Not-So-Secret Keys to Preparing for and Conducting Successful Interviews

One of the top blunders in interviewing is going in unprepared — this holds true for both the interviewer and candidate. Follow these quick tips to get the most of your interview:

4 Things to Do When You Kickoff a Search

1) Determine Who the Interviewers Will Be

Who within your company will be involved in the interview process? It’s important to inform each and every stakeholder involved of their role in the hiring process.

2) Determine Interview Progression

Example (for a four-round interview process):

  • phone screen with recruiter
  • phone screen with hiring manager
  • onsite with (hiring manager, two determined team members, Regional Director, VP Sales)
  • Presentation with VP Hiring Manager, VP Sales, CEO (group)

3) Create a Scorecard

Using the job description as the baseline for key competencies, skills, and experience needed to succeed in this specific position/company will allow you to create a scorecard to drive the interview.

Example:

  • Cultural fit with existing team; technical skills (SaaS environment, Salesforce.com, Marketo)
  • Analytical/metrics driven (implementation of data-driven processes, decision making)
  • Successfully built a team from inception to 5+
  • Communication skills (executive presence, written, verbal, high energy)
  • Motivation/why ABC company?
  • Subjective rating based on interview/past experience

Then, create a rating system for the scorecard:

Example:

  • 5 = outstanding
  • 4 = above average
  • 3 = average
  • 2 = weak
  • 1 = not acceptable

4) Create an Agenda for the Interview with Predetermined Questions

There are two main categories of questions that I recommend in an interview:

  1. Custom questions: These are questions that arise once you review the resume and information you have on the candidate. They are based directly on the candidate and his/her experience. This can be anything from questioning motivations for making career moves to asking the candidate to speak more in-depth about a specific point referenced on the resume. These questions will be different for each candidate.
  2. Behavioral and performance-based interview questions: In an interview, the interviewer should ask for specific and detailed situations based on each competency to find out how the candidate reacted/performed. These questions should stay consistent in each interview. Read this guide for more on behavioral interviewing techniques.

6 Steps to Conducting Successful Interviews

  1. First, introduce yourself, your role within the organization, and your role within the team.
  2. Second, provide an overview of what you would like to accomplish in the interview. This will set candidate expectations upfront.
  3. Have your list of predetermined interview questions prepared with plenty of space for notes.
  4. For each behavioral or performance-based interview question, follow the B.A.R. method when asking for a response: Background, Action, Result. Surprisingly, you will find that many candidates answer only two of these three points. Get an understanding of the situation or background, the action that the candidate took based on your question, and finally, the result. If candidates do not initially provide the information — simply ask for elaboration/clarification.
  5. Take notes! Interviews are a conversation, and hardly ever go exactly according to the plan you created. Having your list of questions with you and taking notes will allow you to reference what has been covered and what has not, helping you to stay on track.
  6. Close the interview. Thank the candidate for his or her time and prove a timeline for when he or she will hear on next steps/feedback.

After the Interview

Provide timely feedback. Candidates should receive a response within 24 to 48 hours, and in order for that to be possible you need to provide your feedback to the recruiter or hiring manager prior to that. If the timeline is longer due to completing an entire round with multiple candidates, or perhaps scheduling issues, simply let the candidate know when he or she can expect to hear back.

Feedback should be detailed and specific. For each rating that you give the candidate on each competency include specific examples that backup your rating. This holds you accountable for the information and allows teams a better understanding if there are large discrepancies among ratings. From there, the ratings should be weighed to determine which candidates progress or are cut from the interview process.

These are some relatively basic but powerful tips for helping you come to your next candidate interview fully prepared. What other keys to success would you share?

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