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Top 10 Interviewing Skills for Selecting the Best Candidate

written by: Mike Sweeney•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 5/29/2011

Arguably, one of the most important job responsibilities in an organization is the hiring of quality talent. An organization’s success can often be directly attributed to the level of talent that’s been selected over time. Do you have the interviewing and selection skills to be effective?

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    1. Avoid Common Selection Problems

    Job interview 

    While you're brushing up on skills for interviewers, be careful you don’t short-cut the selection process. Some common problems to avoid are not gathering enough information, misinterpreting the information that is given, or choosing a candidate based on availability. Other potential problems are deciding too quickly or allowing pressure from another person to influence the hiring decision.

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    2. Create Hiring Criteria

    The hiring criteria you create will become your initial screening process. It’s a way to attract the most qualified people for the jobs you are posting. If a candidate doesn’t meet your criteria, then a polite rejection letter can be automatically sent. As you are narrowing down your applicant list, keep applying your hiring criteria to keep you focused on what you are looking for in a new hire.

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    3. Ask Behavior-Based Questions

    Behavior-based questions allow the interviewer an opportunity to explore in greater detail the kinds of past experiences the candidate has been through in previous or current jobs. It’s a proven way to predict job success since past behavior has a strong tendency to predict future behavior. Having an applicant talk about their past behaviors in business-related situations helps to eliminate any misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

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    4. Recognize False Information

    False information is frequently given by candidates, not necessarily out of wanting to fool an interviewer, but out of the habit of providing vague information. As an interviewer, you must listen closely to the responses to your questions to look for false information. If the candidate provides you with their feelings or opinions, or they tell you what they would do in the future, then you know you are getting false information. You need specific examples of actual actions.

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    5. Use Planned Questions

    Planned questions are often used to help compare and contrast responses from several different candidates. By using the same planned questions you can learn more complete information about each candidate. It will help you compile a more comprehensive picture and encourage applicants to be more detailed about their past achievements. Plus, having a series of planned questions allows the interviewer to cover a wide range of topics and use the same range of topics with all the candidates.

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    6. Ask Follow-up Questions

    Follow-up questions are a normal part of an interview. It’s fairly common for candidates to provide information that leads only to a partial picture instead of a complete one. When you receive information from an applicant that needs more specific detail, ask a follow-up question requesting more details. Skillfully using follow-up questions can be the difference between gathering behavior information that is useful and conducting an interview that is inefficient.

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    7. Apply Your Listening Skills


    A key part of any interview is carefully listening to the applicant's responses. Be careful of the tendency to interrupt to ask your follow-up question as your candidate is still providing a response. Give the applicant 100% of your attention. Allow the candidate to finish, then ask your follow-up question. When you hear a response that is unclear, don't just assume you know what the applicant means. Also don’t interpret the answer by telling the candidate that he probably meant something else. Clarify with the applicant what he said and confirm back that you understand.

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    8. Pace the Interview

    Most interviews are scheduled within a specific time frame. It is among the more important skills for interviewers to pace the interview adequately so you get the same amount of information from each candidate. That can be tough to do when you have many people to interview or you have other business commitments to attend to. Each person will be different, so you need to learn to control the interview through your pacing.

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    9. Take Notes

    Taking notes is to be expected. It’s the best way to recall what candidates have said in response to your questions. It helps during the decision process when you can easily compare notes on each candidate versus trying to recall what was said. Be open about your note-taking with each applicant and record their responses to your behavior-based questions. Be consistent throughout the interview and jot down useful information as you hear it.

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    10. Close the Interview

    When you get to this phase of the interview, allow yourself a few moments to reflect on what just transpired. This is your chance to review your notes to see if you need to ask any more questions. This is also the best opportunity to provide the candidate with information about the organization and the job position. Invite the applicant to ask questions. This is also a good time to explain to the candidate how the interview process works and any next steps. Politely end the interview.