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Business owners of all shapes and sizes all too often make a critical misstep in the hiring process―they don’t take the time to learn good, solid interviewing skills.  Unfortunately, this can be a very costly mistake, as hiring the wrong person can take quite a toll on any business’ bottom line in the form of such things as lost productivity, time spent on recruitment, unemployment insurance and a host of other less tangible things like employee morale.

The truth is that most interviews are relegated to a quick résumé review, some standard questions about education and job history, and then perhaps a wind-up discussion regarding availability.  But if you’re a business owner who really wants to ensure you’re hiring the right person for the job, you’ve got to dig deeper and spend some time talking about far more than a candidate’s skills and experience.

You’ve also got to examine his or her personal character, as well as whether or not he or she would be a good cultural fit for your organisation.  This is particularly true for small businesses or franchises where people must often work in very close proximity to one another and cooperatively to get the job done.  If that same small-sized business or franchise is family-owned and/or operated, well then cultural dynamics are elevated to a whole new level.

So how does any hiring manager go about asking the right questions to find the best candidate for hire?  The online and other cost-free resources available on effective interviewing are many and you should take advantage of all that you can.

In the meantime, here are some basic pointers to get you started on your journey to being a truly great interviewer:

Take a few moments to establish an initial rapport with the interviewee to make sure the person feels relaxed and at ease.  Don’t just cut to the chase.  An “all business, all the time” persona can be a real deterrent to many prospective employees.  Who wants to work with and especially for someone like that?

While basic, scripted questions that you ask of every candidate are good for levelling the playing field, they should not constitute the bulk of an interview.  Ask customized questions of each candidate that exhibit your interest in the person and that will demand more descriptive responses.

Ask open-ended questions that can’t possibly be answered with simply a “yes” or a “no.”
Listen more than you talk, being especially careful to not overpower the interview.
Frame questions around the specific job description at hand.

Pay careful attention to the kinds of questions the candidate asks of you.  If the person doesn’t ask any, that may be a sign that he/she hasn’t done their homework, isn’t terribly interested in getting the job or is not great when it comes to such things as initiative and problem solving.  Candidates who ask good questions often exhibit good analytical skills, which can come in very handy.

Learn what interview-question techniques are most effective in eliciting desired responses from candidates and take the time to craft questions that will allow you to obtain the information you need to make the best decision possible.  For instance, open-ended questions will keep the subject talking and cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” while negative-balance questions (e.g., Can you give me an example of a time when things didn’t turn out as planned and what you did about it?) turn the table on a candidate and encourage him/her to offer a more balanced perspective on a given issue or situation.  Judgment call-oriented questions (e.g., what would you do if…?) will help you to determine a candidate’s potential approach to various situations and challenges, while past-performance approaches (e.g., Tell me about a time when…) will give you an indication of future behaviour.  Lastly, layering your questions so that you pose the same question in a different way a number of times over the course of the interview process can provide great insight into a candidate’s truthfulness and authenticity.

Interviewing is a learned skill, one that virtually anyone can master with a reasonable amount of effort.  Honestly, very few people have what it takes to conduct interviews effectively without taking the time to educate themselves on the proper techniques beforehand.

So take some time out to learn how you can make strides in facilitating the best employer-potential employee exchange possible.  If you do, you’re going to be more likely to make the right hiring decisions as opposed to the wrong ones.