1. Keep it consistent
The key to effectively evaluating your candidate pool is to ensure that you’ve got apples-to-apples data from your interviews so you can compare them on an even playing field. This requires some legwork up front. Take the time to consider the key info you need to make a hiring decision, develop the questions that will provide you with that info, and then be diligent in asking the same questions to all candidates. If you have additional team members interviewing your candidates, assign them specific areas to focus on and ensure that they, too, know the importance of being prepared and consistent. The end result: you can easily compare the abilities of your candidates because you’re asking them to provide you with consistent data points.
2. Focus on previous behavior
“Previous behavior is the best indicator of future performance.” Hard to argue the truth in those words, but how do you get your hands on that kind of information, right? It’s all about the questions you ask. Instead of asking a candidate to tell you about how they would handle a situation, ask them about how they have handled a previous situation. When you ask about theoretical or future-state scenarios, you open the door for the candidate to tell you what they think you want to hear. If you ask questions that begin with “tell me about a time when...,” or “give me an example of a previous...,” you’re now asking them to tell you a story which gives you more substantive data with which to make your hiring decision.
3. Look for a “STAR”
When you focus on previous behavior and allow the candidate to tell you a story, most will follow the STAR format, detailing a situation, task, action, and result. These are all important pieces of the big picture, so be on the lookout for missing information and ask follow-up questions to connect the dots if something is unclear or you don’t feel that you have the information you’re looking for. “I like the end result you shared. Tell me more about what you did to ensure that was the outcome?” A great bonus question that is often rather informative: “What did you learn?” This may be what differentiates good from great!
4. Wear your listening ears
Keep the 80/20 rule in mind: the candidate should be doing 80 percent of the talking because the interview is all about gathering the information you need to hire the best candidate. The more you hear from the candidate, the better your chances of getting the information you need to feel confident about your decision. And always invest in reviewing the resume ahead of time so that your interview can be more focused and concise. Finally, remember that the interview is a two-way street and you are also being evaluated as a prospective employer. Be ready to answer questions and be prepared to easily convey the appeal of a role within your company.
5. Steer clear of hot water
One of the toughest parts of an interview can be navigating what questions are legally off-limits. Remember this rule of thumb: if a question does not directly relate to a candidate’s ability to do the job, don’t ask it. Another guiding principle is to ask yourself “is this a question I would ask every candidate?” If you wouldn’t ask everyone, you probably shouldn’t ask anyone. To be more specific, do your best to avoid conversations or questions that could be related to:
- Arrest record or criminal background
- Disability/medical history
- Family status
- Home address
- Language/native language
- Marital status
- National origin
- Race or color
- Religion or creed
- Sexual orientation
Now, take a deep breath and get excited – you’re about to improve your organization with the skills and talents of a valuable new hire!