— July 19, 2018
Small businesses saw record profit levels in 2017, according to the 2018 NFIB Small Business Economic Trends Survey. If your business is seeing some success, you may be thinking about hiring. You’re not alone. The NFIB survey found 57% of business owners are hiring employees.
Choosing the right candidate isn’t easy though. So it’s important to create an effective interview to help you make an informed decision. Learn how to conduct an interview to better find out who a candidate really is, and whether or not they’re a good fit for your company.
Prep to make candidates at ease
It can be challenging to figure out if a candidate is right for the job if they’re overly nervous or uncomfortable. An efficient interview process that makes the job candidate feel at ease from the start can help you better understand whether they’d be a good fit for the role.
Gabrielle Bowden, HR director and assistant controller at The Bridges Club, says going right into the interview can “create an expectation of formality where candidates are hesitant to show their true selves.”
At the start of the interview, try asking an ice-breaker question. Here are some examples:
- What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
- What’s important to you in your career?
- Tell me about yourself and what you’re interested in.
- How has your job search been?
By asking these types of questions, you’re also building a relationship with the candidate. And this allows them to open up during the interview.
You can also send an email beforehand to give them an idea of what topics you’ll cover so they feel more prepared.
You want candidates to be themselves during the interview. The more comfortable they are during the process, the easier it is for you to see their personality and make an informed decision.
Ask behavioral questions
No matter the industry or type of job, candidates go into interviews expecting to be asked certain questions.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What kind of work environment do you prefer?
While you can ask these common questions, it may be more valuable to focus on asking behavioral questions. Asking behavioral questions will get more than a “yes” or a “no” answer. Candidates will have to reflect on their career and professional experiences, which can give you a better idea of their skills, how they think, and their problem-solving abilities.
Here are some examples of behavior-based questions:
- Tell me about a time you encountered an issue and no one was around to help you. What did you do? A candidate’s answer to this question shows you how they think on their feet. It can show you how they work under pressure and if they were able to find a satisfactory solution. Ron Hamilton, who owns an HR consulting company, says the “best way to predict success on the job is to understand how the candidate behaved in similar situations in the past.”
- Tell me your experience of having to work with a difficult team member. This could be an important question if you consider personality and team dynamics a priority. The candidate’s answer will show you whether they can work well with others. Team building and culture is important, so you want to make sure they can still do their work even if there are differences.
- “What is your proudest accomplishment?” Or “Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle.” This can show you how much perseverance the candidate has and how determined they are to find a solution. Pay attention to the details and how long they spent working towards the accomplishment or solution. It doesn’t have to be an epic success either; sometimes getting through the day-to-day obstacles or working through a budget issue can show you their dedication. Kristen Hamilton, co-founder and CEO of Koru, said, “A history of persevering through mind-numbing boredom can be one of the most valuable predictors of strong performance.”
Don’t forget to ask if they have any questions at the end of the interview. This can show you if your potential employee did any research about you or your company before the interview, Hamilton said. Unless the candidate was asking questions throughout the conversation, it could be a bad sign if they don’t have questions to ask at the end.
Questions to avoid
By law, there are questions you can’t ask during an interview. Despite this, some employers are still asking inappropriate questions. A recent study by the Associated Press and CNBC found 35 percent of people that interviewed for a job within the last 10 years were asked about their age.
Avoid asking questions on these topics:
- Race, ethnicity, or color
- Country of national origin or birthplace
- Marital or family status
There’s a difference between hearing and actively listening. Listening to a candidate is an active skill. It means you’re paying close attention and being engaged.
When you’re listening, it can make for a more in-depth, thoughtful interview. Edward D. Hess, a professor at the University of Virginia, says anyone can be a more active listener by:
- “Getting ready to listen.” When you’re sitting down with a job candidate to interview them, clear your mind and stay focused. Take a moment to breathe or meditate and get yourself in the right mindset for the interview. Be present and pay attention to their entire answer and what they have to tell you. Don’t multitask and try not to get distracted by other things.
- “Go slow and reflect.” As you think about their answer, ask yourself if you understand the point they’re trying to convey. You can take this moment to ask a follow-up question and give the candidate an opportunity to elaborate.
- “Try on another’s idea.” Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes to get a better idea of how they think or why they believe what they believe. Hess says this process will generally lead to conversation.
The next steps
At the end of each interview, it’s good practice to tell candidates when they can expect to hear back about the job. And depending on how well the interviews went, you may already know who you want to offer the job to. In this case, you can start crafting an offer letter.
If you need to bring in any candidates for another round of interviews, that’s OK, too. This can be an opportunity for the rest of your team to meet the candidate.
Since you’re hiring a new employee, make sure they have the proper protection they need if a work accident happens. Most businesses in the U.S. must buy workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp helps cover employees if something happens to them while on the job.
Effective interviews for the best hires
Hiring and interviewing new employees can be challenging. It’s a big decision that can have adverse effects on your business if you make the wrong choice. Hiring the best person for the job can be a game changer, however, as they’ll likely contribute to the continued success of your business.
You can make candidates comfortable, ask them better questions, and be a more engaged listener. Each of these things can create a more effective interview and help you find top talent for your business.