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Avoiding Costly Hiring Mistakes – Best Practices for Interviewing Job Candidates

Avoiding Costly Hiring Mistakes – Best Practices for Interviewing Job Candidates

by Richard Lloyd

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There are plenty of articles online around how to excel in interviews; how to avoid mistakes in order to present yourself in the best possible way. However, the majority of these are aimed towards interviewees. There is a real shortage of content out there for interviewers and Hiring Managers, which is surprising, as there are clear best practices for interviewing job candidates.

As someone who makes hiring decisions, you’ll understand that first impressions do matter. Statistics indicate that 35% of interviewers make their decision within the first five minutes of the interview (and that time is disputable), so we can hardly be surprised if candidates make their minds up just as quickly; which just goes to show how important that first impression is. In addition, as the candidate, if your interviewer is uncomfortable or unprepared, it can quickly become unsettling and can result in them not being able to present themselves to the best of their ability. So, with this in mind here is our guide on how to be an effective interviewer.

Preparation and Structure

First things first: be prepared. Ensure that everything is in order, have a room ready for the interview, be on time and prepare any assessments or other material you might need in advance. It might seem obvious, but doing the basics right can go a long way in setting a good tone for the rest of the interview. Ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of the role that the candidate is interviewing for and be familiar with their background (via their CV and professional social media).

Going into an interview prepared is one thing, but going in with a structured plan is crucial to conducting a good job interview. Think about what questions you should be asking to validate the criteria of the role, and whether your interview structure reflects that. There are a number of different questions that you can ask in an interview to validate the criteria of the role, which can then be broken down into various categories. Questions about their credentials, technical expertise, experience plus those that require an opinion or behavioural response are a good combination to try to understand the whole person.

Obviously, you know something about the candidate before meeting them, but by referring to that information using a well structured interview technique, you are more likely to ask the questions that will give you a much better picture of those you are interviewing. Opinion based questions like “tell me a bit about yourself” or “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” are good to warm the candidate up for later questions, however, keep in mind that you can’t build your entire interview around them which is where targeted questions can reveal more about the candidate…

It is well known that past behaviour can be the best possible predictor of future behaviour and the key to understanding previous actions is by asking experience based and behavioural questions. Research has shown that structured behavioural interviews are the most effective, even 25% more effective than work sample tests.  Ask about specific instances related to the job and the necessary attributes for the role, like “what was a typical day like for you in your last role?” or “tell me about a time when you struggled to meet a deadline.”

Listen carefully to the examples they use when answering these questions, as the more recent or more long-standing the example is, the more likely it is to accurately predict future behaviour. If the answer is less recent, or unstructured, then it might not be a great predictor of how the candidate will behave in the role. Analysing other non-verbal cues can be a good way to shed more light on the candidate and their answers.

Mind Your Body Language

If you’re finding that the candidates at the top of your shortlist are regularly turning down a second interview, it’s worth considering the messages you’re sending to your interviewees and what you could improve to make these more appealing. Experts claim that 93% of communication is non-verbal, with the meaning of the actual words said only accounting for 7% of the overall message. This aspect of communicating is often overlooked. Your body language, posture, facial expressions, ability to maintain eye contact and even the volume at which you say things are all crucial to communicating and making that first impression the best possible.

Consider what your body language is saying about you. Does your stance portray you as professional and approachable, or does it put people off and warn them to keep their distance? Although as an interviewer it’s important to appear in control in an interview situation, generally you’ll want to avoid being overbearing or intimidating.

Simple actions like smiling, shaking hands, maintaining eye contact and keeping an open posture by not crossing your arms can all have a significant impact on how an interviewee will perceive you, putting them at ease, which invariably will make for a more successful interview. Make the candidate feel welcome and valued by turning off your phone and avoiding interruptions during your appointment, placing all of your focus on them and what they are communicating.

Listen to What the Candidate Doesn’t Say

Having a sound understanding of body language won’t only help you to improve your own interview technique, it will also allow you to better understand the person opposite you. Pay attention to what the candidate is saying and how they’re saying it, as well as what they aren’t saying or avoiding altogether. Being able to understand body language and the implications that come with that can be key to gleaning another level of insight from an interview.

In addition to the verbal communication, just paying attention to a candidate’s reaction can help to reveal some valuable information; such as their reaction to each question or how they’re approaching the interview. This knowledge will make it easier to assess reactions, identify personal attributes and recognise when a candidate might be exaggerating, thus giving you the ability to form a better opinion on them.

Create a Conversation

Some people find conducting interviews uncomfortable and rush through a set of standard questions without taking the time to build a conversation. With that conversational atmosphere, you’ll be able to create more of a connection between yourself and the candidate, which will result in more open communication and more relaxed, honest body language. Try not to dominate the conversation and give the candidate ample opportunity to respond and ask their own questions. This not only provides you with more information but also paints you in a better light; would you want to work for someone who didn’t give you the chance to speak?

Think about the questions they should be asking or the questions you would want them to ask, and see if they ask them. This will give you an idea of whether they’re the right personality fit, and whether they’re engaged in the role. If a candidate is actively asking questions and wanting to know more, this is a good sign that they are interested in the role because they have thought about it carefully and done their research. If they aren’t as engaged and enthusiastic to find out more, then it’s possible that they’re not as interested as you might hope.

Summary

Your time is valuable, hence why we want your interview process to be as efficient as possible, and produce the best results for you. We run training courses specifically for our clients about how to conduct a good job interview. Investing your time into learning these skills can save you many hours of interviewing down the track. Get in touch with us here if you’d like to learn more. You can also take a look at our Hiring Manager toolkit, which features many more examples of questions you can ask. In the meantime, stay tuned to our LinkedIn channel for all the latest news, jobs and insights in the Accounting market.

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