5 Secrets to Being a Great Interviewer

How to Achieve More Effective Hires

ARTICLE | Sep 27, 2017

By Magi Graziano

With generational and workforce demographics challenging everyone’s ability to attract, hire, engage, develop and retain people, you need a leg up to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward in the employee selection process.

In the 2016 report State of the American Workplace, Gallup reports that, on average, 30 percent of all hires feel mismatched to their role, and almost 70 percent of all working people feel somewhat disengaged either in their role or in their organization. The reality about these statistics is that it all begins with the hire.

There are five secrets to being a great interviewer. Learning about and mastering them empowers people to maximize their effectiveness in hiring the right people, for the right roles, for the right reasons.

Maximize Your Effectiveness

The first secret: Consciously prepare yourself. By following author Stephen Covey’s advice and beginning with the end in mind, you provide the most value to your organization and to the candidates who are applying for a position.

There are three types of preparation: role-needs preparation, interviewing preparation, and self-preparation. Make sure you know and understand specifically what you want to come away with before you start an interview.

Ultimately, you are interviewing to make a hiring recommendation, and it is your responsibility to fully understand the role you are hiring for, as well as thoroughly understand the person that you are considering matching to it.

  • Role. Ground yourself thoroughly in the needs of the role. Find out why it exists, its impact to the overall organizational strategy, as well as its success indicators. Understand the role’s core functions and what it will take in terms of people, leadership, and decision-making competencies. Be clear about the required technical skills and the mandatory must haves. In that order.
  • Interview. During the interview, it is your job to determine the answer to these important questions: Can the candidate really do the job? How long will the candidate be happy and productive? How will the candidate impact others?
  • Self. Bring your best self to the interview. The interview is not something you do to a candidate, is it something you go through together. Prepare yourself for interviewing with a balanced perspective.

Consider the perspective of the role, the candidate, and the organization during the interview. Take the time to review the candidate’s resume and the role requirements before you step in to the interview.

Check in with yourself and make sure you are free of distractions and that you are willing and able to be fully present during the interview. This means to turn off your phone and e-mail, clear your desk, and be ready.  

The second secret: Bring structure. Avoid the pitfall of interviewing on autopilot. Get yourself mentally prepped to be in an interview.

With how busy a day around the office can be, it’s not unheard of to conduct interviews on the run or in a less-than-optimal setting. It’s important to use an agenda and an interviewing guide to get the most out of the interview. Use a formal work history interviewing guide that gives you all the questions that you need answered. Be specific about the time and the duration of the interview.

It is important that you plan time blocks for each section of the interview. A specific time block should be set for the beginning of the interview, where you gather insights and an overview of the candidate, his or her interests, and why he or she thinks it is a fit.

Block another time limit for the actual deep dive of the work history and another for discovering the candidate’s goals and aspirations.

The third and fourth secrets: Listen actively and be curious. Being present is something many working professionals struggle with. The ability to multitask often comes at the cost of truly listening.

The problem is when that happens in an interview and you’re not actively listening, you are downloading and only hearing what you want to hear or only listening to validate your assumptions.

The first level of listening in an interview causes you to miss major clues that very well could enlighten you on the candidate’s compatibility with the organization and in the role. Active listening allows you to come out of an interview with some new data points that you weren't aware of before. During this interview, you allow yourself to challenge some of your own assumptions, and when that happens that’s a good indicator that you have been exposed to some new realities.

Paying attention, listening, and having curiosity at higher levels—specifically during the career aspiration portion of the interview—is a major factor for successful long-term hires. Active listening at this level allows you to see reality through the candidate’s perspective.

Active listening allows you to ask open-ended questions in an interview and come out of a conversation with a new perspective, not just new data points. That’s key when evaluating how long a candidate will stay with the organization and if it can deliver on what the candidate wants and needs in a role.

Overall listening to what the candidate says and does not say illuminates his or her qualifications, interest, and potential red flags. Listening to how the candidate words answers, and watching facial expressions and body language also gives you access to the candidate’s attitude about his or her work..

The fifth secret: Make mindful conclusions. Take the time to debrief and evaluate the match fit for the candidate in the role. Go through your role requirements, and the candidates’ abilities and skills, as well as who they are and what needs and desires they want for their career.

Finally, bring all of it together and evaluate if this match makes sense. If it doesn’t, be honest and transparent and tell the candidate. If it does make sense for the candidate, the role, and the organization, tell the candidate and arrange for next steps.

Great interviews start with great interviewers, and the best in the business conduct the process with a mastery of these five secrets. They prepare diligently, they ensure a structured setting with an interviewing guide, they listen actively and curiously, and then they form mindful conclusions about a candidate to foster future success.

The next time you find a new candidate on your interview calendar, rely on these secrets to achieve more effective hires.

Magi Graziano is chief executive officer, Conscious Hiring® and Development, San Jose, California, and author of The Wealth of Talent (www.KeenAlignment.com).

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