Become A Great Interviewer



Hate to have to hire someone and start an interview process?  You’re not alone.  Interviews invariably interrupt your daily routine and throw you off schedule. Worse, if the process gets stretched out over a period of weeks, your recollections of the first people you interviewed are vague and the best candidate may have taken another job.

Try this: Block out time — an afternoon or whole day — to conduct initial screening interviews of several candidates. Shut out all interruptions and limit your interviews to 45 or 60 minutes. That way you can make immediate comparisons and save the lengthy “Cook’s Tour” for the one or two finalists.


Interviewing is an inexact art because judging the talents and abilities of people is very subjective. And when you add personal chemistry and motivation to the formula for finding the right person, the selection process can become intimidating.
Approach the process without preconceived ideas of the “successful candidate.” There is no magic in “a minimum of 5 years experience” or a certain kind of degree. These are only artificial benchmarks that serve to complicate the process with criteria that may not be necessary or even relevant.

Try this: Focus on the job duties and then find someone who can perform them. Sounds too easy? Follow these simple steps:

1. Make a list of all the duties of the job
2. Select the three duties with the highest priorities
3. Ask questions to uncover the person who can perform those duties most effectively.


You must accomplish three objectives in an interview within a limited time period (45 minutes to one hour at the most):

1. Uncover the experience that qualifies the candidate who can do your job
2. Evaluate the personal chemistry of the candidate to match your company’s values
3. Sell the candidate on the opportunity with your company. That’s why it’s so important to know what you are going to ask in the first interview, and to be sure that you maintain consistency by covering the same ground with all of the candidates.

Try this: The patterned interview. Before you meet any candidates, create a series of questions about professional experience, technical knowledge and career accomplishments you wish to know about each person.


With your patterned interview questions you should be able to get the basic information you want from each candidate. When you want a candidate to clarify or elaborate on a response to reveal initiative, motivation, attitude or management/organizational skills, Try this:

Initiative Questions

1. What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
2. How do you feel about being closely (or loosely) supervised?
3. What did you dislike about your most recent job?
4. What did you do to change it?

Motivation Questions

1. What are your goals for the next two years? Next five years?
2. What have you done to continue your education that is related to your career?
3. What does “job security” mean to you?

Attitude Questions

1. What job values are important to you?
2. What do you think of your most recent boss?
3. How do you feel about doing routine work?

Management/Organization Skills

1. What is your supervisory style?
2. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a marginal employee. How did you discipline him/her? What was the outcome?
3. What positions have you held in trade, professional, civic or charitable organizations?

DON’T DISCUSS MONEY on the first interview unless you are ready to make an offer at that time. Discuss compensation AFTER you’ve determined that a candidate CAN DO THE JOB.


If you like what you’ve heard in an interview, be sure the candidate leaves enthusiastic about the opportunity with your company. Whether you intend to make an offer immediately or will need to refer the candidate to others for additional interviews, don’t assume that candidates are eager to go to work for you.  If you like this person, chances are other companies will be favorably impressed also, so you need to highlight the benefits of working for your organization.

Try this: Emphasize positive points relating to your industry, company, position and job environment and values.

  1. Industry — What are the forecasts for growth in your industry? How about industry stability? Is it a cyclical industry?
  2. Company — How does your company compare with your competitors? What was your growth for the past 3-5 years? What are your projections for the next 3 years? Why should those goals be achieved?
  3. Position — If the position is available because of a recent promotion or company growth, that’s an important selling point. What will the candidate gain in career growth? What is the visibility of this position and its impact on the company?
  4. Job environment and values — What are your corporate values? What tangible evidence is there that your corporate values are being achieved? Describe your physical facilities.


There is no such thing as the perfect candidate. That’s why it’s so vital to remain focused on the critical job duties throughout the interviewing process. As soon as the interview is concluded, while the meeting is fresh in your mind, summarize your thoughts about the candidate.

Try this: Prepare a simple balance sheet to record your reactions. Headline the left side “Reasons for Hiring” and the right side “Reasons for Concern.” Don’t be surprised if the person you like best doesn’t seem to fit your original idea of what you wanted. In fact, that kind of conclusion may indicate that you successfully discovered and established your real needs and made the best use of the interviewing process.

A final word of caution: The best candidates have several options — only one of which is joining your company. When you find a person you like, cut the red tape to accelerate the hiring process. Unnecessary delays often send the wrong signal to a candidate. If your best prospect becomes disenchanted and loses interest, then your screening time and skilled interview techniques have been wasted and you’re back to “Become A Great Interviewer”.

Ask Paul any questions about hiring or interviewing

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