Interview strategies for successful hiring

Last updated:
May 11, 2021
December 23, 2021
min read
Brendan McConnell
Table of contents

If the candidate experience is important to your recruitment team, then ensuring you have a great interviewing strategy should be at the top of your priority list.

Interviews are a core touch point in the hiring process that can make or break your company’s employer brand. Because of this, it’s critical that you have a strong interview strategy in place.

You should continuously be asking yourself questions like “what makes a good interviewer?” or “how long should an interview last?” to ensure that your team is aligned with the best practices for interviewing.

In this article, we’re going to answer these important questions with the goal of helping you and your team become expert interviewers.

The importance of great interviews

Did you know that 74% of employers have admitted that they’ve hired the wrong person for a position? That’s a staggering number when you account for the organizational cost that comes with a bad hire.

One of the best ways to combat the risk of hiring the wrong person is to ensure that your interviewing process is as effective as possible. Effective means that your interviews should deliberately and systematically work to identify the best candidate out of your chosen pool, and provide them with a great experience that encourages them to join your team.

A great interview process is incredibly important for successful hiring for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Providing a better candidate experience. Over 80% of people say that a negative interview can change their mind about a role or company they once liked. Of course, the opposite can also be true. An enjoyable and fair interview can help solidify your company as a desirable place to work in the applicant’s mind, and help to improve the overall candidate experience as a result.
  • Getting the right information about your applicants. The purpose of the interview is for you to get additional information about your candidate’s skills, experience, and personality that cannot be gathered from the resume. Likewise, it’s an opportunity for the candidate to gather information about the role and your company.
  • Helping you make an informed decision on shortlisted applicants. Ultimately, interviews should help make it clearer which candidate has the skills, experience, and personality you’re looking for to fill a position. This is a critical step in the screening process to ensure that you don’t choose the wrong candidate, and let the right choice walk out the door.
  • Positioning your company as a desirable place to be. Lastly, interviews are a chance to showcase your company and team as a great place to be. You should always take steps to ensure that the candidate feels welcome, and that you’re putting your best foot forward.

Now onto some more nitty gritty questions about interviews and interviewing.

How long should an interview last?

Effective interviewing comes down to proper planning. You should always ensure that you’re paying attention to each minute detail of your screening strategy, all the way down to knowing how long an interview should last. This may seem like a basic question, but knowing how much time you’re likely to need is critical to ensuring that you’re maximizing the return from your efforts.

To be clear, there is no set length of time that you must adhere to for all interviews. This will obviously vary depending on your needs, the job, your industry, and so on. But, you should have a relatively consistent timeline that you use for every interview to ensure fairness between candidates.

As a general rule of thumb, in-person interviews usually take between 45 minutes and one hour. This could be longer if you include skills tests or interviews with multiple team members.

Phone screen interviews, on the other hand, are almost always shorter and typically last about 30 minutes or less.

What’s more important than how long an interview should last is ensuring that you get all of the information you need from the candidate, and spend enough time getting to know them as a person.

10 characteristics of a great interviewer

Now that we’ve answered why interviews are important, and how long an interview should last, let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of an effective interviewer.

  • They spend a lot of time planning and preparing. Preparation is hands down the most important step in interviewing candidates. This entails studying the job requirements, creating an ideal candidate persona, writing the questions you need answered in advance, and creating a scorecard with which to judge candidates.
  • They understand what’s needed from the hire. As mentioned above, great interviewers know what is needed from a candidate to be a successful employee. They meet with stakeholders and form a clear picture of the ideal candidate persona which they can then compare applicants against during the interview.
  • They research the candidate. Interviewing candidates means that you need to know who they are, and what their background is. Spending an hour with a candidate will be pretty awkward if they’re just answering questions they’ve already answered in their application. Instead, take the time to study their resume, cover letter, work samples, and social media profiles. Use this information as reference material to guide your interview conversation.
  • They’re great at making conversation. Interviewers need to be good communicators. That’s just inherent to the job. Nuggets of useful, differentiating information from a candidate often come from candid conversations, facilitated by a skilled interview. You should always strive to position your interviews as two-way conversations, where a candidate will feel comfortable answering and asking questions.
  • They ask the right questions. Skilled interviewers know what questions they need to ask in order to meet their goals from the interview. This comes back to planning what you’re hoping to achieve from the meeting, and reverse engineering a conversation that is likely to lead you to the information you need.
  • They take extensive and accurate notes. Good interviewers know that their memory isn’t perfect. Detailed and accurate note taking helps recruiters accurately review what was said during an interview, which is essential to making an informed decision about a candidate later.
  • They’re a company advocate. As an interviewer, you’re the face of your company when you talk to candidates. That means that you need to be a champion of your company, your team, and the role. If not, then the candidate might get the impression that this application isn’t worth their while.
  • They are kind and empathetic. Interviews are stressful. When stressed, many people end up not being able to showcase themselves effectively. A skilled interviewer has the ability to put candidates at ease, allowing them to demonstrate their personality and knowledge more naturally.
  • They learn from their mistakes. Interviewing is a game of constant improvement. That means that interviewers should keep records of their past interviews, monitor the results of their decision, and seek advice when things don’t go their way.
  • They are able to analyze body language. Finally, interviewers are aware that most of what people say is said with their body language. Because of this, great interviewers are able to read a candidate’s body language to help fill in the blanks in what a candidate is saying, helping to facilitate follow-up questions.

Don’t worry if you don’t have some of the characteristics listed here. Many of these are skills that can be developed with the right effort and motivation to improve your interviewing abilities.

Skills to develop to become a great interviewer

If there’s one thing that is consistent about great interviewers it’s that they are continuously working to improve their skills. Interviewing is a technique that requires regular practice and reflection into what worked, and what didn’t.

If you’re looking to improve your interviews, then here are the skills you should work on:

  • Listening. Great interviews have one thing in common: they listen intently to their interviewees. Listening is critical to getting a full picture of the person you’re interviewing, and will help you steer the conversation where you need it to go.
  • Conversation skills. As mentioned in the previous section, interviewers need to be good conversationalists. If you aren’t, then you should start practicing on real people immediately.
  • Asking follow-up questions. There are usually two parts to an interview: the questions, and the follow-up questions. This is where you get the most valuable information, and nuggets that you weren’t expecting during planning. Learn how to listen to the answer, and formulate a thoughtful follow-up question that steers the conversation forward.
  • Empathy and fairness. Again, interviews can be stressful. The best interviewers are empathetic to candidates, and give everybody a fair chance to show their worth.
  • Identifying bias. Cognitive biases, even when not noticed or intentional, can have a negative impact on your ability to screen a candidate objectively. It’s important that you understand how cognitive biases work, think about your own biases, and take steps to mitigate them. One great way to do this is to use structured interviews or objective scorekeeping that can be analyzed on an even playing field after an interview.

A great way to ensure that your interviewing abilities are top notch is to practice with your co-workers and ask for their feedback. Take notes and adapt your technique based on their input.

You should also study how professional interviewers, like broadcast journalists or documentarians, interact with their guests to extract the best pieces of information. Knowing how to steer a conversation in the right direction is key to getting the information you need to make the best hiring decision possible.

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