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Conducting Interviews That Set Your Company Apart From The Rest

06.20.2016

Huge events and accomplishments of a business can sometimes be traced back to a single job interview. Getting the right employees can result in an effective comparative advantage for your company, so it's important to conduct each interview as if your business depends on it. Here are a few ways to make them count: 

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Challenge the candidate 

If your goal is to attract top talent, then understand that you need to impress your job candidate as much as they need to impress you. If you throw him or her a softball right down the middle, they might get the impression that they won't grow at your company. 

Challenging your candidate will demonstrate that your company is motivated and expects the same from its employees. There are various ways to challenge candidates in an interview, starting with the questions you ask. 

Ask meaningful questions

During an interview, you have a small window of time to find out whether an employee is a good fit for your company. Don't waste this time by asking generic questions that get recycled by every other business. This Forbes article has plenty of examples of those: 

  • We have a lot of qualified candidates for this job. What makes you a better hire than they are?
  • You told me what you’re good at. What are you bad at?
  • Tell me how you react under pressure. I run a high-pressure shop here and I don’t accept excuses.
  • How badly do you want the job?

The problem with these questions is that candidates can rehearse for them. They give no indication of someone's ability to think on-the-spot and gather and articulate his thoughts. 

Create a non-stressful environment

Interviews are often stressful for a number of reasons. Although employees are expected to deal with stress every now and again, a candidate's performance in a stressful interview might be a poor indication of his ability. 

Unlike meetings, conferences, and presentations in relation to your business, job interviews are characterized by unknown variables. For a better interview, try lightening the mood and increasing the candidate's level of comfort. According to this Harvard Business Review article, giving someone just a few minutes to prepare for concrete questions can increase the quality of the interview: 

"[Take] preemptive steps to lower the candidate’s cortisol levels. Tell people in advance the topics you’d like to discuss so they can prepare. Be willing to meet the person at a time that’s convenient to him or her. And explain your organization’s dress code. Your goal is to “make them comfortable” so that you have a productive, professional conversation."

You don't want to reject top talent because someone had a rare poor performance. It's your job to minimize the stress to get an accurate portrayal of the candidate. 

Keep the candidate on track

When you surprise someone with a question, it's common to hear them ramble for a bit before they gather their thoughts. That's normal and just the nature of interviewing. 

The problem is when someone goes off on a tangent and doesn't answer your question. This can either be because they don't have an answer or because they are gravitating to their main talking points. This is where the interviewer loses control of the conversation. 

There's nothing wrong with pushing a particular point during an interview, especially if it's significant with respect to the relative job duties. The more you let the candidate wander away, the less accurate of an indication the interview will be. 

Too many businesses follow the same pattern when it comes to conducting a job interview. As a result, the conversations often resemble rehearsed performances as opposed to in the moment thinking. Breaking away from this mold will help you conduct interviews that are actually indicative of someone's potential at your company.