How to get an ‘A+’ in interviewing

interviewI remember every interview I’ve given in my adult life. I am also acutely aware of the pivotal part each interviewer played in determining the success of the interview. The task of an interviewer is not an easy one. Interviewing is an art and one that doesn’t always come naturally. We owe the mastery of this art to the candidates who often put in hours if not days of effort. Over the years, I’ve observed a few common traits in some of the best interviewers I’ve ever come across. While these traits may seem obvious, it takes time to inculcate. Everyone has witnessed a poor interviewer. Some come across as arrogant, too full of themselves or just bored. You may be the best HR pro out there, but it is possible to be terrible at interviewing despite your achievements. So the next time you step in to take an interview, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Do your homework

While this doesn’t take time, it is one of the most overlooked aspects of interviewing. Far too often, interviewers look at the candidate’s resume, job application, job description or characteristics being profiled minutes before they enter the room or worse, after the interview begins. All it is take is 30 minutes and with experience the time cuts down to 15 minutes but never less than that. Your time is precious and so is the candidates. Read the resume before you start and if needed find your candidate on LinkedIn. Look at the competencies you are going to be judging and frame questions to ask. The questions will change as the interview proceeds but a framework always helps as vs an empty slate.

  1. Invest in breaking the ice

Some candidates walk in nervous vs some walk in confident. It doesn’t help to quickly jump into a Q&A. Take time to introduce yourself. Use your sense of judgement to invest as much time as it takes to make the candidate comfortable. If they are on the phone, ask if they need to take a minute to step into a room. If in person, offer water. It rarely takes more than five minutes of your time but goes a long way in holding a successful conversation.

  1. Be genuinely curious

Two traits are key to a successful interview. The lack of judgement and the presence of curiosity. It may sound counter-intuitive. After all, you are required to pass a judgement on the candidate. There is a difference in looking at data to arrive at a conclusion vs you being judgmental in the room. Throw aside your accomplishments once in the room. Be genuinely curious. Consider yourself a treasure hunter and the candidate the map. Make an effort to know more about the candidate via the framework of questions you created prior.

  1. Take notes

So if you aren’t taking a decision in the room, when do you do so? After the interview is over, once you have consolidated all your learnings from the hour. However, there is something you must do while in the interview. Take notes. Our memory is rarely as good as we think it is. Often it is clouded by factors outside of your control. Take a pen and paper or your laptop and take notes. It isn’t rude. Explain to the candidate that you are listening as you take notes as opposed to answering your email. Use your notes to take a fair call.

  1. Save time for questions

Everyone already does this. Do they not? There is however a precursor to this point. Before you wrap up your bit, ensure you have all the necessary information you need to make a decision. Don’t give up on the candidate halfway and lose interest. Once you have finished asking your fair share of questions, stay as alert as you were during the interview. A candidate may often surprise you while asking questions. They may change the decision altogether. It is rare but it happens. In fact, I use this time to strike up a conversation with the interviewer who has lost all interest in me during the course of the interview.

A good interview is always an interesting conversation and never a volley of one-way questions. The moment it is the interviewer asking one question after another without engaging in a conversation, you know that the interview has gone south. It is better for an interview to go south when it hasn’t been your doing.

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