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Interview preparation 101: What is it and how to do it well
With this thriving economy and candidate-driven market, it’s vital that you and your team are able to provide quality interviews with confidence. The good news: putting the following skills into practice will prepare you to deliver better interviews and build better, stronger, and more diverse teams.
Like any other successful enterprise, building an organization of great interviewers starts with a strong foundation. With more candidates than ever applying to positions, prepare for your next interview by practicing these basic, but critical, skills.
Be Present and Engaged
- Listen Actively: Interviews shouldn’t just be about asking questions. Rather, they should be two-way conversations that move toward a shared goal: finding the right fit for a job. That takes listening! Pay attention to the next person you’re speaking with and you’ll find that good follow-up questions are often embedded in their responses. Allow spaces for silence and flexibility for expanding. Most importantly, focus your energy on the person in front of you instead of wondering what your next question will be. You’ll be more engaged and they’ll feel heard.
- Build Connections: When candidates feel welcomed and comfortable they are more likely to perform well in interviews, which means that low-anxiety conversations make it easier to find the best hire. Practice this today by maintaining a positive attitude and warm demeanor. Before your next interview, think of a few rapport-building questions that will reduce the tension and increase connection. Welcome them, thank them for their time, and ask them how they heard about the position.
- Practice Respect: Respect the time of the candidate (or anyone) who has committed to spending an hour with you by showing up promptly and making sure it is time well-spent. Be prepared, organized, and ready to attend to the person in front of you. Limit distractions on your end. Take interest and address the candidate as a fellow professional.
When we are able to listen, connect, and communicate respectfully, we are ready to engage meaningfully with potential new hires.
Once we’re looking beyond resumes and statistics and, instead, connecting with the people in front of us, it’s easier to appreciate the value of unique perspectives and skillsets. With that in mind, it’s important to approach every interview with an openness to diverse ideas, experiences, and points of view.
- Assess Bias: We wish it wasn’t true, but most of us are biased without even realizing it. Things like race, gender, ability, or ethnicity can subconsciously (or, in the worst cases, consciously) affect our decision-making, so if we want to make great decisions when it comes to interviewing it will need to be addressed. Of course, we can’t fix what we can’t see, so assess for internalized biases on an ongoing basis and continue to adjust. The Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a great place to start. After that, ensure job postings are worded neutrally, use bias-reducing technology to evaluate resumes and candidates, and evaluate your organizations’ current demographics and set goals to increase diversity.
- Adopt the (Right) Attitude: Acknowledge and appreciate the real value in diversity. A diverse community and workforce takes varied worldviews, backgrounds, personalities, and strengths and brings it all to the table. This range of perspectives is key to success in any organization.
- Establish Consistent Processes: Create consistency by asking the same baseline questions for each candidate and assessing each resume methodically. Set goals for diversity and reach them.
With the right people skills and attitudes in place, the best way to continue growing as an interviewer is to actually practice interviewing. As they say, practice makes perfect.
- Know Your Business: Familiarize yourself with your organization’s mission statement, culture, and objectives. Have a handle on company benefits and position information. Think of questions you might ask if you were an interviewee then brainstorm responses.
- Engage in Training: Roleplay. Record or observe interviews and ask for feedback. Take training programs. Any of these approaches have the potential to improve interview skills and boost confidence in interviewing ability. The more comfortable you are in your role as an interviewer, the more comfortable your interviewee will be too.
- Establish Pre-Interview Routines: Review the candidate’s background on their resume, LinkedIn, or social media. Review the questions you know you’ll need to ask. Make sure the candidate is clear on the time and place, or, if remote, any software downloads required for your interview. Outline the boundaries of the interview, like how long it will take or what the candidate might expect through the meeting. When you meet, give them time to acclimate to the interview environment.
Confidence builds on preparedness in so many aspects of life—why should delivering great interviews be any different?
If you’ve been in the workforce long, chances are you’ve been in an interview that left you less-than-impressed with an organization’s first impression: the interview. A bad interview can leave candidates feeling like they weren’t valued, their time was wasted, or that they’re unwilling to join a company whose representative lacks communication skills. Don’t lose great people to a bad experience. Interview like an expert and find your next great hire.
“7 Practical Ways to Reduce Bias in Your Hiring Process.” Harvard Business Review, July 24, 2018. https://hbr.org/2017/06/7-practical-ways-to-reduce-bias-in-your-hiring-process.
“How to Be a Good Interviewer.” Betterteam, n.d. https://www.betterteam.com/how-to-be-a-good-interviewer.
“Project Implicit.” Take a Test, n.d. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html.
Rampton, John. “15 Tips for Improving Your Skills Interviewing Job Candidates.” Entrepreneur, July 21, 2015. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/248608.
Trull, Samuel G. “Strategies of Effective Interviewing.” Harvard Business Review, August 1, 2014. https://hbr.org/1964/01/strategies-of-effective-interviewing.