How to conduct an interview
There are countless resources available to help candidates prepare successfully for a professional interview. Obviously, interviewees feel a great deal of pressure to perform well—to make a good impression and communicate their positive traits. But in reality, there’s just as much pressure on you, the employer. After all, you’re the one trying to choose the best person for your organization. The following guide is meant to help.
Know your goals
Going into an interview, it’s important to know exactly what you want to get out of it. In general, there are four types of interviews; each reveals something slightly different about the candidate’s character and abilities. Which revelations are most important to you?
This type of session reveals the impact of past experiences on a candidate’s professional outlook. Your questions should prompt candidates to tell focused, insightful stories about themselves. Examples include:
- Tell me about a personality conflict you have had with a colleague. How did you resolve it?
- If I asked you to complete an important task in five days (describe a task related to the position you are staffing) and it may not be possible, what would you do?
A case interview poses hypothetical questions. How would you react in given situation? What steps would you take to achieve a desired result? In these cases, there’s not necessarily one right answer. Instead, your goal as interviewer is to gain an understanding of a candidate’s decision-making abilities.
This is the approach to take if you want to learn more about a candidate’s personality: career goals, hobbies, interests, and unique characteristics. By nature, a personal interview is not rigidly formal; think of it as a conversation with an old classmate.
This kind of interview seeks to determine a candidate’s potential through simulations and acted-out scenarios. It can be somewhat stressful for potential hires, but is sometimes the best way to determine a candidate’s ability to think on the fly.
Structuring the interview
Most interviews incorporate a blend of the approaches listed above. If you’re looking for a generic interview model to work from, we propose the following:
Take a little time to make the interviewee feel at ease; encourage him or her to open up by asking open ended questions such as, “Tell me about yourself.”
To discover a candidate’s career patterns, attitudes and relevant experience, discuss his or her previous two or three positions or past five-year work history. You could ask:
- What parts of the position did you most enjoy?
- What did you like least about your last position?
- Why did you leave? (Or, why are you interested in making a move?)
- How long did it take you to feel at ease in that position?
- How does your experience relate to the opening we are staffing?
- How would your present employer respond to your departure?
Specific Skills, Knowledge and Abilities
Ask the candidate about his or her specific, concrete skills and capabilities. You might start by asking how his or her educational background/degree/diploma provides a good foundation for the available position. You might also ask about familiarity with particular software applications relevant to your daily work, writing and communications abilities and other skill areas.
These less-often asked questions can help reveal a candidate’s character traits and strengths:
- What would a thorough reference check tell me about you?
- Describe a plan you have carried out.
- How often do you plan? (daily, weekly, monthly)?
- Are you a confident person? Give me examples of occasions when you had to draw on your confidence.
Once you’ve heard from the candidate, you should describe the available position in some detail, and talk about the company and its expectations. Explain the next step of the hiring process, giving yourself reasonable time to check references and interview other candidates. Ask the candidate if he or she has any questions, and confirm that you may contact his or her references.
A final note
It is your responsibility to conduct an interview that adheres to the Human Rights and Employment Codes. While it’s important to be thorough, there are some questions you simply cannot ask. These pertain to: place or date of birth, marital or family status, religious beliefs or affiliations, handicap, ancestry, creed, race, citizenship, record of offenses, sexual or political orientation.
For more information concerning the Employment Standards Act of Ontario, visit their web site address: www.gov.on.ca/LAB/english/es/.
For more information regarding human rights and discrimination in the work place, call the Ontario Human Rights Commission at 1-800-387-9080..