Saturday, April 13, 2013

How to Conduct an Interview Like a Pro

Preparing to conduct an interview can be just as daunting a task as being interviewed. We usually think of interviewing people for jobs, but there are other situations such as college placements, summer camp programs, volunteer positions, hiring a tradesman, choosing a doctor or other professional or even going out on a date, where interviewing skills come into play.

How we ask interview questions and connect with the other person influences the outcome greatly. Some people are wonderful interviewers, making us feel good about ourselves even if we don’t get the job, the college admission, etc. Without the ability to interact comfortably with one another, the interview process can quickly break down, often leading to a lose-lose outcome.

One of the first things we must decide is whether to conduct an interview in the first place. After reading a resume or doing our due diligence research in some other way, if the candidate is clearly not going to be a fit, I recommend not going ahead with an interview. Leading someone on as a mere matter of courtesy can appear kindly, but may in fact create unnecessary awkwardness and be a waste of time for both parties. I have read more resumes from people who had no qualifications for a given position than I have from people with qualifications. As interviewer, the choice to meet or not is completely yours.

I recommend conducting interviews on your ‘turf’. This allows the candidate to get a feel for the environment he or she may be working in. Obviously there will be instances when this is neither possible nor appropriate, especially when making initial contact. Recruiters often go to college campuses; dating sites are clearly neutral; and some interviews may take place on their ‘turf’ – a doctor, banker, or lawyer for example.

Prepare a comprehensive list of questions you want to ask ahead of time and be sure they follow a logical sequence. Being organized frees your mind to focus on listening to the answers forthcoming. Listening to comprehend and listening to respond are two completely different processes, the former always being the preferred one! Being prepared ahead of time with a list of questions helps us to ‘avoid the avoidable’, and be in a better position to focus on the other person and on our own organization and impressions.

Ask questions that will elicit thoughtful responses, not simple yes or no answers. This gives you a chance to assess communication skills and a general evaluation of the understanding of the position. Honing the skills required for asking strong,  leading questions takes practice – lots of it. Some of us can develop these skills more quickly than others, but we all improve with plenty of practice. Experience shows and the candidate will notice, and will be silently doing a bit of interviewing him or her self.

Be welcoming and gracious to all candidates whom you interview. Offer a firm handshake and a smile, make appropriate eye contact. This sets the tone for the exchange and makes for a kinder interaction. Never shake hands across a table or desk. Always step around any physical barrier and stand faceto-face. 

Showing one’s humility as an interviewer speaks volumes about how he or she views the world. No one feels comfortable in the presence of someone who comes across as a ‘big shot’; that is simply a bullying tactic, which has no place in an interview – or in civilized society for that matter.

Ask the candidate what questions he or she may have. Be prepared to answer them to the best of your ability. It is helpful to be conscious of the need to discern between facts and feelings at this time. Remember that your feelings about a situation are far different from the facts of the situation. Be mindful not confuse the two.

Once the interview is concluded, thank the candidate for their time and let them know if and how you will be in contact with them moving forward. Walk them to the door, offering a final warm handshake, a sincere smile and appropriate eye contact. These are the ways to show respect to the candidate and the interview process in general.