A job interview isn’t just your chance to determine if a candidate is a good fit for your company. It’s also your time to make a strong first impression on the interviewee. The interview process can go a long way in affecting a job candidate’s opinion of your company, for better or worse.

Because of this, knowing how to conduct an interview is one of the most important aspects of providing a good candidate experience. Whether your team members are responsible for phone screens or in-person interviews, they should know how to conduct an interview that makes a positive impression.

By following a few best practices before and during the interview, you can have confidence in your ability to make a good impression — and the right hiring decision.

Before the Interview

An interviewer’s role in the hiring process begins as soon as the hiring manager schedules an interview. Solid preparation will help you conduct the interview more effectively. Here are a few basic things you can do to get started on the right foot.

Review the Job Description and Candidate’s Resume

Want to ask better questions? Make sure you already have a decent understanding of the candidate. Review their work history, and check out their LinkedIn profile or cover letter for more in-depth information on their experience and qualifications.

By reviewing the information they’ve already given you, you can avoid asking redundant questions like “How does your experience relate to this job?” Candidates want to feel like you’re prioritizing them enough to take the time to review their materials. Use their resume information to ask deeper questions. For example, you could ask about why they shifted fields or why they’re proud about a specific product they mentioned.

You should also take some time to review the job description for the position the person is applying for. This can help you formulate situational questions specific to the role and answer any questions the candidate might have.

Proactively Communicate With the Candidate

Surveys say that 93% of candidates feel anxious about job interviews. Sometimes, this nervousness can come from not being sure how your specific interview process works (whether this is one of many interviews, who they’ll meet with, etc.).

One simple way to alleviate this is to proactively communicate with the candidate throughout the hiring process. For example, you could send a message to the candidate telling them details like how long the interview will last and what type of questions to expect. Also, let them know how many rounds of interviews candidates typically go through before receiving a job offer.

This outreach is sometimes handled by the interview coordinator or hiring manager. Interviewers should double check if they need to help with pre-interview outreach, and if so, what information they should provide.

Proactive communications show that you value the candidate’s experience and want them to feel prepared for the interview.

During the Interview

How you present yourself (and your company) will shape the candidate’s perception of you. At the same time, asking the right questions will help you successfully compare candidates so you can make the right pick.

Have a Prepared List of Interview Questions

If you have an interview template available with a list of questions, you should follow it closely so that each candidate has a fair and comparable experience. Open-ended questions are best for learning more deeply about a candidate’s skills, values, and experience. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions when you want additional details or need clarification.

Your list of questions should include behavioral, competency, and situational questions. Such questions help you understand how a candidate addresses common issues like workplace conflicts, challenging client demands, or a project that isn’t going as planned. They can help you understand the candidate’s problem-solving abilities. They can also help you confirm their knowledge and skill level.

Examples could include:

  • How do you handle disagreements with coworkers?
  • What do you do when a project doesn’t seem like it will meet its deadline?
  • Describe a time you received negative feedback. How did you respond? What did you do about it?

Practice Good Body Language

Conducting interviews is more than just asking questions. Your body language during the interview goes a long way in helping a candidate feel at ease.

Smiling and maintaining eye contact can help a candidate feel welcome at the start of the interview. When the candidate responds to your questions, lean forward slightly and nod or tilt your head to show your interest. Keep your arms resting at your sides or on the table, instead of crossing them.

Keep your focus on the candidate — not your phone or whatever you see out the window. By treating the candidate with respect in this way, they’ll have a better overall experience.

Take Notes

No matter how well you try to pay attention during an interview, you’ll probably forget many of a candidate’s answers. This is especially true when you are interviewing several people for the same position. Taking a few notes will help you remember key facts about each candidate.

Note-taking doesn’t have to be extensive. Just write down what stands out in a candidate’s responses. This will make it easier to compare responses later as you try to evaluate candidates. This also shows the interviewee that you are truly listening to what they are saying.

Let the Candidate Ask Questions

Every interview should leave some time at the end for the candidate to ask their own questions about the job and your company. Each candidate will undoubtedly have specific questions based on the things that matter most to them. This could include questions about the work environment, daily responsibilities of the job, or even benefits and salary.

Answer these questions honestly, and to the best of your knowledge. Don’t try to hide information because it may not put your company in the best light — they’ll find out eventually, anyway. If you don’t know the answer to a question, let the candidate know that you will try to find that information for them later. The better you can answer a candidate’s questions, the more comfortable they will feel in their ability to make a decision about whether your company is a good fit for them.

Sell the Job

A good interviewer also tries to “sell” the position and their company to a candidate. In addition to answering any questions the candidate might have, you should tell them why your company is a great place to work for. Highlight the things that you love about your job, such as the people you work with or the company culture. Don’t share your salary, but talk about unique benefits the company offers that improve your everyday experience.

Even more importantly, explain how taking a role with the company can help the candidate reach their career and personal goals. A company that offers a clear path for skill development and career growth can be an attractive long-term prospect.

How to Conduct an Interview to Find the Right Candidates

When you know how to conduct an interview effectively, you can better evaluate a candidate’s competency, cultural fit, and other attributes. Even more importantly, you can make a strong first impression. When you make a good impression on top talent during the interview process, they are more likely to choose to work for you, rather than a competitor.

If you and your team need help learning how to conduct an interview, Prelude can help. Prelude Train prepares your interviewers for success with structured training and shadowing plans. This helps you develop more interviewers faster. With several skilled interviewers on your team, you can prevent interview burnout and give each candidate a great experience.