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How to interview candidates

Aug 20, 2020

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A successful interview for any organization includes a set of interview questions based on the job description, an organized interview script and the use of a candidate evaluation form with ranking criteria based on mandatory skills for the position.  

There's no doubt about it: The coronavirus has reshaped recruiting.  

The global pandemic sparked unprecedented and rapid innovation in how organizations recruit, hire and onboard talent. Although, while the ways in which hiring teams source and engage job candidates have changed, the foundation of a successful recruitment process relentlessly remains good preparation.  

When it's time to bring talent quickly and effectively into your workforce, here's how to prepare for a successful interview. 

How to interview candidates 

Good and effective interviews expose potential red flags, reveal candidates' strengths and ensure that there's a fit with rate/salary expectations and corporate culture, while also verifying qualifications, skills, and abilities. However, effective interviewing doesn't only just involve knowing what to ask. 

Job interviews are a two-way street, and just as candidates may be looking to impress, they're also looking to be impressed, and the candidate experience matters.  

This means it's essential for all parties involved in the hiring process to be organized and prepared when the need for talent has been identified. This step in the interview process will begin with crafting a detailed job description. 

Forming interview questions based on the job description  

Job descriptions are internal documents that clearly define the essential duties, responsibilities, qualifications and skills required for a project or job. They should also define important company details, such as corporate culture, mission, working conditions and any benefits. 

Good questions to ask reflect the mandatory job requirements listed in the description, as hiring teams focus on evaluating candidates on the necessary skills set required for the job.  Having a list of these questions to ask allows teams to stay organized during the process, develop a standard process in evaluating candidates and maintain a polished employer brand during the job interview.   

These candidate questions to ask can be behavioral, situational or brainteasers and allow hiring teams to evaluate candidates’ hard and soft skills.   

Evaluating for soft and hard skills 

Hard skills are identified as the technical skills required of the job; soft skills, however, are the intangible qualities that make a good candidate a great fit.  

As the purpose of effective recruitment is to hire qualified talent, questions for interviewees must be formed with a focus on exactly what is required for the position. Examples can include a combination of open, closed, behavioral, and situational questions regarding:  

Resume verification: Used to verify the credentials presented in their background.  

Experience verification: Used to gain insight into candidates’ responsibilities in previous positions.  

Evaluation: Evaluate candidates’ competency by asking for examples.  
  

The importance of an Interview Script   

Having an interview script prepared can help keep the process organized and make certain that conversation is flowing. This doesn't mean committing a script to memory; however, it does mean having questions for an interviewee prepared in advance. It can be easy to digress in an interview when conversation and personalities are a good fit, making it even easier to forget to ask the questions required to dig into a candidate's qualifications. Having a list of prepared questions for a candidate will help to make sure interviewers cover all necessary requirements and everyone being interviewed receive an equal evaluation. A script will also ensure all key questions are being asked, saving hiring teams from having to re-interview.  

Creating the Interview Script 

The first step in creating a job interview script during the interview process is a brainstorming session with the hiring manager and recruiting team. This is where a list of questions will be prepared reflecting the necessary skill sets and requirements as listed in the job description. 

The list of questions to ask can then be narrowed down by selecting from most important to least important skills needed for the position.  

The final list should be prepared in a logical category, including a combination of open, closed, behavioral, situational, brainteaser questions, and narrowing down the questions to create the interview script.   

Questions to ask should be specific to the position, easy to understand and should allow candidates to provide elaborated answers. They can be scripted by focusing on what to ask during the beginning, middle and end of the interview.  

Interview questions can be scripted by asking the lighter questions at the beginning of the interview, which will set the candidate at ease as the interviewer moves on to more difficult questions.  

The final questions to ask in the interview can consist of questions that may summarize their professional experience.

The importance of Creating Candidate Ranking Criteria:  

Will help to differentiate one strong candidate from another.  
 
Will help the Hiring Manger stay organized, save time, promotes less note taking.  

If the ranking criteria is formed according to the job description, it helps parties involved evaluate candidates on important skills needed for the job. 

Candidate Evaluation Form  

Candidate evaluation forms should be ready to use in order to not only assess the candidate's performance, but to also have a record of his or her qualifications for review once the interview is over. When detailing evaluation forms, employers must make sure to use headings that include the skill set being evaluated and a brief description of those skills.  

The interviewer should also give the candidate a numerical rating and write specific job-related comments in the space provided.  Below is a list of common candidate evaluation criteria: 

Communication skills  
Relevant work experience  
Specific skills or technical skills  
Ability to work in a team environment  
Leadership qualities  
Critical thinking and problem solving  
Educational background  

 
The numerical rating system can include rating candidate’s response on a scale of 5-1 as per the example below:  

Example:  

Communication skills: Did the candidate communicate effectively during the interview?  

Rating: 5 - Exceptional 4 - Above Average 3 - Average 2 - Below Average 1  Unsatisfactory 

Remember: You're representing your employer brand 

According to Glassdoor, 76 per cent of job seekers want to know what makes a company a compelling place to work prior to working there. As such, it's important to highlight your company culture - even through a computer screen.  

Do you work with  innovative technologies? Do you offer educational programs such as up-skilling or re-skilling opportunities? Are you working on new and exciting projects? Before sitting down with a candidate, it's important to take time to reflect on what your organization has to offer both traditional employees and contingent workers.  

When it's time to bring talent into your workforce, it's important to not only ask the right questions during the interview process, but to also deliver a great candidate experience - which begins with good preparation. 

Get deeper insights into engaging and retaining talent with our Guide to designing a high impact talent acquisition strategy.

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