Depending on the goal set, there are different ways of starting an interview.
One of the approaches possible is the individual assessment interview. This approach is based on a person’s general behaviour and the general course of his or her career. It is about finding out how a person dealt with his or her duties or responsibilities based on the assumption that work performed in the past is an indication of future performance.
A other method is based on a few professional criteria. The most important advantage of this method is that the interview identifies the level of performance in different areas. It is about testing a candidate’s technical knowledge using a structured list of questions. This is a very formal way of conducting an interview. The disadvantage of this method is that the person conducting the interview must also have excellent technical knowledge, otherwise an interview of this kind is useless.
The diversity of interview techniques reflects the diversity of factors that influence employers. Personal preferences, the diversity of objectives and the experiences acquired influence the choice of discussion method/interview technique.
Think of the job description. What expertise and competencies are you looking for and what is required and desirable in terms of experience? What are the key responsibilities associated with the job in question and what are the career prospects? What character traits are you looking for? Underlining the specific requirements will help you to explain your questions and obtain relevant information.
Study the candidate in advance
Although this is an important aspect, people at times limit themselves to a quick perusal of the CV. However, you can already mention the strong and weak points of the candidate’s CV or the points that merit clarification. You may also want to learn more about the companies for which the candidate has worked and about the positions he or she held at those companies. For example, if he or she led teams, how many individuals did these teams consist of and did he or she like the role of team leader? Did he or she want more responsibility or would he or she have preferred less?
Prepare a detailed description of the job
Be prepared to answer all questions about the vacancy and the company. If you come across as confident, the candidate will have more trust in and be reassured by your professional attitude and way of working.
The interview room
To get the best out of a candidate, he or she must feel at ease. Choose a room in which you will not be disturbed. If the interview is to take place in your office, make sure that your calls are forwarded and that you are not disturbed by anyone. Consider the potential concentration problems if your telephone rings or if you see a new e-mail arrive. A less formal context will set candidates at ease.
You can opt to follow an agenda. An agenda helps you to remain within the time limit and focus on essential issues. Introduce yourself, go through the agenda and state how long the interview will take. Also inform the candidate that you will take notes so that he or she will not be unsettled if you note down the answers given.
- Open questions: who, what, where, when and how. Questions aimed at gathering as much information as possible
- Detailed questions: questions aimed at penetrating to the core of certain issues and checking the information obtained through the open questions
- Closed questions: questions aimed at obtaining answers concerning specified facts
- Suppositions: ‘How would you feel if...?’ The answers given to such questions provide an idea of how the candidate might respond to certain situations
Leaving a lasting impression
The candidate is not the only one who is tested during an interview: you must also give him or her the best possible impression. Candidates will form an impression of your organisation based on the interview. An unpleasant environment, a confused interviewer or constant interruptions will create a bad impression of the organisation. To reflect the desired image, you must therefore be organised and punctual. Make sure that you project the same professionalism as that which you expect from your candidates.
Concluding the interview
Ask the candidate whether he or she has any questions, since he or she may require clarification about certain issues. Inform him or her about what action will be taken after the interview, the time span you expect, when you will make your decision and when he or she will be notified of the decision. Discuss the recruitment process with the candidate in terms of whether there will be two or three interviews with one or more persons and whether or not the candidate will have to complete tests.
After an interview
Once an interview has been concluded, it is best if you immediately prepare a brief summary of your thoughts, feelings and other important issues, since it is easy to forget certain things, especially if you are scheduled to meet with several candidates on the same day. Such summaries will help you to make comparisons with previous and subsequent interviews.