Human Resource

A Detailed Guide to Becoming a Good Interviewer

‘How to be a good interviewer’? Many recruiters seek answers to this question but not everyone manages to come up with a convincing answer. To put things into perspective, it is important to be a good interviewer in order to recruit the best-fit candidates for the job. Anyone can take an interview, however, it takes a good interviewer to ensure great candidate experience. This is the first step to attracting good candidates.

This read is a detailed guide on how to be a good interviewer.

Importance of being a good interviewer

You must be a good interviewer if you wish to hire the right talent for your organization. Conducting a job interview is a crucial element of your hiring strategy, as it has the potential to either make or break your entire hiring process.

All the effort and time you invest in hiring the right candidates will amount to nothing if you do not know the art of selecting the right talent for the job. Unfortunately, choosing the top candidates is not an easy task.

Identifying and choosing the best candidates is not just about selecting the one who has the top skills and the right experience. The candidate should also be a right fit for the company culture, the vacant job position and the team he/she will be joining.
Selecting the wrong candidate can prove disastrous for the company. By being a good interviewer, you could ensure that only the right candidates get through the interview rounds in order to be given a shot at the job offer.

How to be a good interviewer?

While it is common knowledge that recruiters must be good so as to recruit better candidates, very few recruiters actually know how to be a good interviewer.

For the uninitiated, interviewing is like an art, wherein you need to follow a proper structure to carve out a masterpiece. Likewise, a structured interview with the right questions will help you correctly evaluate the candidate and find the best fit from the most suitable options.

So, here are the 5 important tips to be a good interviewer.

  1. Go into the interview prepared

Preparation is the essence of a good interviewer. It is to properly interview candidates in order to evaluate individuals for their skills and work experience.

An unprepared interviewer may risk being seen as indifferent to the candidate, which casts a bad impression on the interviewee, making them reconsider wanting to join the organization for the open position.

Here are a few things you must do before you go to take the interview:

  • Read the resumé of the candidate thoroughly before the scheduled interview and print a copy for your reference during your interview meeting.
  • Review the work samples submitted by the candidate; show it to the individual’s prospective manager/supervisor if possible. This is important particularly when you are hiring candidates for creative roles.
  • Evaluate the job description thoroughly to ensure that you discuss its responsibilities in detail during the interview.
  • Make a list with all the questions you can think of asking during the interview. Use scorecards to arrange your questions effectively and take notes where required.
  • Refresh your understanding and knowledge on the structure and mission of your company. Also, brush yourself on the perks and benefits of the open job position.

It is a good idea to make a note of anything specific that you may want to ask or clarify with the candidate at some later point in the interview.

  1. Structure the interview session beforehand

An unstructured interview may seem more like a free-flowing conversation that lacks the real agenda. Such interviews, more often, become more subjective and unproductive. An unstructured interview can make the candidate feel comfortable and it usually does not culminate in the best recruitment decisions.

Therefore, add structure to the interview. This will make the process more effective. If you do not have the time to put in a few mins to structure it, try to, at least, simulate a structure into your interviews as and when possible.

Select your questions with care: Generic questions such as “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” have been used a million times and have virtually proved ineffective at deriving the desired result. Prepare a list of questions that are customized for the job position you are hiring. Create situational and behavioural questions to better evaluate the soft skills of the candidates, such as their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Also, ask some same questions to every candidate and evaluate the variety of answers you get. Most importantly, keep illegal, casual and extremely personal questions out of your list.

Practice taking notes: Use unique techniques for effective note-making. Focus on the answer given by the candidate, rather than your bias or judgement. For instance, write “he’s inexperienced but could be good”, instead of “he has not handled difficult customers and will definitely not be able to do so”.

Rate the candidates’ answers on consistency scale: A rating scale of low to high or poor to excellent can be equally effective. Be sure to rate every response. To decrease the instances of the halo effect, refer to your handwritten notes to rate each answer provided by the candidates. Give an overall rating to all the candidates after each of their interviews have concluded, rather than rating each candidate individually after their respective interview.

However, during the interview, rate each candidate on every response you get before moving on to other questions. This will help you identify the cumulative score once all the interviews are done.

  1. Be empathetic — show care and concern

Care for the candidates: While interviewing candidates, you are the face of the company and the candidate will judge the organization based on his/her experience of you.

Empathy creates a good candidate experience, which boosts the value of your brand. Even if the candidate does not land the job, they will still feel positive about the company that has treated them respectfully during the interview.

Open your interview positively: Greet the candidates on time and make sure they feel welcome with a warm smile. Make sure they are comfortably seated and offer them some refreshments to drink. Plus, maintain eye contact through the conversation without expressing judgement on your face. Try maintaining a warm persona all throughout the interview.

Guide them through the interview process: Begin by introducing your panel of interviewers, if any, and yourself. Describe the vacant job role in brief and why you are hiring for it; this helps you to give a humane touch to the hiring process. Then, ask the candidates to give a brief introduction about themselves. In some cases, especially when hiring for creative roles, ask them to bring their work samples or portfolio along so you can take a look at what they can do.

Focus on your conversation: Distraction is not a sign of a good interviewer. It is important that you stay focused on your conversation. Sometimes, the conversation can give you clues for your next question. Moreover, being constantly distracted by phone calls and/or text messages or thinking about your next line of meetings can negatively impact the rapport you are trying to create with the candidate. So, focus on the candidate’s answers and show him/her that you are as interested in the interview as the interviewee.

Answer any questions they might have: Candidates want information about the company and the vacant job position. They, sometimes, want to know what kind of people are in the team that he/she will be joining. So, allow them the opportunity to ask probing questions and provide them with direct and honest answers. Answering their questions is a great way to pitch the company to them.

Don’t rush: Although this point is not mandatory, it is a good to-do. Do not schedule any meetings or other activities directly after the interview session. Some candidates tend to have additional questions to ask so that their queries about the company can be clarified before they make a decision. They will appreciate it if you give them a little more time at the end than planned. Rushing with the candidates at the end of the interviews is not a great way to close the session.

Also, you might want to write down your closing notes on the candidate before you move on to the next thing on your calendar, so that you don’t forget your thoughts and feelings about the individual you just interviewed.

  1. Refine your judgement

Unconscious bias could cloud your ability to judge correctly, which could lead you to make wrong or ineffective decisions. Therefore, it is important to notice the good in the candidates you interview to effectively combat these biases and make the right hiring decisions. Here are a few ways how you can achieve your objective:

Take an IAT or Implicit Association Test: The foremost step in combating unconscious bias is to become aware of them. The IAT test by Harvard could help highlight your bias and correct them.

Learn about cognitive bias: The key to fighting biases is in knowing about the different types of biases and how and when they become functional. This knowledge will help you understand when a particular bias is at work.

Work on unique prejudices: Sometimes, your personal preferences, experiences and concerns may interfere with your judgement. This can, at times, lead you into making incorrect hiring decisions. For instance, as an interviewer, you may think that an overqualified candidate will get bored eventually and leave the company in a short time. This bias may blind the interviewer from not wanting to hire the candidate, irrespective of his/her fit for the role and company. By doing so, you might miss out on hiring the right talent who could be critical to the company’s growth.

Slow down: Do not rush into decision making before you have finished interviewing all the candidates. Do this:

  • Interview all the eligible candidates
  • Make appropriate notes during the interview
  • Evaluate each individual’s performance
  • Finally, make a great hiring decision by giving the right person the job

Don’t rely entirely on body language: The body language may be conclusively telling but it may not be the most important factor to consider about the candidate. You may find different verbal cues and appropriate actions that might draw you to thinking and feeling about the candidate differently. So, don’t just base your judgement on one factor.

  1. Learn from mistakes

Failures and mistakes are an integral part of learning and development. So, don’t shy away from mistakes. Rather, view them as an opportunity to improve or enhance your skills and decision-making ability. Here a few tips that you can learn and implement so that you do not repeat the mistakes from your past interview experiences:

Keep records: Writing notes or recording critical information during an interview, greatly helps the interviewer, especially if they happen to need to go through them a few weeks or months after the interview. Plus, these notes can be used as proof in case of an unlikely legal dispute.

Monitor trends and metrics: Ask the team tasked with tracking the recruiting metrics to provide more information on hiring quality and candidate experience. Keep an eye out on new trends in recruitment and monitor how they are faring so as to be updated and improve your interviewing skills. These will help you hone your interviews to become more productive.

Seek advice: Seeking advice is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it is a sign that you are eager to learn and improve. It is better to seek advice when you lack a particular knowledge or skill. Seek advice from experienced interviewers or recruiters and learn their best practices and try to adopt them into your interviewing techniques.

Good interviewers always strive to extract the most from the interview process. Recruitment and interviews need actual hard work, but when you finally find the best fit candidate for the job, all your struggles seem worthwhile.


Shalini L

One of the prime contributors for this blog, Expertise in Staffing and Recruitment, Content Strategist by Profession. A Music Lover & Traveller by Choice.

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