease, you’ll get a better and more accurate impression of them as a potential team member. The best way to do this is to give your candidate a wonderful experience during your hiring process.

Follow these steps after you've selected the candidates for the first round of interviews.

10. Share place & time

Make sure the candidate knows when and where the job interview will take place and what they can expect from the job interview. Explain the process and cover how many interview stages there will be, right from the get-go. Giving candidates all the information they need ahead of the interview will help put them at ease, allowing them to be their best on the day of the job interview.

Here’s what information we suggest sharing with candidates before their interview:

  • Who they’ll be having the interview with (feel free to link to your team members’ LinkedIn profiles to give candidates even more information)
  • What topics you’ll be covering during the interview so they can prepare in advance
  • How long the interview will last

11. Give some homework

Preparation is a good idea for both the candidate and the interviewer! What this will be depends on which stage of the interview process you're at. At the very start, you might just ask the candidate to do some reading on your business, so send any applicable pages from your website, along with any other relevant good reads.

If you want to get a real sense of their talent, send them a small task in advance of the interview — but make sure it matches the job type and that it doesn’t ask too much of the candidate.

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.

During

How to interview someone

After you’ve prepared your team, process and candidates, it’s time to start the job interview! Here's seven steps for how to interview well so you can conduct a productive and insightful job interview.

1. Structure the job interview

Start off with short round of introductions – nothing heavy, just tell the candidate who you are, what you do and a little bit about the company. Summarize the interview process, let them know that you’re interviewing with other candidates and discuss next steps (don't forget to say when the candidate can expect to hear from you afterwards).

2. Keep the checklist in mind

Keep an eye on the interview checklist to make sure you cover all prepared topics, but don’t let it run the show. Having a productive conversation is the most important thing. And yes, productive means keep it short and sweet! :)

3. Take detailed notes

If you want to take notes during the interview, do it on paper not on your computer. Putting a screen between you and the candidate can act as a barrier and make it look like you’re not interested in what’s going on in the room, especially for in-person interviews. 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 on that below.)

4. Show genuine interest

Be on time to the job interview, 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 at the moment. So, phones off, focus on. Behave like you would do if you were on the other side of the table: show interest in the candidate and show them your best self. Remember that the candidate is also taking time out of their day to interview with you.

5. Manage expectations

Ask the interviewee when their preferred starting date is, whether they’re talking to other companies and take a minute to double-check salary expectations. You don’t have to do this right at the start — it might feel too formal during the first few minutes — but be sure to pick a moment that feels right.

6. It's not all about you

Make sure you give the candidate the opportunity to ask you questions too. Keep your answers concise and let them elaborate on theirs. As much as you’re interviewing them, your candidates are also interviewing you to determine if they want to work at your company.

7. Improve their experience

Even if a candidate won’t go on to work for you, they’ll form a strong opinion of your company based on their candidate experience (and they’ll share that experience with everyone who asks how the interview went). So, make sure you do everything you can to make your candidate experience memorable, pleasant and balanced.

After

After the job interview process

After you and your hiring team have finished interviewing all of the candidates, it's time to settle on a final candidate and ensure your team makes the right decisions. Here's how to yield the best results after the job interview.

1. Write down your thoughts

Although it’s tempting to immediately share your opinion with your co-interviewer, we recommend getting your thoughts written down first. You can use a scorecard, hiring software or something else that helps you organize your candidate reviews. Write clearly and concisely, then you’ll be better prepared to open up to the rest of the team and share your thoughts.

2. Discuss and compare candidates with your hiring team

Get together while the interview is still fresh and your opinions aren't influenced by other people’s thoughts. Once everyone on the interview team has shared their findings, open up and start discussing whether to proceed with the candidate or not. Make sure you document these conclusions and then save them in your hiring software for future records.

3. Share the outcome with the candidate

Whatever the outcome after the job interview maybe be, make sure you share it with your candidate — the sooner, the better. Be sure to be respectful and clear about your decision.

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What to do when you proceed with a candidate after the job interview

  1. Share next steps
    Explain what the next stage of the hiring process will be. Will it be an interview or an assignment? Who on your team is going to be involved? What will the focus be? Most importantly, what’s the timeframe?
  2. Be quick and efficient
    Even though a candidate is keen to work with you, that doesn’t mean they’re going to wait days on end 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. So keep the momentum going and schedule the next meeting as soon as possible.
  3. Share doubts and initial findings
    Did the hiring team have any doubts about the candidate? Whether it's about their CV or personality in the interview, share these doubts with the candidate so that they can better prepare for the next round. Being transparent with the candidate about this gives them a fair chance to directly address your concerns and provide a good candidate experience.
  4. Ask about their experience with your interview process
    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 job interview process and your job interview skills, so don't forget to ask!
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What to do when you don't proceed with a candidate

Missing out on a job sucks—and it hurts too. When you have to give someone the bad news, approach it the same way you’d like someone to handle it with you if the roles were reversed. This doesn't mean offering every candidate a shoulder to cry on. But it does mean being personal, clear and constructive so you can still make the unlucky candidate feel valued and more prepared for their next opportunity.

  1. Set aside time to write out a thoughtful rejection
    Candidates who have made it through to the interview round have invested quite a bit of time and energy in applying at your company. If you’re not going move forward with them, be sure to spend some time in return to thank them and explain your decision.
  2. Give thoughtful and meaningful feedback
    Always give a reason, or reasons, why a candidate didn't get the job. That’s why we suggest that the person who conducted the interview sends the message, as they can give direct feedback. When elaborating on the decision, refer to your hiring values and the specific skill set you’re looking for. This’ll make your decision easier to understand for the candidate. Finally, always make it clear that the candidate can get in touch if they have any questions or want more feedback.
  3. Offer an introduction
    If you’re impressed by the candidate, but they simply aren’t a good fit for your company or the specific job role, offer to introduce them to other companies you think are a better match. They’ll appreciate the extra hand in helping them to find the right role.
  4. Ask about their experience of your hiring process
    Did the candidate 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 and how you communicate. If you can, ask them what they thought about the interview process too. Their feedback is invaluable—it can help you improve your process and skills so you can learn how to become a better interviewer.

A job interview process you can wrap your head around.

From the interview invitation to the final interview, Homerun helps your team organize your hiring in one place.

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