Four Steps to be a Better Interviewer

Sifting through a pile of resumes is arduous, but actually interviewing the faces behind those crisp papers is a whole other anxiety-inducing endeavor. Interviewing is not only an art form but an art form where the stakes are really high. If you fail to weed out the undesirables, you’ll wind up costing your company both time and money and you’re equally in trouble if you miss a superstar who then lands a position at your competition.

Now, we’re going to assume here that as a human resource professional you have a baseline – that you’ve been in the industry long enough that you know what you’re looking for in that next hire and you know how to tease out what you want to learn about someone when interviewing him. However, a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) can make the job easier. There are four areas where the outsourced HR pros can really help you be more effective and efficient.

  1. Do Your Homework

One of the biggest steps you can take towards being a better interviewer is to be prepared. Prior to the interview, you should read the candidates resume so that it’s fresh in your mind – and even print out a copy so that you can reference it during the actual interview – but you’ll also want to be sure to check out any supplemental materials they may have provided, such as writing samples or even website links for IT professionals or graphic designers. To further make sure you’re prepared, go ahead and re-read the job description you wrote for the job – paying specific attention to any specific skills that are necessary for the job – and even check back with the manager for the open position to see if there’s anything, in particular, they would like to see in a candidate.

Some other folks also take this “research” portion of interview prep to conduct a search on social media – while this can give you a good idea of your candidates interests, connections, and even their proclivities for sharing hilarious memes, we caution against doing this ahead of the first interview and suggest you instead save this for later in the interview process so that it doesn’t color your opinion of them before you even meet them.

Finally, you’ll want to do due diligence on your own company so that you can be prepared to answer any candidate questions about the company’s vision, goals, and general culture or what they’ve read online about it.

A PEO can help with this step by reviewing resumes, sorting candidates and doing the first round of interviews to ensure you only see the best of the best.

  1. Craft Your Questions

In an interview, you only have about 30 minutes – sometimes an hour tops – to decide whether to invest a lot of time and money into a new hire. With this in mind, you’ll want to make sure that your questions are really targeted towards helping you make that decision.

Your interview questions should include a mix of queries designed to clarify items on their resume so that you can determine whether they are qualified for the role, questions about what they seek in an employer to test for cultural fit, and behavioral and situational questions to help judge their ability to problem solve or think critically about issues. Experts caution against the use of brain teasers or abstract questions simply because knowing who your candidate’s favorite princess is and why has very little bearing on their ability to operate accounts receivable.

Further, try to keep your questions as open-ended as possible so that you don’t back candidates into a “yes” or “no” corner, because even if they answer correctly to each of the questions, you’ll merely be checking items off a list as opposed to really getting to know the candidate.

There are lots of questions that the law prohibits you from asking candidates, so be sure that you’re on the right side of the law when you’re asking them! Not sure if something is off limits?

A PEO can help you craft open-ended questions that can garner you the most useful information from a candidate while ensuring you ask questions that are within the law.

  1. Check Yourself

In an interview, the focus should always be on the interviewee. However, in order to be a good interviewer, you need to check yourself.

By that we mean that you need to be aware of your subconscious – or implicit – biases, which are judgments that you have against certain people that you might not even be aware of but that could creep in. A great place to start to determine where your biases might lie – and how you can address them so that they don’t cloud your decision-making ability – is to take the Harvard Implicit Association Test.

Now, we should also note that implicit biases don’t just relate to general demographic differences and can also apply to certain trends you may have observed just from working at your company. Remember that prejudices are typically completely unfounded and could mean that you’ll miss out on some amazing talent.

The HR experts at a PEO can help you identify and work through these inherent biases so you don’t miss someone extraordinary.

  1. Have a Rating System

One of the best ways to address the implicit biases – and keep you on track with your interviews – is to develop an interview scoring system.

This becomes especially important if you are interviewing multiple people for the same job and need a way to really make comparisons between the candidates. You can use whatever system you want, but we have found that a scale of exceeds expectations, meets expectations, or below expectations works well.

You’ll want to rate your candidates on a variety of the skills you are assessing through your interview questions, so you’ll be able to compare them in areas such as their problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills and even technical skills. You’ll also want to have a system for the soft skills too. These skills, which have more to do with their personality and how they interact with you and others and whether you think they’ll be a good cultural fit for the company likely lend themselves more to a note-taking system for positives or red-flags as opposed to a classical tiered system.

A PEO can help you sort through the candidates, score them and conduct background checks along with developing an offer package when you find that perfect candidate.

If you need further support, contact a PEO who will be happy to help shore up your interviewing skills so you feel confident next time you need to start the interview rounds.