Human Resources

Conducting Effective Interviews: What You Need to Know

Hiring is one of a manager's most important responsibilities. Although most organizations recognize the opportunities and consequences involved with talent selection, few are prepared to lead a truly effective interview process. This article will give you a few tips for making the most of your limited time with a prospective employee.

General Planning

First, you should develop an interviewing structure that can be kept consistent across all candidates. As much as possible, standardize the questions, environment, and interviewers involved so that you can really compare apples to apples when it comes down to a few finalists. This structure will not only make your interviews more effective but will also increase the professionalism, equity, and legality of the whole process.

Chose your interview format carefully. A one-on-one meeting is more likely to set a candidate at ease and facilitate a conversational relationship, but it does not provide the objectivity gained by having two or more interviewers involved. In the latter case, make sure that each participant's role is distinct and mutually understood. For example, have one person focus on employment history and experience, another on skills capacity/job requirements, and a third on culture/personality fit.

Defining the Role

Know what you want to see before the interview starts. To the greatest extent possible, candidates should be selected for roles; roles should not be defined around candidates after the fact.

Brainstorm with colleagues about the characteristics of an ideal candidate. Identify the core competencies that are required for success in this role and in your organization as a whole. Keep in mind that some competencies should be based around skills and experience, whereas others should consider personality attributes and cultural fit. Make a list that can be developed into an interview template and scoring sheet, as described later.

Interview Questions

Ensure that all your questions are:

  • Relevant-centered on the required core competencies and pertaining only to areas that equal opportunity laws refer to as Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQ), which are those qualifications required to perform a job safely and efficiently and that are reasonably necessary to the operation of the business.
  • Behaviorally Based-asking candidates to describe past experiences in which they successfully demonstrated specific competencies.
  • Open-Ended-allowing insight into a candidate's thought processes without "leading" the answers you want or requiring unknowable, organization-specific facts.

Structure your interviews to provide candidates with multiple opportunities to prove their potential values and abilities to succeed in the role. Interviewing should not be a throw-back to fraternity hazing, where you put a jobseeker on the "hot seat" just because someone once did the same to you. It is easy to miss out on a great candidate if you focus more on making someone nervous and setting them up for failure than you do on evaluating their potential.

The Interview Conversation

Begin with introductions, a review of the meeting goals and timetable, and opening questions designed to put the candidate at ease. Then move into the format that you have prepared. You may want to have a template, on which you can quickly write notes around responses, handy. Know that your notes may be used as evidence in any employment-related lawsuit, so please make sure to keep them focused around required qualifications and competencies.

Remember that in a good interview, information should flow both ways. Plan time in the interview to take advantage of this opportunity to tell your organization's story to a person who may end up being important to you, whether or not they are right for this particular job. Allow the candidate to talk for approximately 70 percent of the time and you (and your colleagues) to speak for 30 percent of the time. Watch for responsive comments and intelligent questions.

Making a Decision

Fill in a scoring sheet as soon as possible to capture your thoughts around a candidate's capacities related to your specific areas of focus. This information should be recorded both numerically (1-10 scale) and in short commentary form. If multiple interviewers are involved, have each one complete the scoring sheet individually and then convene the group to compare impressions.

Try to prevent immediate reactions, premature conclusions, and irrelevant subject matter from clouding your judgment about whether or not a candidate will be able to succeed in a role. You may not be able to gain adequate perspective on any one candidate until you have interviewed several individuals.

Although all interviews should carefully consider a candidate's personality fit with the organizational culture, remember that you need to focus on selecting the right employee, not a new best friend.


A thoughtful and thorough interview process will increase your ability to evaluate candidates and make the right hires. Remember that your interview process reflects the value your organization places on its members. Viewing the interview process as an opportunity, not a chore or challenge, will communicate a positive corporate outlook and engender goodwill between candidates and your organization.