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Tips on Interviewing Employees

If you look online, you’ll find hundreds of pages that give you interview tips – what to wear, how to act, when to arrive, and what kind of questions you need to be prepared to answer. It’s much harder, however, to find tips when you’re doing the interviewing or hiring. If you’re a small business owner with little HR experience, conducting your first interview can be a little bit daunting. You have to skim resumes, conduct interviews, and choose the perfect candidate. Whether you’re hiring your first employee or an additional one, we’ll tell you all you need to know when interviewing employees.

Set the Scene

The first thing to do is decide on the interview format. One-on-one, in-person interviews are the norm, but they aren’t your only option. If you’re hiring a sales rep who lives across the country, or you’re out of town on business, phone or Skype interviews are also a great option. Phone interviews can also be a great screening method. You can conduct phone interviews with 5-10 candidates first, then bring in the top 3 for a face-to-face interview. Depending on the nature of your industry, group interviews might also be an option to consider. These are helpful for project-based positions where working with a team is essential. Decide if you want anyone else sitting in on the interview with you. If you’re part of a small team where personality is important, you might want to consider having your whole team present.

Know What You Want in an Employee

As the interviewer, the most important thing that you can do is to be prepared: know exactly what you’re searching for. Think about education, experience, and skills. Make sure that you have a detailed job description and a list of the expected roles and responsibilities. Think about personality – do you need someone outgoing? A team player? A leader? You can also prepare by being familiar with the candidate you’re interviewing. Go over his or her resume and be ready to ask questions if you have any. Check references, look at the candidate’s LinkedIn profile, as well as their social media.

It’s important to have a list of questions before the candidate even comes through the door. The two most important kinds of questions that you want to include are fact-based questions and behavioral questions. Fact-based questions are often easy for you to come up with and easy for the candidate to answer, but they’re important nonetheless. Examples include: Tell me about your most recent internship. Can you explain this responsibility further? Behavioral questions are much more open-ended and usually begin with the phrase “Tell me about a time when….” You can tailor these questions to fit the qualifications you’re looking for in your employee: Tell me about a time when you made a mistake and how you overcame it. Tell me about a time when you took the lead on a project. Tell me about a time when you had to multi-task and how you handled it. Make sure that you have plenty of questions planned and rank them in order of importance in case you can’t get through all of them in the time allotted for the interview.

Hold a Conversation

Even though you probably have a lot of questions that you want to get in during the interview, make sure that you’re having an actual conversation, NOT an interrogation. You’re not the one being interviewed, so don’t spend the whole time talking about yourself or your company. Instead, listen hard! Take notes and ask for clarification when you don’t understand. Experts suggest that the interviewer only speak 10-20% of the time, or else you’ll interview yourself. Make sure that you also leave time so that the interviewee can ask you questions. These questions are a great way to gauge his or her interest in the company and how much he or she prepared for the interview. Conclude your interview by thanking the candidate for his or her time. Tell them your hiring timeline, and when they can expect an answer from you.

Analyze Your Options

The final thing to consider when conducting your first interview is how you’ll decide whom to choose. Many experts suggest that you use a rating system. Write down notes and rate each candidate on qualities that matter to you after their interview. Although personality is important, you’re not hiring someone to be your best friend. You’re hiring someone who can fulfill a necessary role in your company. Rating forces you to consider whether or not someone hits the important marks rather than getting distracted by someone who is friendly, but might not be the best choice for the job.

When you decide which candidate to hire, welcome them enthusiastically. Let the other candidates know of your decision, but tell them how much you appreciated their time and let them know that you hope they’ll keep your company in mind for potential future opportunities. Congratulations! You’ve successfully completed the interview process and have (hopefully) hired a wonderful new addition for your team.

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