How to conduct a successful job interview

8 interviewing tips to sell your company and attract top talent

When attracting top talent in a competitive job market, the very first interaction a potential candidate has with your company starts in the job interview. And in this case, first impressions are extremely important.

Selling your company to candidates

Remember: An interview is never solely about a job candidate answering your questions and then you decide whether to hire them. Candidates are also interviewing you and scoping out your organization, which you represent, to decide whether joining your company is the right move for them. In tight job markets – or when you’re recruiting highly qualified job candidates who can afford to be choosy, as well as passive candidates – this is especially true. In other words, the interview is an opportunity for both parties to shine.

The last thing you want is for a job candidate to be so turned off by your interviewing technique and process that they tell other prospective applicants about their bad experience with your company or post a negative review online. This can hurt your employer brand.

With this in mind, let’s walk through an optimal interview process, highlighting the actions you should take for the best chance of a successful outcome for both parties. These tips are relevant to both in-person or remote (video or phone) interviews.

8 ways to attract top talent during an interview

1. Understand the company you’re selling

This seems simple, but the main thing you can do to make sure you’re putting your company in the best light in front of a job candidate is to understand in advance all the reasons you know the company is great. Be prepared to share:

  • The company culture, mission, vision and values. More and more candidates expect their employer to have values that align with their own. When you discuss this during the interview, also share examples as to how those values are put into practice by the leadership team on a daily basis.
  • Benefits: Don’t skimp on the details when it comes to what your company offers. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your company’s complete benefits package, which may include:
    • Health insurance
    • Dental insurance
    • Paid vacation
    • 401(k) retirement plan
  • Perks: How does your company go above and beyond, and what sets it apart from other companies? What are the perks and other aspects of the company culture that make your organization unique? Do you offer some of the following?
    • Tuition reimbursement
    • Wellness programs
    • On-site childcare
    • Volunteer days
    • Casual dress code
    • Snacks or free meals
    • Pet-friendly office
    • Hybrid work options
    • 10/90 work weeks
    • Annual reviews
    • Quarterly or yearly bonuses

These are just a few examples of the many fringe benefits you may have. Don’t give the high-level overview – provide details. Candidates want to hear the full list, so they have a clear answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?”

2. Prepare for their questions

Taking time to prepare for the questions your interviewee may have is just as important as the questions you are preparing to ask. As candidates may have multiple offers on the table, the answers to these questions will be most important in their decision-making.

  •  What do you enjoy most about working for your company?
    • You want to show enthusiasm and generate excitement about your company. If you haven’t thought about this question and look unprepared, or struggle to produce a positive answer for why you enjoy showing up to work day after day, then the message may come across from a candidate’s perspective as negative. This may lead them to form the opinion that your organization isn’t one they would want to join.
  • What keeps you coming to work every day?
    • If your candidate asks this question after asking what you enjoy, they’re probably looking for more information. Your answer may address:
      • Great team members
      • Work-life balance
      • Freedom of expression
      • Room for professional development and growth within the organization
      • Flexibility

3. Gather all information about the position

Are you an HR generalist or an assistant, as opposed to the direct hiring manager? It’s often the case that the person conducting the job interview is not the same person who will manage the new hire. In this circumstance, it’s especially critical that you speak with the hiring manager and team members to understand all facets of the open position and its requirements, including:

  • The team
  • Technologies used
  • Day-to-day tasks
  • Types of projects
  • Customers they’ll interact with
  • Opportunities for travel, training and continuing education

Make sure that you can answer these types of questions. Job candidates are almost guaranteed to ask them, and they may be frustrated with vague, inadequate answers.

4. Know who you’re looking for

Candidates are analyzing the questions you ask them. If there’s ambiguity about what you’re looking for in the role, they may be hesitant to move forward. Make sure you understand in advance:

  • What key factors are required for the role and, therefore, which core competencies are critical?
  • What other qualities and characteristics would bring the most value to the role, as well as the organization?
  • What makes someone a good fit in terms of skills and qualifications?
  • What makes someone a good cultural fit in terms of fitting in with the team and aligning with the company’s core values?

It’s also important to define the type of job candidate you’re looking for upfront because these are objective, consistent standards by which to measure all candidates. You don’t want to rely on gut feelings, which are subjective, tend to be based on personally liking someone and can often turn out to be wrong.

5. Become familiar with each candidate

The interviewer reflects the company for which they’re hiring. So, candidates will want to be met by someone who is warm, attentive and cares about their professional development. Before the interview:

  • Learn their names so that you can build rapport.
  • Review each candidate’s resume in advance of the interview. You don’t want to waste time in the interview reading the resume aloud or rehashing basic information.
  • Write down specific questions covering areas over which you need elaboration or clarification relating to their unique work history. Also prepare questions about how their skill sets and competencies relate to the open position.

6. Plan the interview process

You want to offer each job candidate a good experience interviewing with your company and be respectful of their time. To that end:

  • Streamline the interview process as much as possible. For example, condense a four-step process (initial phone interview, in-person interview, follow-up interview and final interview) into a few steps. This is for simplicity and to avoid burnout and frustration from job candidates.
  • Be prepared to deliver an introduction, or ice breaker, in which you’ll explain that the purpose of the interview is to ensure that both parties get the information they need to make a good decision. Then describe the overall flow of the interview to the candidate and what the interview will entail. They will want to know what to expect up front.
  • If the interview will be a group or panel interview, decide in advance the questions that each person will ask and in which order, and who will provide the overview at the beginning. (Good practice is to cap panel interviews at three people maximum to maintain efficiency and time management, and to make job candidates feel more comfortable and less overwhelmed.)

7. Be aware of your behavior, body language and tone

Interview processes can become methodical and draining for the interviewer, especially if it’s a role you’ve had trouble filling. But don’t let this seep into the interview and come across negatively to the interviewee.

  • Be engaged. Give your full attention to the job candidate for the duration of the interview, leaving behind anything that could distract you, such as a cell phone.
  • Maintain eye contact and your focus on the candidate – don’t look around the room or stare off screen at your notes, which can make you appear distracted and rude. If you need to look down at your notes, explain this is what you’re doing.
  • Don’t cross your arms or lean back. It can unintentionally look defensive and closed off.
  • Don’t forget the human element. You want to do what you can to make people feel comfortable even though they’re in the hot seat.
    • Understand that many people are nervous in this situation, so give them some grace.
    • Demonstrate warmth and enthusiasm in your tone – especially if it’s a phone interview and the candidate can’t see your facial expressions or gestures.
    • Allow candidates time to pause and consider their response, if you sense that a candidate is struggling with a question. Remember:
      • Not everyone has to answer right away.
      • Don’t let them off the hook, but do probe further, ask follow-up questions and encourage them to say what comes to mind.
  • Deploy active listening skills.
    • Listen carefully to what candidates are saying. How job candidates answer questions reveals their thought processes and what they consider important. It can also uncover some red flags to watch out for.
    • Pay attention to accomplishments and anecdotes that demonstrate ambition and initiative. As part of this discussion, note whether the candidate appears more confident or arrogant. And, to what extent do they show drive and passion?
    • Consider their choice of words. (For example, do they use “I” or “we” more? What does this say about their individual – versus team –accomplishments?)
  • Be selective about where the interview happens. Pick a neutral, professional environment, in a quiet area free of family interruptions or barking dogs. Be mindful of your background and conceal any personal or sensitive information that may be visible.

8. Ask the right questions

Lead the interview by asking what a candidate knows about your company. This saves you valuable interview time in describing the company – which the candidate should already know anyway, at this stage of the hiring process. Asking this will help you gauge how much research and preparation a candidate has done.

You also want to ask why they’re interested in the position and your company. This will indicate their level of motivation, passion and commitment.

In addition to your other planned questions, including those specific to a candidate resume, use these examples of strong behavioral questions as a starting point for your standard interview guide questions:

Adaptability: Tell me about a situation when you were under a great deal of pressure because of numerous demands competing for your time and attention. How did you resolve the situation?

Customer service: Tell me about the most difficult customer encounter you’ve experienced. How did you handle it?

Dependability: Tell me about a time when you had difficulty keeping a commitment. How did you handle it?

Ethics: Describe a situation in which you worked with someone you didn’t like or respect. How did you cope with the relationship?

Initiative: Tell me about an opportunity that presented itself to you, but you were reluctant to take the risk. What did you do?

Interpersonal skills: Tell me about a time you had a serious conflict with a co-worker. How did you handle the situation?

Judgment: Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision. What process did you go through to arrive at the decision?

Leadership: Tell me about a time when you had to inspire or energize an unmotivated individual or group? How did you do it, and what was the result?

Planning and organizing: Give me a summary of the techniques you use to plan and organize your work. Describe how you applied one of these techniques in a specific situation.

Teamwork: Tell me about a time when you had to set your own interests or priorities aside in the interest of the team.

Bonus tip: Follow up after the interview

The interview experience doesn’t end with the final question. Always conclude each interview by asking the candidate if they have any additional questions. Then:

  • Review the next steps in the hiring process and provide a timeline for when the candidate can expect to hear back from you. Communication and follow-through are key – do what you say you’re going to do. So many candidates report frustration at hearing nothing back from a company after they’ve spent their valuable time interviewing. No one wants to feel ignored or rejected without explanation.

Professionalism and transparency say a lot to others about your employer brand. You want to behave in a way that leaves a good opinion with as many people as possible. Frankly, ghosting a candidate is as bad – and probably even worse for your brand – as having them ghost you.

  • Once your company decides to hire a candidate, inform the other candidates who interviewed as a sign of respect and courtesy. Give them constructive feedback if you feel there’s a specific way they could improve for their next job interview.

Summing it all up

Attracting top talent in today’s competitive market can be challenging. Focus on:

  • Sharing your company’s mission, vision and values
  • Giving details about the different benefits and perks offered for the position
  • Preparing for their questions regarding why you love your job. What makes the company sizzle?
  • Coming to the interview prepared, briefed on the history of the candidate and focused on the conversation
  • Following up after, regardless of whether the candidate is hired, to maintain a good brand reputation and future opportunities with the candidate

To learn more about how to hire the right people and winning top talent, download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business
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