Last week I shared a few tips for you job-seekers out there. Today, I want to talk to those of you on the other side of the table, conducting the interview. There is so much more to this than one might initially think. A skilled interviewer knows what questions to ask, when to ask them, and how to read in between the lines that are being fed to her. She is in control of the conversation and knows how to gracefully bring someone back on topic. She also knows how to read the non-verbal cues that their interviewee is sending her. Sadly, how to interview someone is rarely a skill that we are trained to do. We tend to learn through trial and error when we hire the wrong person, and that is an expensive mistake to make and a difficult one to recover from. There are so many components that go into giving a good interview, I'm going to break this down into a couple of different posts. Today, I will cover how to prepare before the interview and general best practices during the interview. In my next post, I'll cover what questions to ask and the steps you need to take post-interview.
Prepare for the Interview
If this is a pre-arranged interview, it is very helpful to take the time to do a little research prior to sitting down with this person. Not much -- you can really learn a lot about a person in five to 10 minutes thanks to the World Wide Web.
- Check their LinkedIn profile. This of course is a professional platform so most everyone is on their best behavior here. What I look for is basically an extension of their resume - What organizations is he involved in? Who are his professional connections? Does he claim to have any special skill sets? Note any mutual connections, as they may be good references later.
- Google their work history. When I'm interviewing a potential restaurant manager, I always like to check out the restaurants they've worked at previously if I don't recognize them. This gives me insight to the types of places they've worked in the past and will help me come up with relative questions beforehand. Our industry has an enormous variety of types of restaurants so someone with eight years experience at an independent restaurant might be a better fit than someone with eight years in night clubs.
- Who What When Where. Make sure that the interviewee knows the answer to all these questions. They will be more at ease and in a natural state if they know exactly where to be and when, what exact position they are interviewing for, and who they are interviewing with.
- Prepare a list of questions. Have a list of questions at the ready based on your research as well as good standards (which we will cover in the next post).
Best Practices During the Interview
- Create a conversation, not an interrogation. My number one goal in an interview is to get the candidate talking. I usually open the conversation by asking them to simply "tell me your story". How did they get to where they are right now?
- Make eye contact. It conveys that you are a trustworthy and confident leader, and allows you to also look for the same traits in them.
- Listen to what they are saying. This is obviously the most important thing you can do in an interview and what you are there to do. Keep a notepad to jot down keywords that you want to remember or questions to ask when they break in the conversation. But please don't take steady notes or write anything negative while they are sitting in front of you.
- Listen to what they are not saying. What are they omitting? Remember that interviewees are trying to win you over and paint the best picture of themselves possible. A little skepticism doesn't hurt. Did they graze past their work history a little too quickly? Did they talk about why they are no longer employed at a past job? Have they mentioned any passions or are they just looking for any position available? Are they only giving you one word or vague answers?
- Ask follow-up questions. Remember that this is a conversation which means that you will inevitably veer off script. The follow up questions will lead to the most revealing answers. So ask why, when, where, and how when they start telling you about their accomplishments and history.
- Remember that they are interviewing you. Or at least the best candidates are. The ones worth hiring know that they are a catch and know that they want to work somewhere that they enjoy. Open up and tell them your story. Don't just talk about what you do, but why you do it. Your Why is what sets you apart from everyone else. Further, how do you develop your employees? Do you offer educational programs or seminars, plug them into professional organizations, encourage networking opportunities?
- Dress for success. You are either the boss or representing your company as an authority figure, so put your best foot forward. Dress for respect and with confidence. I work in a fairly casual environment, but when I know I'm interviewing someone I always make sure that I am wearing a jacket and probably lipstick.
- Include an employee. This is one of my favorite tactics, but I usually reserve it for a second interview of a management candidate. You are not the only person that will be working with this new hire. Ultimately it's your employees who will be shoulder to shoulder with them, so their opinion matters. Pick someone that you have observed to have keen insight, that offers constructive feedback to her teammates, and that understands discretion.
What are some of your favorite interview tactics? I look forward to your comments and questions!