How to be a better interviewer

Woman interviewing a man

We write often about job interviews gone wrong from the hiring manager’s point of view. These stories include candidates putting lotion on their feet, swearing in the interview, and Skyping from the bathroom.

But interviewers get it wrong too. There’s a Reddit thread of worst job interview stories that features tales of interviewers showing up extremely late, not knowing what they’re doing, and completely flying off the handle. While nothing like that has ever happened to me, I did interview once with a magazine editor who was kind of short and impatient with me, and I left that day knowing a wasn’t getting the job and definitely not wanting it.

At the very least, most managers probably know to show up on time, and to be polite and respectful. Beyond that, what does it take to be a good interviewer?

I reached out to Ed Nathanson of Red Pill Talent to ask for some tips. First, he says, being preparation is key. You knew that, right? You would never walk into an interview not knowing all about the candidate. Unfortunately, there are many who do exactly that.

“Interviewers need to review the resume, job description and the recruiter’s notes and feedback ahead of the interview,” says Nathanson. “Also on the preparation front, they should come ready with behavioral or accomplishment based interview questions specific to the job and experiences they are interviewing for.”

You probably already know this but an accomplishment/performance-based question is a question that asks the interviewee to describe an accomplishment, i.e. “What has been your biggest career achievement to date?”

A behavioral question, as explained by Nathanson, is “designed to uncover how a candidate thinks and acts. In essence, it is predicated on the theory ‘what you have done in the past you will do again in the future.’” Such questions, he says, are commonly framed using the STAR method:

S – what was the situation in which you were involved?
T – what was the task you needed to accomplish?
A – what actions did you take?
R – What were the results?

As well, he says, “Some tips to make a better experience for the candidate include: take time to establish rapport, be on time, leave your phones/tablets behind, giving candidates a tour of the office, offer water or coffee and be positive, respectful and polite. Also critical is to leave time for candidate questions – I recommend at least 10 minutes at the end of the interview.

“Make sure you listen and not talk a lot of the time. An interview is supposed to be about the candidate, not you.”

We actually advise that you follow the 50/50 rule and do about half of the talking. Though less is better than more for the interviewer.

Nathanson also advises you resist the urge to jump in during awkward pauses. “Allow time for silence. Don’t rescue the candidate – let them expand on their thoughts and provide more details before you interject.”

And, “Be warm and empathetic and also be aware of your potential biases and try to remain open minded,” says Nathanson.

All sound advice.

Finally, Nathanson says, “Interviewers must be very aware that it is now a candidate driven marketplace, so the candidate experience is absolutely crucial.”

Remember that you need people to want to work for you. The candidate experience is part of your brand. If word spreads that the interview process is bad, you will not get prime candidates. Ensure the experience is a good one, and hopefully they’ll flock to you. At the very least, you won’t recognize yourself thinly disguised in a Reddit rant.

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