The Ultimate Guide on
How to Interview Candidates Effectively

When most people think of the interview process, they first consider the applicant’s viewpoint, who is trying to make a great impression. However, most people fail to consider the other side: the hiring team who goes through hundreds of resumes and CVs to find qualified candidates.

When it’s time to fill vacant positions in your team, the pressure’s on to find the best possible candidates with all skills and professional experience you need. Job interviews exist so that you have an opportunity to get better acquainted with seemingly top talent and obtain information to help you decide if they’re right for the job you advertised.

However, learning how to interview candidates can be challenging. Not only do you have to assess their personalities and verify their credentials, but you have to maintain a professional tone and a cool facade while doing so.

To help you breeze through interviews and improve your skills in assessing candidates, here’s a guide complete with tips for interviewing candidates.

new hire shaking hands with the manager

1. Determine how many interviews and interviewers you need

The first step on how to interview candidates for a job effectively is to add structure to your interview process. This includes deciding on the number of interviews and interviews you plan on having. Deciding this early on will help you avoid many scheduling frustrations down the line and improve the experience of candidates too.

When determining how many interviews you need, look at your current metrics regarding the quality of hires and compare them to the feedback given by past interviewers. If your interviewers keep on recommending applicants who aren’t fit for the job, this is a clear indication that you need more interviews to evaluate them. It may take some experimentation on your part but from a candidate perspective, 84% said that they’re satisfied with three interviews per role. A total of three interviews is also the standard average among many industries.

recruiter checking and signing a document

Pro tip: Think about the number of interviewers you’ll need for each session too. To streamline the interview process and reduce bias, it’s great practice to have panel interviews. As this can result in a scheduling nightmare, you can invest in job interview scheduling software that easily lets you input everyone’s schedules (both interviewers and candidates).

2. Align interview questions with the role's requirements

When you want to learn how to interview a candidate effectively, it’s difficult if you have the same basic list of interview questions for each job opening. For one, it won’t give you a strong insight into the applicant’s suitability to the role. While it’s alright to have go-to, general questions, it’s best to tailor your list of questions to the needs of each role and give it a refresh every now and then.

You can try to have a healthy mix of situational and behavioral questions. For instance, when you’re situational questions such as “What would you do if…” allow you to see their soft and hard skills in action while behavioral questions such as “Tell me about a time when you had to…” give you an idea of how candidates have tackled past difficulties and challenges.

At the end of the day, your questions should be aimed at giving you insight on whether an applicant has the essential skills and work ethics for the open position. Once you have a set of questions, you’ll find it easier to evaluate candidates by comparing their answers side by side. This also helps you instill fairness into your process by reducing unconscious bias.

3. Train interviews and equip them with the best practices in interviewing

Not everyone is born naturally good at interviewing, which is why it’s important to learn how to interview a candidate for a job. Likewise, be sure that each person involved in the interviewing process goes through some basic training. While there are external workshops that tackle the interview process, you can also accomplish this in-house by setting aside a few hours to cover some interview basics, fundamentals, and best practices.

One major area that should be covered when teaching people how to interview a candidate is legal and ethical requirements. Provide a list of interview questions that are illegal or unpleasant to ask. Explain to your interviewers why these questions are off-limits.

Additionally, ensure that everyone in the interview process understands their respective roles, the responsibilities of the position, and the qualities you’re looking for in candidates. Emphasize which skills are must-haves and which ones are only nice-to-haves. Since 57% of professionals admit that they struggle in assessing soft skills accurately, it’s worth taking the time to clearly explain each soft skill required for an opening and give concrete examples. This will reduce confusion among interviewers and ensure they know how to interview candidates consistently.

woman presenting a proposal while holding her tablet

4. Outline your interview process on your career site

According to LinkedIn, 65% of candidates browse through your company website to conduct research before an interview. You can earn their respect and improve the quality of interviews if you post an outline of the interview process on your career page.

This sends signals to candidates that your company is invested in their success. Candidates will come in feeling more confident and better-prepared, helping you evaluate them more accurately. You’ll also receive fewer phone calls and confused emails on your end.

Pro tip: Customize your Career Page with Skillfuel’s Job Portal! Create an outline of your interview process, configure designs, arrange content sections, and more. 

1. Create and distribute an evaluation form for interviewers

This is one of the old but gold tips for interviewing candidates. Before your interviewers meet your applicants, provide them with a standardized assessment form where they can jot down feedback. It’s a quick and simple way to reinforce what criteria interviewers should be evaluating, which helps them rate candidates on an objective scale.

Add boxes where interviewers can rank each applicant based on factors such as core skills, experience, and knowledge. Add a space where they can include additional comments. As you’ll be comparing candidates across the same criteria, this makes it fairly easier to compare them.

female recruiter shaking hands with an applicant
female employee presenting reports

2. Don't make it all about what you want – find out what the candidate wants from the position too

It’s essential to evaluate a candidate’s skills, knowledge, and experience, but when you want to know how to interview candidates effectively, you’ll have to build an emotional connection with them too. Focusing solely on their abilities and what they can offer to the company comes across as cold and uninviting. Remember, they’ll be your future employees. You’ll want them to feel welcomed even before onboarding begins.

Ask them what they’re looking for in a role, in a supervisor, and in an employer. Find out the types of skills they’re interested in learning or improving. Let them discuss interests and passions that aren’t directly relevant to the role. Having these sorts of questions will give you additional insights into the candidate’s personal values and soft skills. It’ll also help you assess if they’ll fit into your company’s culture.

These types of questions are also a double-edged sword. They show candidates that you’re genuinely interested in getting to know them as individual people — not just as names on a clipboard. The questions also help you gain a better sense of their potential and see where they’ll best fit in at your organization.

Pro tip: Boost recruiter efficiency and improve the candidate experience with Skillfuel’s Job Interview Scheduling & Tracking Software. Contact us today to get started.

1. Give candidates a clear timeline and an overview of the next steps

Now that you know how to interview candidates effectively, it’s time to discuss what happens after the interview. First things first, don’t end interviews on an uncertain note. Before the applicant leaves, discuss with them what happens next and provide them with a clear timeframe for when they can expect to hear from you — say, within three days or within a week.

Candidates know you won’t have an immediate answer for them and often, they’re fine with that. But some people also have bad experiences wherein they never hear from a company ever again. You want to make a good impression that you’re not that kind of employer. When you’re frank with them, it will boost their trust in your company and make them think twice about accepting offers elsewhere, especially when they know they’ll hear back from you within a given timeline.

recruiter interviewing an applicant

2. Gather feedback from interviewers right after the interview

After gathering the evaluation forms from each interviewer, get the full scoop by discussing candidates with them. Since they’re probably busy people, it’ll be wise to block off at least 15 minutes of their time for a quick yet concise chat right after the interviews are over. Otherwise, you’ll chase them down in the days to come, and they’ll likely forget key details or points from the interview.

To avoid conformity bias, make sure interviewers don’t discuss candidates with each other until feedback has been gathered. Hold individual briefings rather than as a group so that the discussion will be unfiltered and genuine.

female recruiter using a recruitnment software

3. Keep candidates warm until you're ready to extend the offer

Even after you’ve informed candidates about the next steps, keep them updated throughout the decision-making process. Whether you’re on track with the original timeframe you outlined or not, sending short follow-up messages will let them know about your commitment and help strengthen their interest in you.

By maintaining regular contact, you let candidates know that you care about how they’re feeling. If ever you decide to extend an offer to them, your dedication could be the push that encourages them to take the job. If they don’t, they’ll still be grateful for your efforts, which can lead to positive online reviews and word-of-mouth testaments.

Pro tip: Easily rank, track, and discuss candidates with Skillfuel’s Applicant Tracking Software. Get an easy, risk-free account today.

Better Hires Start with Better Interviews

On the surface, learning how to interview a candidate effectively sounds easy. However, the nuance of interviewing candidates extends well beyond just talking about their skills and abilities. It requires a thoughtful and well-organized interview process that leaves candidates confident in your organization. Any friction will leave them doubting you as an employer and if they don’t have a great interview experience, they may hesitate when an offer comes their way.

Hopefully, the tips for interviewing candidates outlined in this page will help you streamline your interview process and create more meaningful and impactful experiences for your candidates. It’s all about giving your interviewers all the resources and tools they need on how to interview and assess candidates more effectively and encouraging them to treat each and every candidate fairly.

For more information and inquiries on how to interview a candidate for a job, contact Skillfuel today.

recruiter interviewing an applicant

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