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2nd October, 2019

How to conduct better job interviews

Running job interviews is something some business operators take in their stride, while others dread them. Regardless of how you feel about conducting an interview, you can become more effective with these pointers from Renae Smith.

Speaking from personal experience, knowing how to conduct an effective interview with a potential employee can be a lot harder than it seems. It certainly didn’t come naturally to me, and it took many attempts to work out how to conduct an interview so that I felt I had been able to easily identify the right candidate.

Many of my early interviews consisted of me ‘selling’ the business to the interviewee and then asking them if they thought we sounded like a good fit. I consistently put them in the position of power and forgot the most essential part of an interview: asking great questions.

Thanks to a few simple tips that, when consistently applied, identify the candidates that are a good fit for your team and who add value to the company as a whole, my interviews are now improving and we’re employing fantastic staff.


First impressions do count


During our last round of interviews, our operations manager and I were shocked at how accurate our first impressions were.

Many of the applicants we met wore a full suit-and-tie ensemble, and were incredibly formal and corporate in their initial introduction. The issue with this is that we are definitely not a corporate office.

Our website clearly states that we shun the corporate vibe, offer flexible working spaces and work from a casual, shared workspace. Our website provides countless hints as to the fact that a full suit and tie is not going to be the vibe that fits with our office ethos. The same could be said for an applicant that dresses too casually for an interview at a corporate office.

In saying that, what an applicant wears should never be a reason for immediately dismissing their application.

It’s true that some people may feel more comfortable dressing more professionally, and if this doesn’t fit with your business ethos, it’s time to dig a little deeper to find out if they could still be the right choice.


Gauge their understanding of the role, and themselves


We’ve started to open the interview with the question, “Why do you think this position suits your skill set or personality?” Funnily, it really throws most applicants.

While finding someone who fits your culture is important, the first and foremost focus should be to find someone who possesses the right qualifications or attitudes to successfully fill your position.

This question not only allows the candidate to explain what they believe their core competencies are, but it also ensures that he or she understands the role that is available and the tasks that role entails.

Listen to the answers and look for red flags such as discussing skills that are completely irrelevant to the position or answers that are generic and ‘textbook’ which can show that an applicant has simply applied for everything, without considering their actual fit with your position.

If needed, ask them to expand on their answer with further questions such as: “What’s one skill you would like to improve in this role and how do you think we can help you do that?” or “How would you describe your working style?” and “What excites you the most about this position?”


Understand why they’re leaving their current role


A question that always made me nervous was asking why the applicant was leaving their current role. It feels like a very personal question, but it’s definitely an essential one.

While a lot of applicants don’t like to seem like they’re moaning about their current or previous roles, it’s important to get the facts and to hear their responses. More often than not you will receive generic responses such as “looking for more of a challenge” or that “the company is downsizing”, but it’s good to at least see how the applicant handles this question.

Dependent on their response, it can also be interesting to ask if they’d mind whether you contact their previous employer or a colleague for a reference. The answer here can often help confirm if factual information was given for the previous question.


Assess their behaviours


Behavioural interview questions are incredibly common and can be quite tedious to ask, but they do provide insight into how an applicant deals with difficult circumstances, and how they measure their own success.

Asking a question such as, “Tell us about a time you overcame a challenge?” is a great one to understand how their behaviours and skills translate to real world issues.

Following that up with something like “What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of to date?” also provides great insight into what the candidate values and what makes an impact on their day to day life.

For a lot of the questions above, there’s no simple right or wrong answer. A lot of these questions are designed to show you more about the applicant, and your instincts should take over and easily allow you to see who the right fit for your position would be.

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