Plan an Effective Interview

Once an entrepreneur knows what to look for in a job candidate, he or she can develop a plan for conducting an informative job interview. Research shows that planned interviews produce much more reliable hiring results than unstructured interviews in which interviewers “freewheel” the questions they ask candidates. Unstructured interviews produce no better results than flipping a coin to decide whether to hire a candidate, but structured interviews produce highly valid hiring results. Too often, business owners go into an interview unprepared, and as a result, they fail to get the information they need to judge the candidate’s qualifications, qualities, and suitability for the job. A common symptom of failing to prepare for an interview is that the interviewer rather than the candidate does most of the talking. “It’s the most common mistake made by interviewers,” says one human resource manager.

Conducting an effective interview requires an entrepreneur to know what he or she wants to get out of the interview in the first place and to develop a series of questions to extract that information. The following guidelines will help entrepreneurs develop interview questions that will give them meaningful insight into an applicant’s qualifications, personality, and character:

  • Involve others in the interview process. Solo interviews are prone to errors. A better process is to involve other employees, particularly employees with whom the prospect would be working, in the interview process either individually or as part of a panel.
  • Develop a series of core questions and ask them of every candidate. To give the screening process more consistency, smart business owners rely on a set of relevant questions they ask in every interview.
  • Ask open-ended questions (including on-the-job “scenarios”) rather than questions calling for “yes or no” answers. These types of questions are most effective because they encourage candidates to talk about their work experience in a way that will disclose the presence or the absence of the traits and characteristics the business owner is seeking.
  • Create hypothetical situations that candidates would be likely to encounter on the job and ask how they would handle them. Building the interview around these kinds of questions gives the owner a preview of the candidate’s actual work habits and attitudes.
  • Probe for specific examples in the candidate’s past work experience that demonstrates the necessary traits and characteristics. A common mistake interviewers make is failing to get candidates to provide the detail they need to make an informed decision.
  • Ask candidates to describe a recent success and a recent failure and how they dealt with them. Smart entrepreneurs look for candidates who describe their successes and their failures with equal enthusiasm because they know that peak performers put as much into their failures as they do their successes and usually learn something valuable from their failures.