Conducting an interview - the right way to do it

The job interview is the decisive moment in the application process. Now the relatively impersonal data from the CV is standing in human form right in front of you. While you were able to make a pre-selection based on the candidate’s hard skills such as education, qualifications, and specialised knowledge, it is now down to the candidate’s personality, level of motivation, communication skills, and general appearance - i.e. soft skills.

If you have no experience in conducting professional interviews, you’re likely to make some mistakes. This includes, for example, being influenced by niceties and sympathising with the applicant, forgetting crucial questions to ask them, or having no proper structure to the interview so that it’s difficult to compare the candidates at the end.

Our interview guide is designed to help you avoid these mistakes and shows you how to conduct professional interviews so that you end up finding the candidate who best fits your company.

The best interview: A guide for employers

An interview is intended to help you as an employer to find the best candidates for vacant positions in the company. You should never lose sight of this goal during the interview. This includes not only judging candidates neutrally and asking the right questions, but also creating a pleasant atmosphere in which candidates feel comfortable. The most important prerequisites for this are, above all, good preparation and a clearly structured interview process.

It is also helpful if you consider a time frame in advance, which you should keep in mind while conducting the interview. This way, you avoid spending too long on less important parts and then rushing more important points at the end because the next applicant has already arrived. In total, the interview should last a maximum of one hour, but 45 minutes is better. This helps not only the candidate who is no doubt very nervous, but also you, especially if you have to conduct several interviews one after the other.

The optimal interview process should look something like this:

  • Greeting and introducing all participants (5 minutes)
  • Interviewing the applicant (15 to 20 minutes)
  • Presenting the company (5 to 10 minutes)
  • Questions (10 minutes)
  • Conclusion (5 minutes)
Tip

Before the interview, look into topics such as body language and non-verbal communication. This way you can not only better interpret the applicant’s unconscious signals, but also help contribute to a positive atmosphere yourself. By showing interest, respect, and appreciation, you will make the applicant feel more at ease, less nervous, and they will find it easier to show you their best side.

You’ll get nowhere without preparation

If you conduct a job interview without any preparation, the applicant will immediately notice this, e.g. because you’re asking questions that you should already know from reading the candidate’s documents. This not only puts you in an uncomfortable position, but also, in the worst case, damages your company’s reputation; namely when highly qualified candidates bail because they don’t see themselves or their skills sufficiently valued.

Poor organisation and chaotic procedures also put you in a bad light as an employer. Be sure to avoid organisational errors such as:

  • The reception staff not being informed about the interview.
  • The applicant having to wait a long time before the interview begins.
  • The application documents not being available to all interviewers.
  • The meeting room already being assigned to someone else so you waste time finding another place.
Tip

We are only human and mishaps like these can happen despite good preparation. If they do happen, then it is up to you to communicate this as confidently as possible and to thank the applicant for their understanding. Admitting mistakes and sincerely apologising is a better strategy than nervously trying to ignore or downplay the situation.

So make sure you take the time to prepare. Read the candidate’s application documents carefully in full and take notes so that you have the most important information ready for the interview. This also applies to inconsistent points such as gaps in the CV or topics that interest you, e.g. why the applicant has decided on a particular job, degree programme, etc. All this shows that you familiarised yourself with the candidate’s history and are honestly interested in them.

A few hours before the interview you should check the organisational aspects again. This includes reminding all colleagues involved about the interview, preparing the meeting room if necessary and making sure that the reception staff know what to do so that they can greet the applicant (ideally by their name).

The 5 phases of the interview: The most important points for employers

As an employer, there’s no need to be nervous during job interviews. Even if you have limited experience, you can hide it from the candidates by preparing well and appearing confident. But beware: being confident does not mean treating the applicant as if they’re lower than you. On the contrary, treating them equally shows respect, professionalism, and experience in dealing with (future) employees.

It also helps if you think back to job interviews you’ve had in the past, remember your nervousness, and consider which person interviewing you made you feel the most comfortable. If you take this into account in all parts of the interview, the candidate will notice that it is not just an automated selection process, but that you want to make the situation as pleasant as possible for them.

Welcome and introduction of the participants

Greet the candidate in an open, friendly manner and give them a bit of time to get settled in the room before you begin the actual interview. To avoid any awkward silences, it is best to bridge this time with small talk, e.g. with questions about their journey, what they think of the city (if they have travelled from another place), or remarks about the weather. This will help them to acclimatise and breathe a bit before you get down to the nitty gritty.

You should then introduce any other participants by saying their names and which positions they hold in the company. At this point, it is good to briefly explain why the person is taking part in the interview and what employment relationship they may have with the candidate if they get the job.

Keep calm and relaxed in this situation so that it helps calm the applicant’s nerves.

Interviewing the applicant

Now it’s time for the actual interview to begin. As an employer, you naturally want to find out why the applicant is interested in the position and what skills they can bring to the table to benefit the company. But don’t forget to ask them about how they imagine their future work and a good employer to be. After all, it is about both sides getting to know each other equally. It is better to find out now that the mutual expectations can’t be fulfilled rather than be annoyed later that the wrong decision was made.

This part can quickly end up being a pure question-answer game (or a cross-examination if there are several participants). Try to create as natural a flow as possible by focusing on the candidate’s answers after you’ve asked one or two introductory questions, and steering the interview in the desired direction with specific, more in-depth questions.

Tip

Make as many notes as possible during this part, not only the candidate’s answers, but also the impression they’re making on you. This is so you can remember the conversation better later on and this will make your decision easier.

Presenting the company

Now it is your turn to introduce the company in more detail and to give the applicant an impression of how their future job could look. Don’t lose yourself in an overly-detailed monologue of the company’s history or repeat information that can easily be found on the company’s website.

Consider in advance which information is important for an applicant to know and focus on the importance of the position you’re trying to fill. Briefly explain the role in the team, collaboration with other departments, and possible development opportunities for this position as well as the importance for the company’s overall future goals, if possible.

At this point, try to give the applicant as realistic a picture as possible of everyday company life. This is so you avoid disappointment and dissatisfaction from the get-go, which could potentially bring down the team’s morale later on.

Questions

Now is the time that the applicant can ask questions that may relate to general processes in the company or specifically to their future role. Here, it is important to answer openly and honestly as well, but just make sure you don’t reveal any company secrets.

Be aware that an applicant’s questions could also unearth some of the company’s problems. Prepare yourself for this by consulting with colleagues and superiors beforehand on how to react to these issues and possibly avoid answering them without lying to the applicant.

Conclusion

After all the candidate’s questions have been answered, it is normal to briefly outline what will happen next. Mention when you plan to get back to the candidate and clarify the most important conditions for the employment contract. These include the earliest possible start date, salary expectations, holiday days, and contract type (fixed or unlimited).

You then thank the candidate for the interview and walk them to the door.

Going through notes after the interview

When a job position needs filling, you’ll probably conduct more than just the one interview; you’ll no doubt invite a large number of potential candidates for interviews. If the selection process lasts several weeks, your memory of the first few interviews could become foggy or you could forget important details.

So that you can still make an informed choice after some time, you should prepare some notes after each interview and, if possible, transfer them to a standardised evaluation sheet to make it easier to compare all the candidates.


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