7 Great Interview Tips for the Interviewer
It is likely that you have come across ‘great tips for interviewers’ guides before. So what makes ours different? Well, it is based on our understanding of what often does not go well in interviews and knowing how to introduce interview methods that are proven to work. It is also taken from an occupational psychologist’s perspective and their appreciation of what the interview is like for people. Finally, other great tips typically number 10, 15 or even more. Ours is just 7, as being psychologists, we know that you are only human – you will struggle to handle more than seven!
1. Be crystal clear on how you are going to make a decision.
Most ‘Great Tips’ guides talk about being well prepared for an interview. But we go further here. Not only do you need to be well prepared, but you also need to have a clearly pre-defined procedure to score the interview evidence collected. This means that you do need to know what the job really requires to be effective. Identify what skills and qualities are essential to perform effectively in the job. Be very wary of big assumptions that many interviewers trip over – don’t regret decent candidates based on unimportant/trivial aspects.
We are now in the new era of valuing neurodiversity. Unfortunately, we still design recruitment procedures that favour ‘neurotypicals’ (those whom society consider normal). Therefore, to overcome this we really must be clear in identifying what are the essential skills and attributes needed for the job. This then allows you to appreciate that whilst there may be many other things that are desirable, they are not vital for the role. This is particularly important when embracing neurodiversity. Some candidates may not fall in the neurotypical range and therefore if you rule them out just because they appear ‘different’ then you may have eliminated a very good candidate!
Only Score Essential Areas
The interview should only be scoring the ‘essential’ areas. Some may be extremely important and you may want to give them a weighted score if appropriate. Interviewers should be clear about the scoring system. Are your current interview decisions based on a clearly thought out scoring system that takes into account the interview information? Or is it more down to ‘subjective gut feel? Eg “I did not like the way he/she answered that question.”
2. Gather Key Evidence.
This continues from item 1 above, but warrants its own area.
As mentioned above, a key potential issue with the interview approach is that it relies on candidates telling us how good they are. We are not actually observing the skill set directly. We are relying on the candidate’s communication skills to tell us what they think they are like.
It is essential to be effective in making notes as well as asking questions.
Questions should be focused on getting to the evidence of skills and behaviours relevant for the job. But we need to record effectively what the evidence really is e.g. if the candidate states that they think they are good at X, then that is different from them describing an issue where they dealt with X. Even when they are describing something that happened, like stories, they can be very real and factual or somewhat fictitious! Therefore, it is taking a big risk to rely solely on an interview during recruitment.
Be clear about how effective the interview process is in gathering key evidence.
We need to be aware of areas where we may have some useful evidence as well as seeking other inputs. Therefore, we may have useful evidence about the candidate’s ability to deal with business data and their numeracy but we would also want to gain confirmation of this from their performance on a Numerical Critical Reasoning Test. That is to say, the test is a real performance measure.
For management level roles we may ask for evidence of the individual dealing with challenging situations. This can be quite difficult for many interviewers to assess well during an interview. Even if you are a skilled interviewer you can only cover a few situations, so it rests on how effectively the candidate handles those situations that are explored. Therefore, you may want to support this with a more objective assessment. The Scenarios Managerial Judgement Test provides this in a standardised format.
3. Treat the candidates as your number one customer.
Here we focus on the psychologist’s perspective. You are looking for a person who is going to partner up with you and your colleagues to do amazing things together. Surely, that is just as important as finding a new major customer? Consider the effort you would make to find a major new customer. Therefore, you should be prepared to do the same for recruiting new staff!
Now, with this in mind, you may consider that the best approach is not to give the candidates a hard time. Likewise that it maybe best not to give them a grilling during the interview to test their metal. Rather, just like a prospective client, you want to show interest in the person. Give them the opportunity to settle down and tell you about themselves. To make them feel comfortable, you may want to open up to them first by telling them a little about yourself (but just a little – as the interview is about them – not you!).
Also, when you are trying to impress a potential new customer, you do not want everything to appear extremely formal. So it might be good to introduce them to your team and to show them around in a more relaxed and informal manner when they are in.
Ill advised candidate practices.
If we regard candidates in the same way as an important customer, this means that you and everyone else they meet on the day should really focus on their needs.
Here are some common recruitment practices that we do not believe in:
- taking weeks to decide on the next stage;
- forgetting to tell some unsuccessful candidates of the outcome;
- candidates asked to take tests but never given any feedback;
- never providing interview feedback;
- successful candidates not having a carefully planned induction.
Most importantly, would you treat your customers that way? If the answer is no then don’t treat your candidate that way.
4. Have a consistent yet flexible approach.
This is where a lot of interviewers get confused. Some interviewers really interpret a consistent approach as just asking every candidate the same set of questions in a robotic manner! The reality is that every candidate you interview is different, therefore every interview will be uniquely different.
What we should strive for is a consistent and fair approach. Ensuring all candidates are provided with the same opportunity to demonstrate and convey their skills, behaviours, and capabilities.
The skill of the interviewer to ask the right questions.
The thing to manage is that some candidates are skilled at coming across effectively in the interview i.e. they have the ‘gift of the gab’. Whereas, there will be other candidates who are actually well suited for the job but may not feel comfortable opening up to strangers.
Poor interviewers can fall for poorly suited candidates with the ‘gift of the gab’ and do not know how to support suitable candidates that lack communication skills. For the former, skilled interviewers know how to do more probing e.g.
- “So when you said “we”, what did you do specifically?”;
- “Can you just tell me a little bit more about how you managed to achieve that great result.”;
- “What led to that great success?“
With the latter, effective interviewers know how to support the candidate better: “Take your time as I am very interested to understand how you worked on this type of activity.”; “You seem to have useful experience in xxx, can you just tell me a bit more about that?” Some interviewers think that most jobs require the ‘gift of the gab’, but in reality very few jobs need it!
The consistent approach means that we should be clear about the vital job requirements and to have these areas covered during the interview.
The interview may be supported with a personality questionnaire that candidates complete prior to attending the interview. This produces an Interview Report to support the interview process.
The report is based on useful generic competences that are typically relevant for most middle and senior level roles. The report also provides sample interview questions. You will need to check how important the competences are for your specific job.
5. Develop your listening skills.
Interviewers often try too hard on their own performance during the interview – so they are more focused on their next question, or they talk too much themselves. The result is that they are not listening effectively to the candidate!
Appearing relaxed and genuinely interested in the candidate will help them feel comfortable. Demonstrate active listening by going with the flow of the conversation. Occasionally provide a confirmatory or summary remark to demonstrate you have taken in what has been said. All this helps to build a relationship with the candidate.
After all, recruitment is a two-way process i.e. the candidate will only want to accept a job where they feel they like the people and they will get on with them.
6. Focus on Non-Verbal Cues.
Again, this is picking up on the psychology angle. The reality is that very often what is said only accounts for a small proportion of what actually gets communicated. Non-verbal communication is extremely important. Focus on non-verbal cues both for yourself and others.
For yourself, consider how you may be coming across in terms of your non-verbal behaviours. How you appear already communicates a great deal. So ensure that you are dressed appropriately to give a professional image.
Examples of non-verbal behaviours to be aware of, do you:
- Show less interest to those candidates you perceive to be weaker candidates on paper?
- Shake your head when you hear something you do not like?
- Get very uncomfortable with silence and need to throw in another question?
- Need to maintain better eye contact and focus less on your paper work when you are conducting the interview?
Therefore, it is useful to know your non-verbal behaviours a little better in order for you to conduct Interviews more effectively.
Regarding the candidates’ non-verbal behaviours we need to be focused on picking up appropriate cues. At the start of the interview, the more obvious cue to pick up is whether the candidate may be very anxious or nervous. However, some candidates may be very nervous but not show the obvious nervous signs. Rather, the clue to their nervousness may be from the answer they give to your question.
What to look for:
During the interview, we will observe:
- eye contact,
- facial expressions,
- emotions, etc.
These cues may provide useful feedback for us to improve our interviewing e.g. we may pick up that the candidate does not understand the question but is afraid to say. Or we may have been too harsh or unfair with an approach or question.
These cues may also help us understand the candidate better.
However, as mentioned in item 1. above, we do need to be careful as there may be some candidates whose behaviours do not fall within the neurotypical range. For example, this may be because they have a formal diagnosis of autism or Asperger’s syndrome, but for many their condition may be very mild and they would not have a formal diagnosis. The reality is that selection procedures are designed to favour neurotypicals as they have been designed by neurotypicals!
Therefore, we need to make sure that we do not eliminate decent candidates just because we have detected a few behaviours that appear ‘different’ to ours e.g. poor eye contact or rather monotone voice. We need to ask ourselves the question: Will that stop them doing an effective job?
7. Make the candidate excited about wanting to join your organisation.
One big fallacy of many interviewers is that they believe that selection is one-way ie. that the candidate really wants the job. We have to change this mind-set and believe that candidates have a choice too. They are choosing how they are going to live their lives – therefore, they will think carefully before accepting a job.
So, when you do speak, you will need to give an impression that you, your people, and the organisation they will be joining, will value them, and you will all be doing rewarding things together!
Consider the interview is a 2-way process.
You need to convince the successful candidate to join you, just as much as they have to convince you they are the right person for the job.
Even for those who will not be joining you, you still want them to think well of your organisation as you may come into contact with them again in the future – and this time they really might be a new major client!
Summary of our 7 Great Interview Tips for the Interviewer
- Be crystal clear on how you are going to make a decision.
- Gather Key Evidence.
- Treat the candidates as your number one customer.
- Have a consistent yet flexible approach.
- Develop your listening skills.
- Focus on Non-Verbal Cues.
- Make the candidate excited about wanting to join your organisation.
Remember to be clear on what you need. Be objective but encouraging. Listen and gather evidence, both verbal and non-verbal. Remember, the interview is a 2-way process.