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Executing Candidate Interviews

What you need to know to make executing candidate interviews a breeze?

Published on January 1st, 2023

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As a recruiter, conducting candidate interviews is a crucial part of the hiring process. It’s the opportunity to assess a candidate’s qualifications, skills, and fit for the role and organization. However, it can also be a time-consuming and challenging task. Here, we will discuss executing candidate interviews effectively and efficiently.

Three commonly used types of interviews

1. One-on-one interviews

This is the most prevalent form of interview used in hiring. This in name means one interviewer and one candidate per interview, but this is common in the next type of interview and does not distinguish it from other types of interviews. Therefore what we refer to when we mention one-on-one interviews is the standard face-to-face interview conducted in person. They can be structured or unstructured and an adept recruiter can identify qualities in the candidate via the body language they exhibit in person. They are helpful as they keep the decision making concise and limited to one person and minimizes the time and costs involved.

2. Telephone or remote interview

This mode of interviews have boomed in use in recent years following the pandemic and the shift to remote work. Telephone interviews were initially limited in their use to screening candidates and preliminary questioning. As of now however, with technological advancements they have evolved in their utility and have become a cost-effective method of reliably interviewing candidates around the world. Software such as Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc provide the ability to schedule and manage online interviews and also provide a complete ecosystem in which different tasks can be assigned, collaboration can take place and employee activity can be monitored. Telephone interviews were also previously constrained owing to the costs involved in calling someone. Now, with the prevalence of the internet, this has also become a thing of the past.

3. Group interviews

The group in group interviews can be from either side of the interview. That is, there can be a panel of recruiters who interview a single candidate or there can be a group of candidates being interviewed by one recruiter. The latter does not see frequent use as it requires an exceptional level of attention and multitasking from the sole recruiter’s end which can be cumbersome to manage. Comparatively, the panel of recruiters is more common when conducting candidate interviews as it provides a few benefits over the traditional one-on-one interview process.

Firstly, the recruiter can have assistance in recruiting candidates from fields they lack experience or knowledge in. Secondly, they reduce instances of discrimination and bias as multiple people are involved in the decision making process. Thirdly, a diverse panel of recruiters is indicative of a tolerant work environment which can make the candidate more comfortable and attract talented applicants.

Now that you are aware of the common types of interviews,

Here are some tips to get you started!

1. Prepare for the interview

Before executing candidate interviews, take the time to review the candidate’s resume and cover letter. Make note of any relevant experience, skills, or qualifications that align with the job requirements. Identify gaps or lacks in their resumes and extracurricular activities. This will help develop a list of specific questions to ask during the interview. Additionally, it’s a good idea to familiarize oneself with the company’s mission, values, and culture so that we can evaluate the candidate’s fit with the organization. Following this we schedule the interview after communicating with the applicant and any time until they show up is considered prep time.

2. Reduce candidate stress

It is well known that interviews can be extremely nerve racking. Regardless of the type of interview used, candidates might get nervous having to prove themselves in front of absolute strangers. Nervousness displayed during an interview might not be relevant to the candidate's professional capabilities but does make the entire hiring process more tedious.

Therefore recruiters should aim to reduce the stress of their applicants as much as possible while conducting candidate interviews. Comfortable applicants yield productive interviews and are able to answer questions more effectively. In the same realm, since the topic of finances can be difficult for candidates to talk about leading to a rise in stress, it is always recommended that recruiters ask for a candidate's permission or consent before delving into their pay history.

3. Ask the right questions

During the interview, the preparations made help us direct the conversation to the areas we need clarity in. We must ask the right questions at the right time and the nature of these questions changes depending on what we wish to identify regarding the candidate.

To elaborate,

  • Ask open ended questions: During the interview, it’s important to ask open-ended questions. These let candidates provide detailed responses and elaborate on them as needed. Yes or no questions and other similar close ended queries should be avoided as they don’t provide much insight into the candidate’s qualifications or experience.

For example: Instead of asking a candidate whether they can code in Java or Python, ask them what their favorite coding language is. Rather than getting one dimensional information, we can access a whole new set of data regarding the candidate such as their attitude and interests.

  • Assess the candidate’s work history and pay rate: It is important to assess the candidates work history to determine the standard that has been set for their work up until their application. The same applies for their pay rate.

    For the inexperienced recruiter, all that the details let them do is relay information to HR where the candidate's salary at the organization can be determined. However, by conducting an effective candidate interview we can reveal more information that a good recruiter can make use of.

    A candidate's work history documents their growth and gives us a monetary perspective of said growth. We can track the valuation of their skills, knowledge and services. Therefore, we can not only gauge what they should be paid for their services at the organization but also their prospective growth and development in the time they spend in employment with the organization.

    With the domain of technology and work culture constantly evolving around the globe, it is vital that we employ candidates who display the potential to improve over time and keep up with technological advancements in the industry.

    A candidate’s pay history is also relevant if they have worked at a rival company. It gives us a peek into the practices of competitors in the industry and how they are valuing certain roles and knowledge. Their work history on the other hand, provides a qualification for the professional viability of their skills and knowledge.

    It should be noted that around 21 states in the US have outlawed pay history questions. Therefore recruiters should refer to their state's legislation before engaging participants with salary specific questions.

  • Identify and verify the candidate's skills & knowledge: This is the most crucial aspect of executing candidate interviews. We are appraising the candidate on the basis of the company’s needs and what they can offer. There are a plethora of methods that a recruiter can use to assess these but it is ideal to have a specialist present during the interview who can quiz and cross examine the candidate in the relevant matters. It is important to identify the source of a candidate's knowledge as this provides some credibility to their capabilities. A candidate would generally list their skills and experience on their resume, which is why recruiters need to use open-ended questions to get them to elaborate on the pertinent points.

    However, it is at this stage that we can afford to use close ended questions. If certain skills or technical know-how are mandatory for a specific role or task, close-ended questions can help us quickly confirm whether the candidate possesses them.

    Recruiters should bear in mind that there has been a rising trend in the importance of soft skills in candidates. Soft skills are personal characteristics and idiosyncrasies that determine how an individual functions independently and with others in a professional setting. They are separate from a candidate’s technical knowledge or skills also known as hard skills. Soft skills include abilities such as interpersonal communication, organizational skills, conflict resolution,etc. and individual traits such cooperativeness, creativity, adaptability, etc.

  • Check whether the candidate is a cultural fit: It is necessary to consider the work culture of the organization when conducting candidate interviews. Applicants should be surmised on the basis of their personality, attitude and interpersonal skills to see whether they can be comfortable at the company and work in a conflict free, efficient manner. Open ended questions are greatly helpful in this regard. By having a candidate answer open ended questions, we get an insight into their personality, communication skills, motivations etc.

  • Employ active listening: Active listening is a key component of conducting effective interviews. It means paying close attention to the candidate’s responses and being fully present in the conversation. Avoid interrupting the candidate or thinking about the next question or response while they are speaking. This will ensure full engagement in the conversation and make the recruiter gain a deeper understanding of the candidate’s qualifications and experience. If a candidate feels like they are being listened to they find it easier to talk about their queries which makes the interview more productive.

  • Take notes: Taking notes during the interview will assist in tracking key points about the candidate’s qualifications and experience. It will also be useful when it comes time to evaluate the candidate and make a hiring decision. While conducting candidate interviews, be sure to note any specific skills or qualifications that might prove beneficial in the course of work, as well as any red flags that may be hindrances to the same. Note taking also removes the need to commit details to memory, providing a reference that can be utilized by others.

  • Follow up: Make it a habit to follow up with the candidate after the interview. This can be done via email or phone call. Thank them for their time and let them know when they can expect to hear back from you regarding the next steps in the hiring process. This contributes to creating a better candidate experience. Having a positive candidate experience prevents lags in the interviews and can be instrumental in attracting more applicants to the company.

  • Evaluate the candidate: Following the interview, take the time to evaluate the candidate based on the information gathered. Factors such as the candidate’s experience, education, and relevant skills should take priority. It’s also important to consider how the candidate would fit with the company culture and whether their values align with those of the organization.

In conclusion, conducting effective and efficient candidate interviews is an important aspect of the hiring process for recruiters. By preparing, asking the right questions, listening actively, taking notes, and making efforts towards the process as a whole, recruiters can ensure that they are selecting the best candidate for the job. With these tips in hand, you can improve your interviewing skills and make better hiring decisions for your organization.

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