written by: Michelle Shuler Key•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 5/25/2011
Workplace and employee priorities are in a constant state of growth and progress. Even the most seasoned supervisor can benefit from tips for conducting job interviews. In this changing world, it is more important than ever that you find the right fit for your office.
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Traditionally, when conducting job interviews the candidate’s prospective supervisor and perhaps the Human Resource Manager are involved, usually on a one-on-one basis. This method handles the basics of the interview, but if the position for which you are hiring is high profile or involved with several departments, consider forming an interview committee.
Keep your interview committee small, involving no more than five people. Include the prospective supervisor and human resource manager, of course, but beyond that, consider the people in your office with whom the position has the most involvement. When hiring for marketing or publicity, include representatives from the nuts and bolt departments of your organization – those who provide the products or services being promoted. Also consider including those who will work under the new hire, particularly if the position supervises one or two employees closely. Allow each member of the committee to suggest interview questions.
In short, your interview committee should include the three to five people with whom the new hire will work most closely. This method gives you a well-rounded impression of how each candidate will fit with your organization.
Break the ice at the beginning of the interview by asking the candidate about her hobbies. What you learn can help you gauge her personality and assess her fit in your office. Those who participate in sports are often competitive and driven. Crafters may have a knack for seeing the bigger picture such as completing duties on time.. Gardeners can take the long view and understand the value of working toward goals over time.
When moving on to the meat of the interview, remember that predictable questions will receive predictable answers. Rest assured each candidate who walks through the door is ready to tell you that his worst quality is his perfectionism. To learn the truth of a candidate’s qualifications and work habits, you need to ask directed questions and let the answers lead the interview.
If, for example, you are interviewing a candidate for a leadership position, start by asking her to describe a successful project she has led, then follow up with directed questions such as:
What was your greatest leadership challenge during this project?
How would you describe your communication with your team when problems arose?
Was the project completed within the original timeline? If not, what caused the schedule delays?
Do not limit your questions to successes. Ask about failures, as well. The candidate’s response to these questions allows you to look for resilience in the face of a setback. Ask:
Could you describe a time you had a goal that was not met or a project not completed?
What do you feel were the reasons for your failure?
What, if anything, would you change if you had an opportunity to work toward that goal again?
As you allow the candidate’s answers to direct you, pay attention for traits that would be better suited for your office or those which are incompatible.
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Scheduling and Timeline
For ease of comparison, interviews are often scheduled close together over a one or two day period. In most offices, the early part of the week tends to be the most hectic, so try to set your interview days near the end of the week. This also puts a better foot forward for candidates, who may get the wrong impression from arriving during the hectic Monday morning catch-up that takes place at many offices.
Depending on the intensity of the interview, allow 45 minutes to an hour and a half to sit down with each candidate, with 15 minutes to half an hour in between to prepare for the next interview and for discussion among committee members. A timeline for interviewing during the back half of the work week might go as follows:
Wednesday Afternoon – The interview committee meets to discuss the pros and cons of the top candidates and solidify which questions will be asked and who will be asking about which category.
Thursday - Interviews are scheduled for most of the day. Each candidate is given a two-hour time slot, allowing the committee to discuss each interview after it is completed and prepare for the next.
Friday Morning – Any outstanding interviews are completed. Interview committee members look over their notes and determine their thoughts on the most appropriate candidates.
Friday Afternoon – The interview committee meets to wrap up the process. Ideally a decision can be reached during this meeting. If you have strong differing opinions in your group, however, consider scheduling another interview with the top two or three candidates.
Regardless of the position for which you are hiring, there are a few general tips for conducting job interviews that work universally.
Conduct interviews uninterrupted whenever possible. Not only could an unexpected phone call hurt the momentum of the interview, but if a candidate is given too much time alone with a question while you are called away, the answer you receive may be less authentic.
Give the candidate an opportunity to ask you questions about the company. Answer honestly and use the questions to gauge the candidate's workplace priorities.
Take notes. Write down anything positive or negative that strikes you during the interview and use this information to help you sort through and remember individual candidates at the end of the interview process.
Above all, remember that interviews should be treated just as professionally as any business meeting. The interview sets the tone for your selected candidate, and it is your opportunity to let him know how business in your office is conducted before he starts his first day of work.