When you have a candidate you really want to hire, you’ll likely go to pretty great lengths to make sure him or her comes on board. Maybe she’s the most in-demand engineer on the market, or maybe he’s the perfect culture fit for your brand. Maybe you’ve just got to fill the role and this person checks all the boxes.
Regardless, while prepping for interviews gets talked up on the job seeker side, recruiters too have a lot at stake when it comes to a face-to-face sit-down. And while from the outside it might seem like all it takes is a few tough questions (“How many marbles can fit inside a 747?”) and a handshake, we all know it takes a lot more than that to ensure a successful interview.
Luckily, we’ve got a wealth of recruiters on our side — so we polled them to ask how they prepare for the Big Interview. Here are their tips.
1. Do your research (duh) — but not too much.
It goes without saying that, for any candidate you’re interviewing, you’ll have researched them like the back of your hand. Between resumes, cover letters, social media and references, we recruiters have plenty of touchpoints at our disposal that provide the full picture of a candidate. And while it’s of course important to know a candidate’s background and personality before stepping foot in the interview, sometimes, it can be dangerous to form an opinion before actually meeting the person.
Rather than going down a rabbit hole of cyberstalking (as it can be tempting to do), understand the candidate’s experience level and basic personality — and leave it there. Don’t let too many external sources cloud your judgment of him or here in the here and now. Instead, take your interactions as they come so you can go with your gut.
2. Get your list of questions ready.
We probably all have our own interview strategy — asking tricky questions to observe problem-solving skills, going through a resume in reverse order, role-playing scenarios… and those are all fine and dandy. But if you’re trying to get to the bottom of a candidate’s preparedness and skill-level fast, Jobvite’s CEO Dan Finnigan has a go-to question that he claims will yield “everything you need to know.”
He starts with, “What is your professional story?” — not exactly the most straightforward question in the book, and for good reason. Finnigan says that leaving this question fairly open-ended gives candidates the freedom to make a story both personal as well as narrative. You get the opportunity to feel out a person’s background, while seeing firsthand how they tell stories and describe themselves (both important areas). Plus, they wind up answering a few other questions in the process: what they’re passionate about; what they’ve learned; what they’re looking for in a job; and, potentially, their loyalty as an employee.
3. Go with the flow.
It can be tempting to stick to a script when interviewing — especially if you’re a hiring manager who doesn’t do it as often. But the danger when asking the same questions to each candidate is that they can all run together — and you don’t get the opportunity to truly be yourself.
Look at it this way: as the “face” of the company to your interviewee, how you represent yourself is just as important as how they represent themselves. It’s the connection that’s important here, and if you’re just droning on about why they did this thing on their resume when they did, that connection is nearly impossible. Try making it more of a conversation or discussion about expectations from work, what you love about your company and where you see them fitting in. They’ll appreciate you more for it, and their reactions and conversational flow can tell you a lot about how they’ll be as a coworker, friend and employee.
4. Leave them with a good taste in their mouth.
At the end of an interview, the last thing anyone wants is a drawn-out goodbye. But ending on a good note is a crucial part of the interview process — it’s the last thing a candidate remembers before they leave, and the most potent memory they’ll have of the day. So make those moments count: give them a tour of the office; offer a beer with the team they’d be working with, if it feels appropriate; walk them out; and follow up after with a thank you, appreciating them for their time spent (it’s not one-sided, you know). Even if you know they’re not a fit, the way you act at the end of an interview could make or break their decision — and how they describe you to other, potentially better suited prospects.
In a day and age when good candidates are hard to find, getting one to the interview stage is a big deal — and screwing it up then is not how you want to end things. So try an unconventional approach to the interview: prepare by not preparing; avoid internet stalking; keep an open mind; and be a human. You might be surprised to find that interviewing can tell you a lot about your potential hires … and can actually be fun.