Interview techniques for employers: a comprehensive guide

Last updated:
July 30, 2021
May 17, 2023
min read
Bev Campling
Table of contents

As a hiring manager, conducting interviews is the most crucial part of the hiring process. There’s so much that can go wrong resulting in you either hiring the wrong candidate or losing the best hire on your interview list. The knock-on effect for the company can be severe, so the interview carries a massive amount of weight.

Hiring the wrong person or missing out on a valuable asset to your company is a costly mistake. And, frustratingly, it was most likely avoidable.

There are, of course, ways to prevent interview mistakes. Knowing and implementing effective interview techniques will strengthen your interview skills, resulting in far more successful hires.

So, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to our most effective interview tips so you can hire with confidence.

Types of job interview techniques

It’s essential to consider the interview in context, thinking about the details to plan ahead. You first need to acknowledge that each type of interview will require different techniques and tactics if you want to make the most out of your interview process.

The types of job interviews we’ll be looking at today are:

These interview techniques for employers will act as your arsenal, allowing a smoother interview process and a better end result for your candidate, your team, and your company as a whole.

Phone interview techniques for employers

The phone interview is generally the first step of the interview process, and it will be a deciding factor for many candidates. It gives you, as the employer, the opportunity to assess whether they’re the right fit.

At least, enough so for you to call them in for an in-person interview.

The phone interview phase is also crucial because it gives you the chance to develop a relationship with your candidates. Remember, while you’re interviewing them, they’re also assessing you and your organization. It works both ways.

Here are our top 5 phone interview techniques and tips for employers.

1. Plan ahead and pre-determine your interview questions with your collaborative hiring team.

Many people will consider telephone interviews as less official or more informal. As such, they blindly ask questions, jot down a few bullet points, and, once they hang up the phone, can rarely reiterate what was said.

It’s vital that you plan your questions in advance - as with any type of interview. Talk to the members of your hiring team and determine the nice-to-haves and the must-haves. Your questions should surround these skills and qualities.

Another benefit to pre-planning your questions is that you can ask the same series of questions. Altering your questions depending on the person is risky and is an unfair method.

2. Flexibility is key during the phone interview phase.

While in-person interviews are slightly different, phone interviews require a certain degree of flexibility from the employer.

Remember that your candidates are just as busy as you and are likely working other jobs. So, try to be empathetic and understanding, offering them a range of appointment times and dates or asking them when they’re available first

3. Do your research before the telephone interview.

As you’d expect your candidates to do some research before their interview, you should do the same. Make sure you actually read their application and their resume. It would be worth taking some bullet-pointed notes to have in front of you during the telephone interview, too.

4. Give your candidates the chance to ask questions.

As we said before, this telephone interview is a two-way street. Your candidates are trying to learn about you and the organization as much as you are about them.

Asking questions shows clear interest. It also demonstrates the level of research the individual has done before answering your call, allowing them the chance to ask questions.

Whether you choose to structure question time at the end of the call or scattered throughout, when you plan out your questions, you’ll be able to sense a natural, flowing space for them.

5. Prepare them for the next steps at the end of the telephone interview.

Your candidates are bound to feel some nerves and apprehension. This is totally normal. With nerves, there’s naturally going to be a few slip-ups. However, nerves are dramatically reduced with knowledge.

If a candidate has no idea what your recruitment process looks like, they won’t know what to expect, making their anxiety far more heightened.

So, it’s essential to let your candidates know how your recruitment process works. What happens after the call? This works for whether they’re successfully invited into the organization for an interview or whether they’re not the right fit.

A bonus tip would be to let them know the next steps at each stage of your recruitment process. Your candidates will appreciate the transparency, the organization gains more professionalism, and your recruitment process is far more enjoyable. Win, win, win!

Behavioral interview techniques

Behavioral interviews assess your candidate’s historical behavior. It’s a little more abstract than questions surrounding qualifications, as these are easy to measure. However, behavioral interview questions require more depth and analysis to measure effectively.

Questions like ‘describe a time you had to react to a recent change at work and how you managed it’ and ‘how would you handle pressure at work?’ all serve a purpose during a behavioral interview.

Here are our top 3 behavioral interview techniques for employers.

1. Behavioral interviews are all about the questions, so choose them wisely.

Behavioral interviews are extraordinarily telling interviews and, when used properly, can help you determine the best candidate out of those available to you.

The best way to determine your questions is by creating them based on your company’s culture and the role they’re applying for.

Each organization will have a specific culture, and your candidates must be strong cultural fits. Explore that culture and draw questions on the key ingredients.

For example, if an element of your company’s culture is the drive for creativity, your questions could revolve around how to gain inspiration when their creative juices aren’t flowing.

This is a similar process when considering the role. What are characteristics, behavioral traits, and attitudes needed to be the best at the vacancy? Once you have those written down, you can create questions using your notes as a springboard.

2. Don’t alter your questions from candidate to candidate. Stay consistent.

Just like our telephone interview techniques, you need to be consistent. You shouldn’t change your questions to fit the candidate, as this would be unfair to your other candidates.

The same questions must be asked to measure the success of their responses.

This is why pre-determining the questions in depth is a strong use of your time. With behavioral interviews, it really is all about the quality of your questioning.

3. Behavioral interviews work best when you have a strong collaborative hiring team.

Remember, behavioral interviews aren’t black and white. The responses your candidates give are abstract, and therefore tricky to measure in terms of impact.

The answers your candidates give will be drawn on past experiences, emotional state, and from a more ‘human’ angle. As such, you may miss a few things here and there.

If you’re hiring solo, failing to capture the details in the questions may result in an unsuccessful hire or allowing your best candidate to walk out the door.

So, it’s effective to put together a collaborative hiring team to help you during a behavioral interview.

Video interviewing techniques for employers

Conducting a good video interview has been at the forefront of many employers’ minds over the past year. As COVID swept the globe, organizations needed to adjust and amend their recruitment process - specifically their interview process - to accommodate social distancing. So, video interviewing has quickly become one of the most used interview styles this year.

Here are our top 4 video interviewing techniques for employers.

1. Test it first!

Before you hop on your Zoom or Microsoft Teams call for an interview, check that the link is working, your camera is hooked up, and the audio is clear.

It can look highly unprofessional if your company can’t connect immediately. Plus, if you’re fiddling around with equipment, it’ll look like you don’t know what you’re doing. That is not the first impression you want to be setting.

Make sure you understand how to set up the call, share your screen, the battery will last the duration of the interview, and the hardware (your camera and microphone) are working effectively.

2. Give your candidates instructions for your video conferencing software.

Chances are, after lockdown and people being forced apart from their family and friends, your candidates probably know how to use video conferencing software. However, it’s not enough to assume.

Instead, message the candidates with instructions on how to use the video conferencing software. Whether you’re using Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, each functions a little differently, so show your candidates your helpful and supportive side from the offset.

They’ll need to know whether they’ll need a username and password, an account, to download any software, and so on, so forth.

Give simple, step-by-step instructions. Avoid wasting time, convey your support, and show your candidates that you’re enthusiastic about the interview. So much so that missing it due to technical errors would be a travesty!  

3. Record your video interviews (with permission, of course).

Recording your video interviews serves a range of purposes. First, it allows you to rewatch it, focusing in more detail on the candidate’s responses.

Make sure you ask them the same questions, so you can closely analyze their responses and compare them with purpose.

Secondly, this acts as an excellent technique for training the remainder of your team to interview. Allowing them to watch you interview in real-time will be a fantastic learning opportunity.

Make sure you ask before recording the interviews. You must be first granted permission.

Plus, should the candidates be unsuccessful, providing the interview with notes allows them to see where they went wrong, and the feedback then becomes infinitely more valuable.

4. Find somewhere quiet with a strong internet connection before you start the video interview.

Last (though certainly not least), consider the location of your video interview. Conducting a video interview in the middle of a busy setting will make hearing your questions difficult and will set a negative tone for the call.

Find somewhere quiet where you’re unlikely to be disturbed, and make sure your WiFi is strong.

You’ll also find it helpful to have your laptop on charge to avoid any low battery mishaps.

Interview technique training

Interviewing candidates can feel highly nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time.

There’s a tremendous sense of pressure, as recruiting a new employee carries heavyweight. You’re changing people’s lives with this decision, and that comes from the interview.

The recruitment of the right candidate is essential to your organization and team and your reputation and advancement in your career.

It’s due to this that you should consider training yourself and your team with interview techniques, learning a range of effective interview techniques to contain in your arsenal to use for many years to come.

Here are our top tips in terms of interview technique training.

1. Interview preparation

Not doing thorough pre-interview preparation is probably the most costly mistake of all when it comes to interviewing techniques. Many interviewers either follow a one-size-fits-all approach or go by gut feel. Neither of these methods is going to bag you the best candidate.

Proper preparation begins with the job description. Ensure that it’s updated and is an accurate reflection of the requirements needed to get the job done now. Many interviewers forget that technology and job requirements change as a department or business evolves. What was relevant even a few months ago might not be the complete picture today. Focus on the essential skills and values that are key in the immediate term and consider how they may develop in the short to medium term.

Although most people know that asking the right questions during an interview is vital, the individuality of each candidate must be considered. Irrelevant of whether you prefer questionnaires or setting up your list of interview questions, you must ensure that they are tailored or prepared with each specific candidate’s application in mind.

No two people are the same so that each candidate will present themselves differently. By considering the individuality of each application, you’ll be able to ask questions that align with the job description. In that way, you can drill down and expand on any unclear issues from the candidate’s resume and identify the pros and cons of the application very quickly.

That done, compile a structured interview process based on the level of skill and experience the job requires. Consider how many internal stakeholders are involved in the interview process and if personality and skills assessments are necessary.

You should think about how the interview will be conducted and whether a video or telephonic interview is an option. This is crucial to avoid wasting time when scheduling interviews, mainly if potential candidates are from out of town or if internal stakeholders will be away from the office during the interview timeframe.

Although these points might look like common sense, many people overlook these effective interview techniques for that very reason.

2. Avoid personal biases

We’re all prone to any range of personal biases, and hiring managers must be particularly aware of this because they can lead to substantial errors when making hiring decisions. Avoiding bias is something that’s not often considered an interview technique, but it’s an important point to be aware of.

Biases can pop up unexpectedly, and these are the most common:

  • Social discrimination when we compare a candidate with ourselves and pass unsubstantiated judgments, negative or positive, is based on qualifications, appearance, social standing, or personality.
  • Confirmation bias if we’re overly impressed by a candidate’s resume or skills before meeting them or on sight within the first few minutes after meeting them; it can also apply in reverse if we see something that puts us off. What follows is that we then subconsciously try to validate our initial positive or negative impression and remain blind to anything that contradicts it.
  • Familiarity or heuristic bias that’s formed on emotion. Maybe you see from a candidate’s resume that they attended the same college you did, or they worked for a company you previously worked for. Or maybe you glean that they might have the same social interests or hobbies that you have. This can evoke emotions of familiarity that can cloud your judgment.

Hiring managers who prefer to conduct interviews on gut feel are particularly inclined to confirmation bias, familiarity bias, and making snap decisions (which they often regret quite soon afterward) that could impact their rational decision making. If you’re inclined to follow your gut feeling in interviews, add bias awareness to your list of interview techniques.

How can we prevent biases from creeping into the interview process?

It’s best always to have more than one person involved in the interview process because we’re all inclined to conscious or subconscious biases at some time or another. Different opinions and observations are an excellent leveler that will allow each candidate to be fairly evaluated.

3. Understand that there is no such thing as “perfect”

Being mindful of the pursuit of perfection is also not usually considered as an interview technique, but it definitely should be. If a vacancy is proving especially difficult to fill or shows a high turnover rate, it’s essential to consider if the job description has been compiled with realistic expectations. Managers are often searching for a perfect fit without considering the reality of what they’re looking for.

It could be that the skills and experience required don’t match the salary on offer or that the desired personality traits are out of line with the type of job.

Let’s say you’re looking for a highly-skilled, outgoing, and people-oriented accountant to do take on a detailed and specialist role in finance that involves working in isolation for the most part.

Many highly-skilled, outgoing, and people-orientated accountants are out there, but it’s unlikely they will want to work in isolation. They’ve probably opted to work in finance roles that involve a lot of interaction with other people.

Sometimes hiring managers have unrealistic expectations, and they transfer these into job descriptions, the interview process, candidates, and employees.

Interview techniques for employers: a conclusion

Many interview techniques aren’t apparent when we’re under pressure to fill a vacancy.

With proper training, you can build a toolkit of effective interview techniques that will serve you well throughout your interviewing life.

Take the time to do some in-depth planning and preparation. You’ll notice the difference between a successful long-term hire and having to start the hiring process all over again when an unsuccessful hire falls out after a few months.

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