What is a job interview?
A job interview is a professional meeting between a prospective employee and an organization, company, or business to ask questions about someone’s qualifications, education, background, and experience. It’s an essential part of the hiring process and allows you to understand the content within a candidate’s cover letter and resume better. Job interviews can take place in person, over the phone, or by video, and depending on the role, you might give one interview or multiple rounds of interviews per candidate.
Why is a job interview important?
Job interviews are important because they give you insight into whether you want to hire a candidate. Often in conversation form, the questions asked in an interview can show you a person’s skills, job capabilities, and how they contribute to the success of a team or organization. You can use job interviews to compare candidates or build a list of future talent options for other open positions.
How to conduct a job interview
It’s important to prepare ahead of time for an interview so you can ask intentional questions that give thoughtful insight into a candidate and their skills. Consider carefully assessing the job opening you have and structuring questions that can best help you find out an applicant’s suitability for the position. Here are 12 steps you can take to conduct a strong job interview:
1. Prepare and develop questions
Preparing for an interview lets you best evaluate a candidate’s abilities. Start by reviewing their cover letter and curriculum vitae (CV) to assess if the education, background, and skills of the candidate align with the role or what areas of their professional career you want to learn more about during the upcoming conversation. You can also connect with leaders and colleagues who collaborate with the person in this role to ask if there are specific questions they want to be presented in the interview.
2. Apply the STAR interview structure
A common interview technique is STAR, which stands for:
- Situation: A situation or challenge faced
- Task: A task, duty, or responsibility of an individual
- Action: The action done to overcome, improve, or resolve an issue or challenge
- Result: The outcome of the actions taken
Candidates often use the STAR interview method when answering behavioural questions, like discussing a time they dealt with challenging customers or colleagues. The STAR structure for questions and answers can give you insight into how applicants approach problems and apply decision-making abilities to lead to positive outcomes. If an applicant doesn’t answer fully, consider asking follow-up questions or guide them to be more specific about the situation.
3. Vary the question types
Varying the question types during an interview can help it feel fresh and allow you to see different attributes of the candidate. A well-rounded mix of questions can also let you explore different facets of the job position and assess how well an applicant might perform. For example, consider using a combination of these questions:
- Closed-ended questions: You can use these to gain basic information, like “How many years of experience do you have?” or “You graduated with a degree from Ontario City College?”
- Open-ended questions: These let a candidate expand on a topic, like “What is a challenging goal you’re proud of achieving?” or “Explain a time you had to change your approach entirely.”
- Logic questions: You can gain insight into how an applicant approaches problem-solving with these questions, like “How many trees are there in Banff National Park?”
- Hypothetical questions: These questions invite a candidate to anticipate how to handle an issue, like “How would you react to a colleague who misses a deadline?”
4. Consider the style and number of interviewers
Interviews can happen via video, over the phone, or in person, so consider what style of interview is best and plan accordingly. You can also determine how many people you need to hold an interview, like a panel of colleagues for a prominent role or multiple rounds of interviews for a high-level position. Involving other relevant leaders in the interview process can also be useful to get different perspectives on the candidate’s experience and abilities.
5. Practice the interview
Once you have an outline of the style of the interview and a list of various questions, consider practicing the interview, especially if it is a developing skill. This can help you determine if questions are suitable or need adjustments, and approximately how long to schedule for the interview. Consider recording yourself to review your body language and performance, or ask a colleague to do a mock interview with you.
6. Explain the company’s position
Consider starting the interview with a brief introduction of yourself, the role, and some of the organization’s goals and objectives. This often provides candidates with a better understanding of job expectations and can give them topics to ask about later in the interview. If you need more information about the specific responsibilities of a role, you might ask the direct manager in advance.
7. Discuss the interview process
This step is about explaining the interview process to the candidate to keep the interview organized and with clear expectations. Consider sharing things like:
- How long to expect the interview to last
- What format the interview follows
- Whether there are work-related tasks, tests, or assessments
8. Let the candidate ask questions
One frequent element of a productive interview is an opportunity for the candidate to ask the employer questions. Consider giving time at the end of your interview to let them ask questions about the role, responsibilities, and expectations, or about the company itself and the team they might join. Not only does it let an applicant assess the position, but it can also give you insight into their level of interest.
9. Write notes to refer to later
During the interview, take notes of the candidate’s answers to help remember important information or crucial details. For example, consider writing answers that impress you or thoughts on a candidate’s body language, confidence level, and appearance. Notes can often give you assurance when it’s time to decide on which candidate to hire. Remember to balance note writing with active engagement during the interview.
10. Share next steps in the interview process
Near the end of the interview, consider outlining the next steps for the candidate to help set expectations. For example, share your intended timeline of making a hiring decision, when they can expect to hear from the company, or if another round of interviews is likely. Allowing the candidate to ask clarifying questions can also help establish an understanding of the next steps and expectations, too.
11. Use a rating scale
Consider how you and the hiring team assess a candidate’s interview performance and consider establishing a rating scale. It can be a numerical value or a simple rating of strong or weak for answers given. Combined with notes taken during the interview, you can evaluate an applicant or compare them to other strong candidates to guide your hiring decision.
12. Select a candidate and follow up with all applicants
This is an important step, even though it comes last. Once you decide which candidate to hire, notify the chosen candidate to inform them. Also, thank the other applicants interviewed and let them know the outcome. Getting back to candidates even when they didn’t get the job can help establish or grow an organization’s reputation. Consider using multiple contact methods, like email and phone, to make sure all candidates receive notice.