The process of interviewing is not to be taken lightly. Here is some advice based on many years of conducting and observing interviews, mostly one-on-one in the recruitment process.
1. Know what questions you are going to ask ahead of time. Don’t “wing it”, the person you are interviewing will know you are not prepared.
2. Coordinate your questions with others who may be interviewing the same candidate. Some questions are OK to be asked by more than one interviewer, and some aren’t. Those who are doing the interviewing should decide collectively which questions are OK to be asked by more than one interviewer.
3. Generally, ask questions that can’t be answered “yes” or “no”.
4. Make it a 50/50 conversation. Don’t let anyone dominate the conversation. Remember that some people are more talkative when they are nervous. If a candidate talks too much, that shouldn’t categorically disqualify them. Being nervous is usually a temporary situation, so give the person a chance to calm down. Remember, you are trying to learn about the other person, and that is impossible to do by listening to yourself talk.
5. Evaluate how you feel about the candidate immediately following the interview. More importantly, write it down. Your first impressions are usually the most accurate. This reflection comes from your conscience, or some people call it your “gut feeling”. Whatever you want to call it, you have spent your whole life developing this mechanism, so use it. By writing it down, you now have a record of how you felt before someone tries to change your mind. If you are interviewing several people, they will all start to “run together” after a while and you will forget you initial impression unless you make some notes to jog your memory.
6. Evaluate how you feel about the candidate 3-4 days following the interview. This evaluation may not be any different than your initial reflection on the person, but some of the feelings you had in the beginning may have been changed by other opinions and they need to be taken into consideration. For example, if you were the first interview of several, the person may have been more relaxed in the following interviews, and you might be compelled to change your assessment in this area.
7. Telephone interviews should be handled just like a face to face interview. All of the above should be followed with one very important addition – pre-arrange the time of your call. Make sure the person to be interviewed knows that you will be calling at a specific time and place. This way both you and the candidate will be mentally prepared for the interview, just as if it were face to face. Have your Assistant (or Search Consultant) call to arrange the interview, and then write it into your schedule. You can make this call yourself, just make it clear that you are calling to “arrange for a better time for both of you to talk”. If they say “this is a good time”, then it’s your decision to proceed or not. If not, just tell them that you “can’t really devote the necessary time right now”, and “would Tuesday morning at 10:00 be OK”. E-mail works here, but only if the person checks his/her e-mail regularly.
8. Video, or Skype, interviews are good, but only if everyone is comfortable with it. If it puts the candidate in an uncomfortable circumstance and they are nervous with it then don’t do it. You want them to be as “natural” as possible. Ask your recruiter to find out how the candidate feels about it and then proceed accordingly.