Step up your interview game plan

Do you find the interview process difficult?  The candidate is nervous, you’re not really sure what questions to ask, and you seem to fall back on the traditional biographical interview?  Try making a few relatively simple changes in the interview process to step up your game and the perception of your company and its employer brand.

1. Set the candidate up for success

At the beginning of the interview, let the candidate know how long the interview will run, what kind of questions you will be asking and what sort of answers you will be looking for.

“Thanks for coming in to meet with us today.  We’re going to spend about an hour together and I would like to explain a bit about how we’re going to run the interview …  I would like to make sure that you have the opportunity to share as much relevant information as you can with us today …  I will also save some time toward the end of the interview to answer any questions you have for me.”

2. Screen for skills; interview for behavioral competencies

By the time the candidate gets through the door for a face to face interview, you should already know that they have the technical skills to do the job.  Use phone interviews to check for specific skills that you need in the job and cannot train for in the short-term.

Once the candidate is in the room, you should focus your interview questions on the behavioural competencies needed to do the job effectively.

Simply put, this is the difference between what you need done and how you need it done.

Do you need someone who works independently or can collaborate as part of a team?  They both may require the same skills, but the way the work gets done is very different.

“Can you tell me about a time when you had to work as part of a team to find a solution to a problem?”

“What have you done in the past when you had to work independently to solve a problem with very little supervision?”

It’s far easier to train someone on the latest social media tools than how to communicate effectively… Use job descriptions to determine the core competencies you need in the role and develop questions that address that need.

3. Be aware of how you ask the question

How you ask the question can have a big impact on the answer you get back.  Remember to ask open not closed questions and be careful not to assume the answer by the way you phrase the question.

Consider these two interview questions:
  • “Can you tell me about a time when you had to have a difficult conversation with a coworker?  What was the situation and what did you do?”
  • “Tell me about a time when you had to give negative feedback to a coworker.  Did you talk to them about the issue and give them constructive feedback to help them understand the problem and change how they were working?”

The first interview question is far more likely to get a response that indicates whether the candidate can effectively give feedback and address performance issues.  The second question is likely to get repeated back to you as an answer.

4. Walk the talk: get the answers you need

You took the time to explain the interview process to the candidate, now don’t let them off the hook with answers that aren’t specific enough or are incomplete.  Each answer should be an example from the candidate’s past experience and include the following:

  • Context… the background or situation
  • Action…. what happened
  • Role… what the candidate was actually responsible for doing
  • Effect…. the result or outcome from the action


As the interviewer, your job is to get the best possible information from the candidate so that you can make the best hiring decision possible for your organization.  You are also there to represent your company and its employer brand.  The best case scenario is one where every candidate leaves the interview with a positive impression of your company, your organization, and your recruiting process.

This article is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to be human resources consulting advice or specific advice for your business needs.

© 2016 Allium Consulting Group, LLC.  All rights reserved.