A job interview is a chance to connect the dots and determine whether a candidate is really qualified for a job.
Beyond the questions you ask, how you conduct the job interview is just as important. It’s not always an easy conversation to navigate, but adopting best practice employer interview techniques can make a significant difference towards your outcome.
More importantly, this is the first major interaction your eventual new employee will have with you and your company. First impressions are powerful, and can frame their employee experience for the rest of their tenure with your company.
Why good interview techniques matter
But employee experience isn’t the only reason to improve your interview techniques.
The aim of the job interview is to identify the best candidate for the job and company in question. In order to make that assessment, you need to get to know the candidate and their qualifications well in a short time, and in a high-pressure environment.
So, having the ability to draw as much information the person you are interviewing is a powerful skill to have.
Different kinds of job interviews
Of course, the manner in which you conduct your interviews will often determine which techniques you have at your disposal. You would not approach a group interview quite the same way as you would a remote interview, for example.
The style of job interview you choose to employ depends upon what you are looking to assess from candidates.
Note that these are not the only interview styles. Further, most interviews are a combination of two or more of the below:
Types of job interviews that can be conducted:
For companies looking to hire a large number of employees at once, or quickly, group interviews are a good option.
- The cost-per-hire – both monetarily and time-wise – is greatly reduced.
- They are also a good way to see what a candidate can do, as they often involve group-based activities; soft skills like leadership and teamwork are easily assessable in these situations.
- Group interviews can be impersonal, and don’t allow you to get to know candidates well. As such, they are only suitable for certain positions or types of jobs.
- They also require highly skilled interviewers.
Not many roles exist in isolation, so the panel interview allows different stakeholders to get to know candidates with their needs in mind.
- They offer interviewers the chance to see how candidates interact with different personalities, seniorities, and roles.
- They save time: one interview with multiple stakeholders, rather than several one-on-one interviews.
- They offer multiple perspectives.
- Can create a higher-pressure situation than other interview styles.
- Power dynamic favours the panel and can create tension.
- There’s a limited amount of time; each person can only ask a limited number of questions
During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, many companies were required to conduct all job interviews remotely, via video or phone.
However, more and more companies are choosing to conduct first-round job interviews remotely due to their many benefits.
- Lower cost, both budgetary and time-wise
- Lower time cost means companies can conduct more job interviews
- Can interview remote candidates - Less pressure and lower cost for candidates
- More flexible than face-to-face interviews
- Rely heavily on technology, which can fail
- Not easy to build rapport
- Hard to understand if the candidate will be a good cultural fit
A case interview is often employed in order to assess how a candidate would manage a particular problem or situation.
- Ability to assess a range of hard and soft skills
- Ability to test skills candidate will need to employ in order to be successful in the given role
- Higher pressure than other interview formats
- Require highly skilled interviewers
- Can require costly tests and assessments
- Require more time than other interview formats
Competency-based interviews seek to evaluate the skills and abilities candidates have used in the past as a way to predict how they will perform in the future.
- You’re able to directly assess the skills required for the role
- Common format, and thus familiar to candidates
- Doesn’t assess cultural fits
- Doesn’t assess soft skills well
- Easier for candidates to come up with canned responses
Similar to competency-based interviews, behavioural-based interviews assess the behaviours and soft skills of candidates.
- Assesses soft skills well
- Familiar format for candidates
- Can assess cultural fit
- Easy for candidates to come up with canned responses
- Doesn’t test for skills or competencies
Lunch interviews are a more casual form of job interview that allows interviewers to get to know them in a real-world setting, where they’re more likely to be themselves.
- Casual setting helps break the ice
- They provide a good interview experience
- Allow the interviewer to get to know the candidate better than other settings
- Time consuming
- Uncommon interview format could intimidate candidates
- Interviewer has little control over the environment
Employer interview techniques
Technique 1: Break the ice
It’s important to remember that candidates are probably going to be more nervous than you, so set the tone from the start and make them feel comfortable.
Depending on the style of interview, you may like to conduct it in a more casual setting. A nearby café or the office cafeteria, for example, if you can find a table with some privacy and avoid the crowds. Like a lunch interview, this has the benefit of creating a more intimate space, allowing you to get to know them one-on-one.
Technique 2: Get to know human psychology
There are some basic psychological principals that can help bring out the best in your candidates:
- We like people who are similar to us. Find some way to relate to the candidate, and they’ll be more likely to relax and be their authentic self.
- Giving sincere compliments can boost the confidence of candidates.
As you develop your experience and interview techniques, you’ll learn a lot about what makes us tick. Take note, and do what you can to make the candidate feel heard and at ease.
Technique 3: Ask open-ended questions (with a positive spin)
Just as sincere compliments can boost confidence, a good way to structure questions is to mention something positive prior to asking a question.
Ensure they’re open-ended, however. If your question has a simple yes-or-no answer, ask for more information, or for the candidate to expand on it.
For example, “I see on your resume you were able to decrease your departmental costs by 36%. That’s impressive. Can you tell me more about that?”
Technique 4: Guide the conversation
Establishing an interview structure ensures all ground is covered in a limited timeframe without overlooking critical pieces of information, or becoming side-tracked by a candidate.
A typical structure starts with an outline of the company and what the role involves. This is followed by posing a series of questions to the candidate, then asking the candidate if they’d like to ask any questions of their own.
Open the discussion by explaining to candidates how the interview will progress. This keeps everyone working on the same page and eliminates surprises that could throw an otherwise strong candidate off track.
Know where you want the conversation to go, and guide the candidate along by using non-verbal encouragements. A simple nod can be incredibly effective.
Technique 5: Active listening
Listening is pivotal to good employer interview techniques, especially as it’s easy for hiring managers to focus on what they are going to say next and thereby miss a key comment by the candidate in the present.
Good listening calls for concentration. While the candidate is speaking, also consider the sort of language being used. Do responses sound overly rehearsed or are they truly reflective of the individual?
Technique 6: Leave room for silence
It may feel awkward, but leaving room for a bit of silence will prompt the candidate to fill it.
This is a popular technique employed by journalists; it can work equally well for hiring managers in job interviews.
Technique 7: Confirm next steps
At the end of the discussion, it’s important to close the interview by explaining how you will follow up with each candidate.
Make the date and means of communication clear, and thank the candidate for their time. Then make a commitment to responding to each candidate by the allotted date. It’s a professional courtesy that reflects well on both you and the organisation.
Finding the candidate best suited to a role can be challenging. Following our recommended employer interview techniques helps to narrow down the choice of suitable applicants, as well as leaving candidates with the impression that the company is well run and a place they want to be a part of.
Now that you’re familiar with essential interview techniques, read our guide on the best interview questions for employers.