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How to Conduct an Interview: Best Interviewing Techniques for HR Pros

How to Conduct an Interview: Best Interviewing Techniques for HR Pros

Michael Tomaszewski
Michael Tomaszewski
Resume Expert at Zety

How important is it to learn how to conduct an interview? Just give this a thought:

 

The average cost of a new hire is around $4,200. Now, is that a lot?

 

If the employee turns out an A-player, the hiring cost is almost negligible in the grander scheme of things.

 

But what if it’s a bad hire? That, in turn, would mean throwing four thousand dollars out of the window. And it gets worse—

 

The actual cost of a bad hire doesn’t stop there. It grows like a snowball: just think of degraded staff morale, team stress, drop in productivity and the quality of work, time and resources wasted for onboarding and training…

 

There’s no way to make sure an odd bad hire will never happen to you. But there is a way to drastically diminish its probability. A recent analysis by the Brandon Hall Group established that as much as 68% of bad hires are made because of the faulty interview process.

 

Bottom line: if you learn how to conduct an interview properly, you’ll be able to avoid hiring underperforming team members.

 

This guide will teach you:

 

  • Interviewing techniques recommended by top-level hiring pros and supported by hard data.
  • Tricks and tips for interviewing that will help you find perfect candidates in every recruitment process.
  • How to conduct an interview to make the best talent want to join your team every time.

 

1

Start with Identifying and Attracting the Right Candidates

 

Before you can interview anyone, you have to find the right people to call in. It all starts with a job description.

 

Always include:

 

  • Job Title
  • Position Summary
  • Description of Job Duties
  • Skills & Requirements
  • Salary Range
  • Job Benefits
  • Information on the Company

 

Before you submit that job description, truly identify what you want from a candidate. Don’t just think “skills, years of experience, responsibilities.” Focus on a unique, specific business goal you want the candidate to help you reach.

 

For in-depth guidelines, see: How to Write a Perfect Job Description (Job Ad Templates)

 

While attracting top talent starts with a clear description of the job, it certainly doesn’t end there.

 

According to a LinkedIn report, only 30% of the global workforce are active job seekers. The remaining 70% is made up of passive talent who aren’t searching for a new job.

 

Plus (this might sound harsh, but it’s true), the 30% includes people who have been fired, laid off or cannot keep up with their current pace of work.

 

Most of those top performers you’re seeking are currently employed with organizations who want to keep them. Your job is to convince them to get on board with you.

 

Apart from posting a job ad on your website, LinkedIn, and across job boards, you need to actively source candidates. To boost your response rate, start with those who have already expressed some interest in your organization.

First of all, identify the LinkedIn followers of your company. According to research, those will be 95% more likely to accept your InMail message and 81% more likely to respond.

 

With LinkedIn Recruiter, you’ll be able to filter the followers of your company by their skills and/or job titles.

 

To further increase your pre-sourcing messages open rate, send them between 9–10 a.m. on weekdays—another LinkedIn study revealed messages sent in that slot are 16% more likely to get a response.

 

Finally, design an engaging candidate experience. We’ll get to that in-depth later on, but it starts with the application process. Make it easy for applicants to find the right job and apply quickly:

 

  • If you post on your company’s website, make sure you categorize jobs by teams or departments.
  • If you use job boards or LinkedIn, make sure the posting is tagged properly and rich in keywords.

 

How many candidates should you call in for an interview?

 

There’s no rule of thumb. While according to the most recent Jobvite Recruiting Benchmark Report, 1 in 8 applicants makes it to the interview, don’t let your recruitment process be influenced by benchmarking.

 

Remember about that critical business need you want the candidate to fulfil. Interview only those who really show the potential to do it. If that means inviting 50+ talents to the office—so be it. Not a single one you’d like to speak to? Keep searching.

 

Once you have a good-looking pool of candidates...

 

2

Schedule the Interviews and Explain the Process

 

A well-conducted job interview means every interviewee knows what to expect beforehand.

 

I mean, everything. When will the interview take place? Where exactly? Who will interview them?

 

The history of every employment starts in the exact moment you contact them first. Make sure there are no misunderstandings, no surprises. no loose ends. Making them feel comfortable will pay off big time. Organizations whose top focus is the candidate experience see 71% improvement in quality of hire. Yet—only 37% of hiring specialists pay critical attention to candidate experience.

 

If you choose to conduct brief phone interviews before the in-person round, here’s what your invitation email might look like.

 

Phone Interview Invitation Email Template

 

Subject line: Tell us more about yourself, [Name]! | Phone Interview Invitation: [Position Name] at [Company Name]

Hi [Name],

We’ve carefully reviewed your CV and it stood out to us. We’d like to find out more about you during a chat over the phone! Would you be able to talk to us on dd-mm-yyyy at 00.00 pm/am? You will be contacted by [Interviewer Full Name], [Interviewer's Position]. The conversation should take about XX minutes.

Speak soon!

[Your Sign-Off with Contact Details]

 

For an in-person interview, you can copy and adjust the below template.

 

In-Person Interview Invitation Email Template

 

Subject line: We’d love to meet you, [Name]! | Interview Invitation: [Position Name] at [Company Name]

Hi [Name],

Further to our recent conversation, we are pleased to invite you to an interview on dd-mm-yyyy at 00.00 am/pm.

Our company is located at [Company Address]. [Optionally, include more detailed directions and/or a map].


The interview will be conducted by [All Interviewers’ Names and Roles—ideally, include their LinkedIn handles]. Please allow an hour for the meeting.

In preparation for our meeting, please go through a short description of values we adhere to at [Company Name] here: [LINK/Attachment].


Should anything change and make it impossible for you to attend the interview, please do let us know.

See you soon!
[Your Sign-Off with Contact Details]

 

Notice two things:

 

First of all, the interview invitation should tell the candidate something about the company. And by “something” I mean more than what’s already available online. Share your values, mission statements, perhaps a brief overview of the upcoming plans—of course I don’t mean anything highly sensitive, but your message should feel inclusive. It’s an invitation, so make it read like one.

 

Secondly, do let candidates reschedule the interview at their convenience. Don’t pretend you’re doing them a favor by inviting them. See it as them doing you a favor for agreeing to come in. Because they are.

 

What’s the best time to interview?

 

According to Glassdoor statistics, ideal interview times for interviewees are Tuesday to Thursday, between 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.

 

So why not play to their strengths? Try to schedule interviews within these slots. Early-morning interviews might catch everyone involved too preoccupied with their upcoming daily tasks. As for late afternoons—all participants are possibly going to be tired.

 

Remember—top-notch interview performance from interviewees is in your best interest.

 

Alright—time to discuss the very interview itself.

 

3

Structure Your Interviews and Ask the Right Questions

 

Structured interviewing is a term at the crossroads of hiring and quantitative research. In a structured job interview, questions are asked in a set and a standardized order—as in interviewer, you’re not supposed to deviate from the interview schedule or probe beyond the answers you get.

 

In a structured Interview, all candidates are asked the same consistent set of questions and there are clear criteria to assess the quality of their responses.

 

Sound robotic and unsophisticated?

 

Well, but it works. According to research by Frank Schmidt and John Hunter, based on almost 100 years of findings, unstructured job interviews can only predict 14% of an employee performance. Structured interviews guarantee almost 26% which is nearly twice as much.

 

According to more recent data gathered by The Predictive Index, including structured interviews as part of the hiring process, increases accuracy in predicting job performance by 34%.

 

Of course, a job interview is not a sterile lab environment. You can adjust certain questions so that they match the experience of a given candidate. But for most accurate results, it’s best if you stick to a uniform set of questions—this way, you’ll be able to compare and assess answers more objectively and avoid unconscious bias.

 

If you want to get a comprehensive list of good interview questions to ask candidates, see our dedicated guide: The Best Interview Questions to Ask Candidates in 2019

 

In this article, we’ll only cover the most common types of job interview questions to help you come up with a right mix of your own.

 

Traditional Interview Questions

 

These consist of all-time classics such as:

 

  • Do you prefer to work alone or in a group?
  • What are your greatest strengths or weaknesses?
  • What did you enjoy most/least about your last position?

 

Traditional questions to ask candidates are usually a good warm-up. Most job seekers are familiar with these. If a candidate feels anxious before the interview, some traditional questions might help put them at ease faster.

 

On the other hand, most candidates will have their canned replies readily available, so those questions offer little insight in your future employees’ performance.

 

Top talent hates the basic questions like tell me about yourself or what are your top strengths. Depending on the position, questions should be focused on: How the individual approaches problem solving. How the individual utilizes their creativity to come up with new insights or a better way of doing things. What types of environments they thrive in.
Heidi Pozzo
Heidi Pozzo
Leadership Expert, Founder, Pozzo Consulting

 

Situational Interview Questions

 

For example:

 

  • What would you do if someone higher than you in the organization instructed you to do something that was unethical or illegal?
  • How would you handle a situation where you had conflicting information with which to make a decision?

 

The main problem with these is they assume people will actually act as they say they will act.

 

Obviously, there are right and wrong answers, but—

 

How would you feel sitting on a passenger side of a car driven by someone who’s, so far, only learned driving from a textbook?

 

Brainteaser Interview Questions

 

  • What does all the ice in a hockey rink weigh?
  • If you had to remove one of the fifty U.S. states, which one would it be and why?
  • (This is my personal favorite) If someone were to enter this room, who would it be?

 

These types of questions were popularized by tech giants such as Microsoft or Google in the early 2000s. Admittedly—they’re fun. They’ll help you assess the candidate’s thinking process and, oftentimes, analytical skills. That’s why brainteaser questions are particularly popular in interviews with fresh graduates applying for highly technical positions.

 

But, then again—

 

Think about your ultimate goal: to find someone to solve your business problems and fulfill specific needs. While brainteaser questions speak volumes of candidates’ ingenuity, being good at brain games will rarely be your future employee’s day job.

 

Finally, the type of questions we recommend most, popularized by Victoria Hoevemeyer’s book, High-Impact Interview Questions

 

Competency-Based Behavioral Questions

 

Competency-based behavioral interviewing (CBBI) is a structured interview process based on the assumption that the best predictor of future performance is past performance and that the more recent the performance, the more likely it is to be repeated.

 

In a nutshell, with CBBI:

 

  • How do you work under pressure? becomes Tell me about the time you were faced with stressors at work that tested your coping skills? or Tell me about a time you failed to handle a stressful situation.
  • What kind of people do you like to work with? becomes Describe the way you handled a specific problem involving others with differing values or beliefs.

 

The secret to job interview approach is to ask questions in context. For example, we will ask questions about a previous supervisor. "How did you get along with your previous supervisor, how would you describe her leadership style?" After three or four questions like this, we then ask "How are you similar to your supervisor?"; "How are you different?"; "If she asked for advice, what would you tell her?" We use the same technique in several iterations. As a result, candidates are more open AND the information is relevant.
Dave Popple
Dave Popple
PhD, President, Psynet Group

 

Cognitive Assessments and Practical Tasks

 

Still—

 

Interview “questions” won’t do the trick.

 

To further boost your chances of choosing the perfect talent to join your team, include cognitive assessments along with structured interviews: the combination of these two interviewing techniques ups the accuracy of job performance predictions by a stunning 58%.

 

Cognitive assessments might include general competency tests, problem-solving tasks, reasoning quizzes, or practical tasks mirroring those the job will actually require. You’ll find numerous platforms offering cognitive assessment tests, but it’s best if you supplement those with a practical assignment strictly related to what your organization does on a daily basis.

 

Particularly because another critical thing you need to do during an interview is to...

 

4

Show the Candidate What It’s Really Like to Work at Your Company

 

Here’s a disturbing statistic—

 

61% of employees say the realities of their new job differ from the expectations set during an interview process.

 

This can amount to lower employee retention rate which, in turn, generates costs and forces you to spend additional time on filling the same post.

 

As an interviewer you have to do your best to prepare talent for working at your company. Practical tasks mirroring the candidate’s future responsibilities are one of the ways to achieve that. But there’s more work you need to do.

 

Of course, you’ll want to conduct the interview in a way that presents the position and company in a positive way. But you have to be as transparent about the role and environment as possible. During the interview, try to paint a picture for the candidate of what it will be like working for your company, what the culture is like, what the team dynamics are like. The more real and transparent you are with a candidate, the more attractive you will be to them.
Mikaela Turman
Mikaela Turman
VP of People at GoodHire

 

All in all, you want to establish rapport as quickly as possible. You and the candidate are working together trying to decide if this opportunity is a right fit for both parties. A job interview is not an interrogation but a conversation.

 

You surely don’t want a bad interview story from your company go viral, as did this one:

 

viral interview story

 

With 39,000 retweets and 133,000 likes, it’s clear that this job seeker’s job interview experience resonates. So just think what a bad candidate experience can do to your company in the social media era.

 

5

After the Interview: Let Them Ask Questions and Give Feedback
Later On

 

Once the interview is finished, you need to ask one final question:

 

“Do you have any questions for me?”

 

They, in turn, have to have some. This part is a serious test for both parties. The questions they ask will reveal a lot about how good their understanding of the position and your organization is. You, in turn, have to give them truthful answers.

 

At this stage, establish the next steps of the recruitment process. Let them know when they can expect the answer and whether or not there will be other interview rounds. If you need references, now is the time to ask for them.

 

That said, don’t rely solely on the references the candidate provides. It’s their curated list of contacts after all. Check with your professional network if you have any common connections. If so—they’re the ones you ought to reach out to.

 

Once the interview is finished, double-check with bystanders. Not only should you consult the candidate’s evaluation with other interviewers, but also ask anyone else in the company the potential hire might have encountered. Have they been nice to the receptionist? How did they treat the cleaning staff? Do your best to find out how the candidate behaves outside the interview spotlight.

 

True, you hire for performance, not personality, but let’s face it—you and your colleagues will see that person 8 hours a day, hopefully for years to come.

 

If you choose to make an offer—be enthusiastic. Don’t even think of playing the “I better not show just how excited I am; they might change their salary requirements” card. In good interviewing, there’s no upper hand. You just won the candidate you’ve been looking for. They just landed the dream job.

 

What about the we regret to inform you that on this occasion we have decided not to pursue your application further scenario?

 

Give your reasons. Provide constructive feedback. This LinkedIn survey revealed that 94% of talent wants to receive interview feedback, but only 41% have received interview feedback ever before.

 

That’s not just a matter of etiquette and following interview best practices. Talent is 4x more likely to consider your company for a future opportunity when you offer them constructive feedback.

 

What if that rookie you chose not to hire this time turns out an industry superstar in 5 years? If you provide them sincere feedback, you’ll probably have contributed to their professional success. They will remember.

 

Key Takeaway

 

Here’s how to conduct a job interview in a nutshell:

 

  1. Write a detailed job description clearly explaining all requirements and duties.
  2. Schedule interviews between Tuesday and Thursday, 10:30 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
  3. Explain the interviewing process thoroughly before the interview.
  4. Structure interviews so that each candidate receives a uniform set of questions.
  5. Make the interview a conversation, not an interrogation: be friendly and helpful.
  6. Answer all questions the candidate might have and establish the next steps.
  7. Provide constructive feedback after the interview.

 

Do you have any questions on interviewing techniques? Need further assistance with your interview process? Drop me a line in the comments and I’ll get back to you straight away!

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Michael Tomaszewski
Michael Tomaszewski
Michael is a career expert and the coordinator of Zety's newsletter. He reaches out to recruitment and hiring gurus to help you learn the most effective strategies for managing your career.
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