Getting the best out of your candidates
3 Nov 2022
Finding a new job is one of the most stressful things a person can do. A major factor of that stress is the interview. A US study found that 92% of adults actually fear interviews. In my time interviewing and coaching candidates in preparation for an interview, I see the anxiety and hear their concerns. I’ve seen great candidates close up, struggling to find a story to answer any question I ask, or people reading from scripts they have meticulously prepared to try and combat the nerves. If you have seen this as an interviewer and haven’t known how to proceed, keep reading and I’ll share my tips to getting the best out of your candidates!
Interviewers are a window into an organisation. A prospective new hire will likely only meet the recruiter, hiring manager, and their interviewers before deciding to join the company. In this market, candidates have greater choice, so the quality of the interviewer really does play a huge part in securing the talent you covet. A 2020 poll by We Are Adam revealed 81% of candidates had turned down a job offer, and 62% of those cited “bad interview vibes” as the reason. When you consider how much time and effort it takes to get to offer, that is a stat that makes my stomach ache.
Interviewing is a two-way street. It gives prospective candidates a first hand view of the people they will be working with, the manager they will report to, and the culture the company has created. But when was the last time you reviewed your pool of interviewers and made sure they were the right representatives for your organisation? How can you be a better interviewer, or coach your people to conduct better interviews?
These are my 8 heavenly tips to get the best out of your interview candidates.
Be prepared. Candidates usually spend days, if not weeks, prepping for interviews. An interviewer on the other hand walks in with some questions they copied from a question bank, sometimes 5 minutes before! Invest the time before the interview to get to know your candidate. Read their CV and notes from previous interviews. Take the time to think about the questions you want to ask and prepare backup questions just in case.
Break the ice. Spend some time at the start of your interview getting to know the candidate. Don’t launch straight into the big hard questions. Take the time to do introductions. Tell them a little about you, your background, and maybe even share a little about what happened at your interview. I always like to start my interviewers off with an ice breaker - tell me about the proudest moment in your career to date. It’s a simple question to ask and you will see your candidate SHINE! Remember to also detail what you are looking for in the interview. If you want them to follow the STAR format, say it. If you want them to go into detail, say it. If you have 10 questions to get through, tell them. Whilst I don’t recommend the latter, it at least gives them a sense of how long they should spend on each answer.
Read the room. If you see your candidate struggling, help them. Ultimately interviews are expensive for everyone, and whilst you won’t hire everyone a little kindness will be remembered. If a candidate is struggling to come up with an answer, help them. You could reframe the question, or even ask another. This doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have an example, it just means they can’t immediately recall the best answer to give you. I’m sure we have all had brain freeze at some point in our lives!
Don’t interrupt the flow of their story…unless they go completely off track. The more you interrupt the more likely it is that they will forget the details they wanted to tell you.
Always ask follow up questions. To get the most from a candidate, interviewers need to probe for depth and detail. Using the interview as a measure to look at past performance to indicate future success requires an interviewer to get to the detail. This requires time and asking big questions that set the candidate up for giving a deep and full answer. Even if the candidate has nailed the answer, probe into specific details, maybe ask about opposers, or what they learned from the experience.
Don’t spend the whole interview taking notes. There’s nothing worse than just seeing the top of someone’s head for 45 minutes as they frantically try to transcribe the whole interview! Use an interviewing tool that transcribes your interviews. This will free you up to really listen to what the candidate is telling you and be more present in the interview. I learned early on that I couldn’t type and listen, and when I typed my notes during the interview I missed key areas to follow up on. I now jot down a few notes to prompt my follow up questions, throw bookmarks on parts I want to review, and let the transcription tool do the rest.
Leave time for candidate questions. Remember, interviewing is a two-way street. If you only have time to ask one more question or answer the candidate’s questions, always choose their questions. Be honest with your answers and share your favourite aspects of working in the company (including key policies and entitlements!)
Monitor candidate experience. We know candidates are rejecting jobs based on their interview experience, so make sure you are listening to candidates and gathering information as close to real time as possible. There are some great tools out there that will gather this anonymised data, and also create insights into how questions are actually performing. Ditch the ineffective questions, coach the interviewers who need it, and remember, interviewing isn’t for everyone.
If you want to get more from your interviews, and attract the best talent into your organisation, spend some time developing your interviewing skills. Don’t get complacent if your next interview is your 401st. Work to find the evidence to secure the talent you need and find the tools to make this the positive experience every candidate is looking for.
Charlotte is a guest writer for Evidenced and former Amazon "Bar Raiser" who has conducted hundreds of interviews across tech and non-tech. She has coached and mentored interviewers across multiple disciplines to improve their interviewing and is now working to help candidates land cool jobs in big tech.
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