Secrets to Effective Interviewing


No matter if you’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates over the years or if you’re new to the “art of the interview,” here are some tips to help you as you work to find your next great hire.

Listen. Really listen. Talk less. A good rule of thumb is to listen 80 percent of the time. Let your candidate be the one who does almost all of the talking. You’ll learn quite a bit that way. Get comfortable with silence — don’t feel you have to rush in and ask another question as soon as your interviewee finishes answering a question. You can use this time to finish jotting down notes or coming up with another question based on something your candidate just mentioned.

This also shows your candidate that you’re interested in what he has to say and that you’re really considering what he’s saying.

Don’t be shy about asking for clarification. If, for example, a candidate mentions he was the project manager for a multi-million dollar project, ask for specifics. What was the actual dollar amount? How many people did he manage during the project? How long was the project? Did it end on time and under or at budget?

Listening more and talking less allows you to get a good idea of a candidate’s personality and will help you ascertain if he will be a “good fit” for your company or department’s culture.

Here are some questions you may want to consider asking:

Why do you want to work here? This question lets you see how much a candidate knows about your firm. The more detail a candidate offers (“I’ve followed how your company is earning more and more government contracts and I want to be a part of a company that’s growing”) shows you that the applicant has done his research.

Why should I hire you over someone else? This question lets the candidate tell you in more detail about his skills and background. If a candidate relays that experience in a way that shows how that experience will help you, all the better.

Tell me a bit about your background. You already know a bit about this from reading an applicant’s résumé. Yet asking this question allows you to see if the candidate couches his work history in a way that shows how it will benefit your business. On the other hand, if the candidate goes on too much about how working for you will benefit him (it would be a great promotion, he could save more for a down payment on a home, it’s always been his dream to work in Washington, DC, etc.), you can pretty much see that this candidate doesn’t understand that you’re hiring him to solve your company’s problems, not his.

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