To hire the right people for your company, you need effective interviewing techniques that provide insight into candidates, highlight their skills and knowledge, and drive candidates’ interest in the company. However, organizations often struggle with the interview process because it’s loosely defined and the people conducting interviews commonly lack the necessary training and know-how to do it well.
Hiring has become a multi-step process where candidates must go through several types of interviews, complete screening, and take assessments. This collected data should show the HR staff, the recruiter (if applicable), and the teams involved what each candidate has to offer and how they compare to one another. In practice though, that can be more difficult and possibly hampered by internal bias and a lack of tracking data, a structured process, and internal skills or competency mapping.
Once you have those factors in place, you can pin down what you want in an ideal candidate and why, and ultimately improve your interview process.
Steps of an interview process
Most interview processes should follow a defined series of stages over a set amount of time. Defining both time and the number of interviews clearly communicates expectations to candidates up front, increasing transparency and enabling them to make informed decisions. A basic process should consist of the following stages:
- Screening – A screening is a preliminary interview conducted through a phone or video call to determine if the candidate meets the minimum requirements needed to be considered. Questions are kept simple, covering the basics about job history, skills, past experience, and general personality. Screening may also include short skills or behavior assessments delivered online. This serves to narrow the candidate list so you avoid inviting unqualified people to an interview.
- Interview – The first interview should ideally occur with recruitment and someone from the team that’ll work with the new hire. This forms a general first impression of the person as you assess their skills and have someone involved in the role gauge their potential fit.
It’s equally important for the candidate to get to know you as well at this stage, which is why first interviews are often held in-office. It’s good practice to start with an introduction, a short tour of the building, or a quick chat to gain a feel for the person’s personality. From there, you can move to interview questions, leaving room for the candidate to ask questions and your subject expert to get involved or ask for more detail where relevant.
- Second interview – The second interview is the time to introduce the candidate to other people from the department or team they’d work with, show the facility, and ask deeper questions. You’ll want to pose questions based on answers from the first interview, which means second interviews usually require more preparation. Gauging personality and soft skills are still important at this stage as well.
- Competency assessment – Competency and behavior assessments fit in well at this stage of the process, because both you and the candidate understand you’re invested. This can motivate them to work harder to get the job. In these assessments, you want to test for competencies and skills, then map them to your existing competency framework to see if those behaviors, skills, and soft skills are relevant to the role.
- Final interview – If you need a third interview, it should be held with potential coworkers and include any questions not covered in the previous interviews. Additionally, the candidate should be allowed to ask questions. Some hiring processes conduct more than three interviews, but you can adjust this based on the information you need.
- Decision – The final stage of an interview process is to decide whether or not to hire the candidate. This usually involves comparing the remaining candidates’ skills based on the job description and skills matrix you created for it.
You should also discuss those findings with the people who’ll work with their new colleague. Subject experts can offer useful insight into why a candidate would or would not be a good fit for the role. However, they’re less likely to be aware of bias, so it’s a good idea to discuss the role and the candidate from a skills and capability perspective.
Generally, the faster this process goes, the more affordable it is for the organization and the fewer candidates you’ll lose. That being said, globally, interview processes average 23.7 days. It’s important to set expectations and plan timelines based on the availability of internal personnel. For example, if you need a department head for an interview, their busy schedule may cause delays. Be flexible to ensure a senior employee who’s relevant to the open role can sit in on interviews.
Types of HR interviews
It’s important to incorporate different interview techniques to make the right hire. One of the most effective is using different types of interviews, such as behavioral, competency-based, skills-based, and others. To determine which types you should implement, map the interview type to the data your organization needs to make the hiring decision.
Behavioral and competency-based interviews should almost always form the backbone of your process. From there, you can fill in other types based on specific needs.
You’ll also want to use a series of tools to support your interviews, such as:
- Phone screening – Ask high-level questions designed to qualify candidates rather than learn about them. The candidate can ask questions, but the goal is to see if their voiced responses match their resume or cover letter. You can follow up with additional phone calls at any time.
- Skills and competency tests – Skills tests measure hard and soft skills along with competencies. Assessments like profiles allow you to check for skills related to a number of careers, or you can build your own or map to your existing job profile. Other tests like assignments gauge behavioral and skills aspects but normally require more investment from the candidate and should be delivered later in the interviewing process.
- Behavioral assessments – You can implement behavioral questions into interviews and deliver behavioral assessments separately or combine them. The option you choose depends on how invested you are in the individual’s personality and behavior (e.g., if they’re moving into a customer-facing role or a leadership role, behavior may be as important as hard skills).
- Group panels – It’s important to let potential colleagues meet so they get a feel for the candidate and offer opinions on their skills and team fit. Involving people experienced in the field fills in the gaps HR misses.
Before the formal hiring process starts, it’s helpful to gather information about the role and what a candidate needs to be successful. Here, an informational interview is one of your best tools.
Informational interviews are a relatively new format whose main goal is to gain valuable insight into a particular position. They have special rules to follow for both the interviewer and the interviewee to benefit.
While informational interviews are often overlooked by job seekers, they offer major advantages, like expanding your network or pinpointing certain skills you can improve.
To obtain value from an informational interview, you need to know who to talk to and what questions to ask.
Informational interview benefits
Remember, an informational interview is not a job interview and so should not be approached as one.
In a job interview, a candidate wants to get hired to a certain position and talks to an HR manager and their potential departmental manager. Job interviews can be stressful and determine whether the candidate is a good fit for a role.
On the other hand, informational interviews help a person gain insight into a new position, company, and industry as a whole. They’re low-stress, as there’s no assessment – only information gathering. During such interviews, the interviewer is typically someone in a junior role who asks questions about specific tasks and duties in a higher position, internal processes, possible pitfalls, and opportunities for professional growth.
The benefits of the informational interview include:
- Significant network growth — During the interview, you can ask for valuable contacts that can give you advice.
- Deep insights on the position you want to fill — These insights include the job description in the company, duties, executive attitudes towards it, company culture, etc.
- Advice for future growth — You can learn which skills you need to work on and how to qualify for a desired position.
The first step in conducting an informational interview is to choose the right interviewee and prepare a list of questions to ask.
Choosing the right interviewee and crafting the right questions
We recommend outlining the goals you want to achieve from this interview: Do you want to know how to become a professional in a chosen sphere, or are you interested in a specific company and wish to work there?
Choose the person and questions based on your goals.
Deciding who to interview
If you want to learn about a specific position, try to find someone who already works at a company in the same or a similar role. If you’re seeking professional advice, you can try meeting with an executive or manager who can recommend professional areas to hone and improve.
Here are a few places to look for the right people:
- Your own network — Your targeted specialists may already be in your professional network.
- LinkedIn — Search within your existing network or look for certain people.
- Family and friends — Ask whether they know anyone who can help you.
An informational interview is still a professional exchange, similar to a regular interview or networking at a conference. Send a message or an email introducing yourself and politely ask to arrange a meeting. By acting in a professional manner, you’ll earn people’s trust and respect, which increases your chances of gathering valuable insights.
Questions to ask during the interview
Once you solidify your goals and choose someone to interview, you need to outline the questions you’ll ask.
A great place to start is with the person’s career: how it started, what led to the person getting their job, and how they feel about it. People typically enjoy talking about themselves, so you could gain more insight than you expect. You may also think of other, more targeted questions as they speak.
Other possible questions for an informational interview include:
- What are your daily duties?
- What kind of skills and knowledge do you need for this position?
- What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of the industry?
- What’s your impression of this company, culture, and management?
Hiring interviews are specifically structured around collecting the data you need to make a hiring decision.
Most organizations perform background checks and pre-screening before individuals walk into their first interview. These are necessary (and sometimes mandatory) verifications, but you can also use that data to improve the quality of your interview.
In general, recruiters can analyze data from background checks and prescreening to ask better questions, collect more information, and form a clearer opinion of the candidate and their abilities.
Pre-screening should include background checks, contacting references, and any other basic checks you feel are necessary. It may also incorporate personality and competency tests to determine the candidate’s demeanor, what they can do, and how they’ll perform at your company. However, you might want to save these for later in the interview process when you and the candidate are more invested.
While not every role will require comprehensive screening, doing so allows interviewers to create a more comprehensive picture of each candidate before they come into the interview. At the least, you should test for personality and soft skills such as communication or emotional intelligence (EQ), which can be delivered over separate tests or rolled into one.
Manager interviews bring a manager or team lead into the discussion to meet the candidate and form an impression of whether that person would fit into the team. Keep in mind this type of interview has several phases, with time for both HR-led behavioral interview questions and manager-led technical interview questions.
Depending on the person and the role, you might want to break that into segments such as the following:
- 10 minutes to relax, ask casual questions, have coffee, get to know each other
- 20 minutes of behavioral interview questions from a prepared list, likely based on a previous interview
- 20 minutes where the manager asks questions
- 5 -15 minutes for the candidate to ask their own questions
You won’t always be able to subdivide your interviews so neatly. For example, technical people won’t be trained in interview techniques and they may have questions outside of behavior, so letting the interview proceed organically may be a better call.
In either case, the person conducting the interview should be relevant and add value to the process. Also, consider preparing a list of questions for the manager regarding aspects like technical fit, personal fit, and hypothetical situations.
Peer interviews function similarly to managerial interviews but may involve a group, several of the closest people a candidate would work with, or other knowledge experts in the organization. It’s almost always necessary to implement a less structured interview here, because people in peer interviews normally have little experience conducting them.
Usually, the best option is to prepare a list of behavioral and skill-related questions to guide the conversation and keep things on track. The primary goal of this type of interview is to see how potential peers interact, allow them to gauge the skills and capabilities of the candidate, and otherwise ensure there are no culture clashes. Other best practices include:
- Decide beforehand what you want to gain from the interview. If you need to know if the person has good skills and relevant knowledge, tell the team that so they can check for it. If you need to know if culture fit is present, inform the group this is a more informal interview and you’re mostly trying to see how well people get along. Keeping non-HR people informed will ensure they know what to look for in the interview, rather than asking questions arbitrarily.
- Guide the conversation when necessary. You’ll need fewer questions because answers should prompt discussion and questions from peers. However, you should still be able to guide the interview and keep it on track.
Behavioral interviews are the core of most modern HR interview processes. While peer and some managerial interviews can be relatively unstructured, behavioral interviews have to follow a strict procedure.
Start by deciding what knowledge you want to obtain from the interview, which requires you to define what you’re looking for. To pinpoint this, you can:
- Interview people currently in the roles to determine what success looks like in that position.
- Refer to a job profile matrix or competency framework.
- If you don’t have either, consider using industry baselines for that role.
From there, you can make a list of desired behaviors, soft skills, and competencies. At this stage, you’re not interested in hard skills like C++ coding (ideally, you’ve already screened for that). Instead, you’re looking for specific behavioral factors that make someone a good fit for your team.
For example, if you’re hiring for a software engineer to perform maintenance on existing code, a creative, self-driven professional who likes to think outside the box would be a poor fit. You need someone who’s steady, reliable, able to follow other people’s work, prefers simplifying and improving existing processes, and who wants a reliable and predictable work environment.
Behavioral interviews focus on identifying the traits that yield success in that particular role (keeping in mind that sometimes those traits overlap or even conflict). Often, existing behavioral interview frameworks are the easiest and most reliable tool to conduct effective interviews.
Check-in interviews happen after the hire as a follow-up to see how the candidate is doing in their new role. Check-ins should usually occur at three, six, or 12 months following the new hire’s first day of work. Depending on your organization and whether you have the data collection infrastructure to use that information, you might want to do all three.
Here, you sit down with the employee to discuss how work is going, how culture matches up to expectations set during hiring, how they’re getting along with others in the organization, etc.
Pairing these check-in interviews with skills assessments and performance data as well as discussing skills and competencies with them, their direct supervisors, and immediate colleagues can also help you validate the hiring process.
Check-ins help ensure the candidate is doing well, and if not, what changes need to be made to make them happy and reduce your employee turnover. At the same time, they create a feedback loop to HR so you can directly validate or invalidate the decisions made during hiring to improve your interview process over time.
An exit interview is an important part of your employee management process. Although it may not save a departing employee, it’s a great time to gain insights into your workforce and identify areas for improvement.
At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss the value of an exit interview, since that employee is leaving the company. However, insights gleaned from it can help you boost your employee retention by learning what your company does and doesn’t do well for its workers.
An employee who’s leaving has little to hold back, so it’s often a great chance to gather raw, honest feedback about management and general business practices. A good manager understands the value of all employee insight and knows the opinions of a departing employee can help the company optimize its processes and improve the overall work atmosphere.
The benefits of an exit interview
The main purpose of an exit interview is to uncover gaps in the company’s culture and, based on the answers, come up with the ways to resolve those issues. Whether the employee leaves willingly or not, there are many things you can learn from them about your company, managers, work processes, and organization.
Here are the key benefits that a well-organized exit interview brings to the company.
Optimization of HR processes
When an employee decides to leave the company, the exit interview can find out why. Maybe it’s a higher salary offer, a more comprehensive health package, or a better work environment.
The exit interview provides valuable insights into the state of HR-related processes in your company. By asking the right questions, you can learn a lot about your competition and see what kind of improvements your company needs to make.
Remember to ask about their onboarding experience and interactions with your HR specialists. This is an important process that plays a large role in employee retention.
Lower turnover rate
As mentioned above, an exit interview can impact your employee retention. By uncovering problem areas that drive away employees, you can take steps to address them and keep your employees longer.
For example, if an employee stresses the non-professional behavior of a certain manager, you can collect feedback about this person from other employees and conduct a few meetings with them to address the stated concerns.
Investing in the company’s image
An employee who leaves on bad terms can easily hurt your company’s image, whether intentionally or unintentionally. When asked about the company, the employee will complain rather than praise it. As a result, their review can discourage potential candidates from wanting to work with you.
A well-conducted exit interview, on the other hand, can fix the situation and help the employee feel respected and valued. You may not turn the employee into a lifelong brand ambassador, but you can at least prevent long-term negative impacts.
Pre-exit interview considerations
Beyond writing down a list of questions, you need to take other steps to prepare for the interview to extract the maximum value from it.
Choosing an interviewer
Obtaining quality data is one of the biggest struggles in exit interviews. If an employee is dissatisfied with the company’s CEO, they likely won’t open up about it during the interview to avoid being blacklisted.
To gather valuable data, you need to:
- Make sure the company’s executives understand the importance of exit interviews and are ready to accept negative criticisms and implement changes.
- Choose the right person for the role of the interviewer.
Selecting the right interviewer is crucial to make employees feel comfortable and able to answer questions honestly. The best choice would be to assign either an HR specialist or a mid-level manager, as they’re usually closer to the employees and will be able to create a sense of trust during the interview.
Scheduling the time for the interview
You can’t simply schedule a meeting on a random day and send your employee an RSVP invitation via Google Calendar.
The interviewee needs to feel comfortable to give honest feedback, so you need to schedule the interview at a time that’s convenient for them. You can approach this in two ways:
- Conduct the exit interview while the person is still in the company, before they check out mentally. This lets you probe the employee while their thoughts are still fresh and increases the probability of getting honest replies.
- Conduct the interview a few weeks to a month after the employee has left the company. The greatest benefit of this approach is that the employee will be relaxed at their new place of work and thus more honest about their reasons for leaving.
Questions to ask during the exit interview
When considering questions to ask, focus on the following points:
- The employee’s attitude towards the company
- The employee’s attitude towards the manager (and executives)
- Areas for possible improvement
- What the company can start implementing right now
- The employee’s opinion on existing processes
Prepare a list of questions in advance and avoid making overly personal inquiries, like office gossip. Inform the employee of the purpose of the interview at the beginning so they understand you value their feedback.
After conducting the exit interview, dedicate time to processing the answers and see how you can apply them to optimize your existing processes.
Exit interviews help companies identify the pain points that lead to employee dissatisfaction and a low retention rate. Analyze the feedback and make adjustments and fixes based on it to help the company grow and keep your employees happy with their work.
When someone tries to quit, it’s better to let them go instead of trying to convince them to stay. Instead, you should learn from their experience and take action to improve your employee retention. Conduct an exit interview with every employee who leaves your organization – even the ones who left involuntarily.
How to nail exit interviews
Ensure honest answers
Your goal for an exit interview is to get to the bottom of why someone is leaving, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ensure honest answers by explaining this clearly and asking non-leading questions.
Clarify that you want to hear both their complaints and their positives. Provide a safe environment for them to voice their concerns and conduct the exit interview in confidentiality. Make it clear they’ll incur no negative consequences if they share poor reviews of their managers or are brutally honest about their complaints.
Make it worth their time to participate
Requiring an exit interview is one option, but it’s also important to make it worth a person’s while. Show you appreciate them taking time to give you full answers instead of rushing through the exit interview by providing snacks and coffee or taking them out to lunch.
Questions to ask
Below are some sample questions you can ask in your exit interview:
- When and why did you start looking for a new job?
- What do you like about the company?
- What are some things you didn’t like about working here?
- Did you feel well equipped to do your job?
- Did you share your concerns with anyone else at the company? What was their response?
- How would you describe our company culture?
- Why did you decide to take the job offer at your new company?
- What could we have done differently to convince you to stay?
- What was your relationship with your manager like? With your peers?
- Would you ever consider working with us again? What would have to change?
- Did you get enough helpful feedback about how you were performing?
- Would you recommend us as a place to work?
Tip: Ask them if it’s okay to follow up and, if so, ask for their personal email address.
Use what you learn
Finally, it’s important to use what you learn from your exit interviews to improve. Make sure exit interview data is collated, collected in one place, and brought to management attention.
Basic components of an interview
A fruitful interview should be tailored to the information you want to glean from them. That may require a structured approach or, if you only want a general impression of the interviewee, an informal one. No matter the type of interview you conduct, there are a few basic steps to take when crafting your interview process: set time limits, have questions ready, employ the same metrics for each candidate, and ask for feedback at the end.
Set time limits
Allot the same amount of time for each interview. They should be allowed to go over no more than a few minutes so that each candidate gets the same amount of attention.
Have a list of standard questions
These will allow whoever takes charge of interviews to provide a uniform experience for each candidate. Questions should be applicable to and used with every interviewee. Also, avoid gender and other biases in your question set.
Ask both hypothetical and behavioral questions to gain a clear picture of your candidate’s abilities. Hypothetical questions assess future behavior, ability to think quickly, and give insight into how they would handle certain situations. Behavioral questions assess previous actions, such as what they did at a former company or a customer service experience they facilitated and are proud of. These will show how the candidate has proven themselves and provided value to previous companies.
Use the same metrics
Make sure each interviewer understands how to rate candidates based on set variables. This ensures each candidate is assessed for the same qualities, and once the interviewer is removed, a third party can select the candidate objectively. Train your interviewers in your rating system so they’ll all work within the same parameters. Google provides an excellent sample grading rubric here.
Ask for feedback
After each interview, either in person or online, ask the candidates for feedback about your interview process. You may discover you missed an important question and can add it to your process, or notice a question that made a candidate uncomfortable and remove it. Keep an open mind when asking for improvements.
Training and facilitation from Profiles Asia Pacific
If you don’t have time to train your interviewers or to interview every candidate, you can outsource this important responsibility to an outside company like Profiles Asia Pacific. We take the structured interviewing process a step further by using standardized assessments created from years of research and experience to determine your best fit. Visit our products and solutions page to learn how we can help.
How to interview for soft skills
Thanks to technological advances, soft skills have risen from accessory ornaments at the end of a great CV to a prominent component of hiring. Adaptability, creativity, and willingness to learn are now requisites to survive in evolving markets.
Soft skills enable individuals to succeed in a range of environments. They include personality traits and attributes, social skills, and more. Because they’re at the forefront of requirements for many new positions and divisions, companies are increasingly centering their hiring rubrics around these skills.
Soft skill benefits
Soft skills in your staff help your workplace culture flourish. This, in turn, leads to sustainable business growth and higher rates of productivity.
For example, social and communication skills encourage interdepartmental synergy in key personnel. This makes it easier for large companies to react to disruptions and prevent future breakdowns in operations.
Soft skill metrics
The main drawback to soft skills was their lack of measurable data to gauge their effectiveness in a company. However, social sciences have come a long way since then. Social psychologists, sociologists, and other experts have refined qualitative methodologies and developed an array of tools to measure non-technical skills. As a result, their accuracy and predictive power are now credible and reliable.
Here are a few ways to measure soft skills in your business:
- Behavioral interviews — These interviews focus on the way candidates act in certain situations. Rather than current or past performance, they use hypotheticals to identify specific skills.
- Soft skills-based rubrics — Rubrics are grid-based tools that employ key criteria to measure employee performance. They allow you to assess and score a number of attributes and scales. These rubrics should be customized for each role in the company.
- Feedback surveys — Questionnaires and surveys can help identify issues stemming from insufficient soft skills in your company. These tools can capture falling levels of employee satisfaction, communication problems, and leadership issues.
Surveys are also crucial to measure the efficacy of skills training. Feedback from colleagues, supervisors, subordinates, and clients makes it possible to track progress.
Soft skills to track
Recruiters more commonly seek and weed out candidates based on their non-technical skills (or lack thereof). The following are the five currently most in-demand soft skills for companies.
- Emotional intelligence (EQ) — Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify emotions accurately in yourself and others. It’s the bedrock upon which all other skills are built.
The absence of EQ is a major red flag, as companies need people who are mature and empathetic.
- Adaptability — Adaptability allows someone to change their behavior and assumptions quickly to meet the needs of a given situation. With technology and markets constantly evolving, companies need employees who can adjust to new realities without skipping a beat. Although employees should already be adaptable, companies can also offer training to develop it further.
- Collaboration — Employee collaboration has proven to produce higher quality work than interpersonal competition. The ability to cooperate seamlessly in different settings and groups is invaluable to success.
- Persuasion — Long considered a sales team skill, persuasion has greater implications for other departments: It’s also a crucial element of effective leadership.
Great leaders must be capable of persuading their teams to follow them. Dissent is natural and healthy (when done respectfully), but a persuasive leader fosters cohesion.
- Creativity — Creativity is consistently one of the most sought-after soft skills in new hires. In an uncertain, disrupted marketplace, companies know they’ll need to be innovative to beat the competition. Creative employees approach problems from new angles and find clever solutions.
6 Assessment areas to improve your interview process
Employee selection is one of the most researched elements of the recruitment process. Once you receive resumes, conduct interviews, and identify qualified candidates, you need to select the best person for the role. To validate that selection, you can use employee profiles based on your top performers.
This is a multi-step process that involves recognizing and validating top performers and mapping existing performance to future growth and strategy. Then, implement that information into your employee selection process through skills, behavior, and other assessments to determine how well candidates compare to existing employees.
1) Top performers
Assessing performance inside your organization requires you to review employee performance and then determine which factors contributed to that success. In most cases, you can combine existing performance management with individual assessments to collect this data. As yourself:
- Who are your top performers? Have you validated that?
- Why do they perform so well?
- Which behavioral traits/soft skills contribute to their performance?
- Which hard skills contribute?
- Which emotional aspects contribute?
An employee assessment should interview the individual, the people around them and the role, and their leaders. You can then combine this data with existing role profiles based on the skills and behaviors people listed as necessary for the position.
2) Future growth and needs
As your organization grows, its needs will change, which will impact your roles and their requirements. To forecast future organizational changes, review top employee assessments and validate them.
For example, if you’re hiring for a role that’s about to change, would current performance serve the new requirements? If individuals are able to succeed because of factors that’ll change in the near future (i.e., one to two years), they might be unable to maintain those levels once their roles adjust.
Also, consider prioritizing attributes. If you know traits such as adaptability and strong external communication are crucial to success in a role, you should prioritize them over hard skills such as proficiency with a specific tool. Observe which skills contribute to top employees’ performance and how much, then give those soft skills greater weight in your interviews and assessments.
3) Candidate profiles
Once you recognize what success looks like in a role, you need to create processes that are capable of identifying those behaviors and skills in candidates. Assessment companies, for example, employ strategies ranging from competency assessments and structured interviews to culture-fit and emotional intelligence testing to look for desirable traits and behaviors.
If you use these tactics, it’s a good idea to give your top employees the same tests and/or interviews so you can directly compare their results to candidates’ scores, validate the efficacy of the assessments, and track results to real people.
Leveraging top employees in your employee selection process can help you narrow down the candidate list, make better hires, and encourage long-term success with validated data. To hire future top performers, make sure you or your external assessment organization measures candidates’ potential against culture, future growth, and forecasted changes in roles.
4) Profiles skills
A web-based skills assessment can reveal a candidate’s capabilities and hard skills without asking them to invest a significant amount of time. As such, customized skills assessments can be an important part of the screening process or follow-up after the first interview. These should be tailored to each role, based on internal frameworks, or chosen from an external framework and tailored to meet your specific business needs.
Competency assessments can take many forms, ranging from EQ and EQ-I tests to check employee communication styles and talents, to soft skills assessments and personality types such as:
- EQ assessments – EQ assessments assess emotional intelligence for leadership, teamwork, and collaboration purposes, identifying gaps and showing how people work together.
- DISC assessments – DISC assessments are one of the leading tests used for team-building and team assembly. They gauge how people work and communicate together.
- ProfleXT – ProfileXT shows how well an individual matches a specific job profile in your organization. While this does require you to set up the profile matrix first, that makes the data obtained more robust.
Note, you’ll have to tailor these assessments to your workplace and map them to a competency or job role framework to gain useful information.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most respected and utilized personality tests in the world. Estimates show between two and three million people take the test every year, and nearly 90% of Fortune 500 companies implement it.
MBTI assessments help recruiters determine a candidate’s personality. They identify strengths and weaknesses, pinpoint communication style, and determine how candidates like to work.
How personality types influence your interview
The Myers-Briggs test has 16 personality types that explain if someone is extroverted or introverted, and how they communicate outwardly. Depending on a person’s results, a recruiter may view the candidate’s performance in a different light. For example, extroverted individuals are expected to be more outgoing, more comfortable in social settings, and have a broader sociability.
The MBTI can help you notice and account for blind spots. For example, if a candidate is extroverted and outgoing, will they say too much or overshare? If they’re introverted, will they come off as reserved and cold? Once you understand the personality facets behind individual behavior, it’s a lot easier to see where you might have bias.
MBTI will estimate the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, which can give you much-needed insight into personality traits. Most people don’t think of themselves as “confident, analytical, and ambitious,” but if you’re an INTJ, that’s how the MBTI describes your personality. That can be valuable in determining how closely someone’s behavior matches the way they describe themselves. You can also target strengths during the interview by asking questions such as:
- How do you recognize strengths in yourself?
- How do these strengths benefit the role?
- Where have you demonstrated those strengths?
Note the MBTI gives only an average overview of personality traits. To better understand the answers you receive, you’ll need to review and discuss the traits with candidates in ways that apply to the role.
Every personality type has its weaknesses, so it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with them, especially how they affect the position you want to fill. Review the “weaknesses” section in the MBTI results and discuss them with candidates. Figure out how (and if) they apply, and ask how candidates account for those weaknesses — they might not be shortcomings.
Going back to the INTJ example, you’d see weaknesses like “judgmental,” “critical,” “highly independent,” “overly analytical,” and “dislikes rules.” Most of these can be discussed in a positive light, acknowledging them as weaknesses and determining how to compensate for them.
MBTI results are not static; in fact, most people get the same results only about 70%–75% of the time. However, those results can be good starting points for communication styles, personality traits, and general communication. They can delve into, for example:
- How their communication style fits the team’s
- What the leaders are like and if they complement work and communication styles, or clash
- How these personality traits fit into the role and how they’ve fit into similar ones in the past
- The problems these personality traits have caused the candidate in the past and how they’ll affect their new role
The Myers-Briggs Foundation states no type is intrinsically suitable or unsuitable for a particular role or job. However, it does offer recommendations for “best fit” roles for each personality type but cautions they’re loose structures. No one should ever be denied or given a role because of their MBTI type alone.
The MBTI can be a valuable way to gauge a candidate’s personality, individual work approach, and communication style, which you can discuss and communicate during the interview.
List of interview questions
There are dozens of potential interview questions you can and should ask. However, it’s often a good idea to find the middle ground between structured interview questions, behavioral questions (which you should take from your behavioral framework), and casual, unstructured interviews. In most cases, you should craft a list of structured questions with room for organic inquiries and to follow up on answers.
Having an idea of what you want to learn from the candidate will help you decide which questions to include. Ask yourself:
- What information is most important for you to gather?
- What do you have to know to make a hiring decision?
- What information do you need to differentiate your candidates?
- Do you have any concerns?
- Are there any special considerations for working on your team that need to be addressed?
- Do you have questions about their previous role(s) or experience(s)?
Only ask a question if you need the information; irrelevant questions will simply eat up time from the interview. Your questions may be open-ended, yes/no, or a bit of both. Sample questions include:
- Could you tell me a little about yourself?
- What drew you to this role? Why do you think you’re a good fit?
- What are some factors that make you feel you’ll excel at this role?
- How would you describe yourself?
- Can you talk a bit about your qualifications?
- Why did you choose [X field/university/role]?
- What experience do you have that most prepared you for your current position/career?
- What are some takeaways you gained from the role you’re leaving?
- Do you have any skills (e.g., interpersonal, soft skills, hard skills) that you’re proud of or feel would contribute to this role?
- How do you lead/follow?
- What is an ideal employee/manager relationship in your eyes?
- What do you look for in your career beyond the salary?
- What do you like the least about your career? The most?
- What kinds of work environments do you excel in?
- What’s most important for you to have in your work (e.g., creativity, fulfillment, time for family life)?
- What drew you to [X organization/role]?
- What does success look like to you? What has to happen before you say, “Yes, I’ve done it”?
- What do you think it takes to be successful in this position? In our organization?
- How would you like to contribute to our organization?
- What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
- Do you have any accomplishments you’re proud of? Which gave you the most satisfaction?
- What motivates you to put in effort/What drives you?
- What is a mistake you wish you could fix? Did you learn something from it?
- Do you work well under pressure? Is it healthy behavior?
- Tell me about a time when you received criticism. How did you receive it? How did you implement the feedback?
- Was there ever a time when you had to get people on board with your idea or point of view? If so, how did you go about that?
- How do you handle someone being negative or difficult to work with?
- Have you ever had a major disagreement with a colleague or supervisor? How did you resolve it?
- Have you ever been in a situation where you or you and a few others did most of the work in a group project? How did you handle it? Would you act differently now?
- How do you measure accountability? What does it mean to be accountable in your role?
- Do you have any short-term personal or professional goals?
- Do you have any long-term goals? Do you want to be in the same role? What do you want to change?
- If you were interviewing a colleague for this role, what would you look for?
- What do you think your first goal in this role should be?
- If you had to pick one thing about yourself to tell us, what would it be?
- What is a developmental or skills gap you’ve had to overcome during your career?
- What are some of the most satisfying moments in your career? Why?
- What’s an example of a time you failed to meet a project deadline?
- How did you measure success in your previous role? Do you think that should change for your upcoming role?
- What’s the most challenging report or performance information you’ve ever received?
You’ll obviously want to ask basic questions to make sure the candidate did their research and can back up what’s on their resume. But those should only be a part of screening or filtering rather than the focus.
Subjects to avoid
You can’t ask questions about finances, race, age, religion, and other demographics. If you’re familiar with anti-discrimination laws in your area, you can use those to structure interview questions so you avoid potential bias. However, the following is a short list of questions you can’t normally ask:
- Ageist questions (e.g., “What year did you graduate from high school?”)
- Children, marriage, or childcare responsibilities
- Disabilities in any regard other than to ensure the candidate is fit for work
- Race or skin color
- Personal contact details or partner details
- Nationality and origin
- Religious affinity
- Financial situation
- Prior military experience
- Union membership/History of union membership
- Workers’ compensation history
- Arrest record
Interviewing candidates aims to gather the most information out of people in the shortest amount of time. The following tips and techniques will help you optimize your process to collect prudent information efficiently.
Preparation is the most important step
Before you interview someone, you need to have the tools and processes in place to do something with the information you obtain. Long-term preparation includes:
- Creating profiles or matrices for job roles that define what success looks like
- Implement profile or candidate management — Often, the same tools that manage potential hires can be invaluable for long-term performance management, development, and promotions, so a single, multi-functional management tool is a good idea.
- Basic candidate research — It’s important that you read a candidate’s CV/resume, go over their LinkedIn page or portfolio website, and perform any other necessary research to know who you’re talking to before you step into an interview with that person. This way, you can skip to the more probing questions not covered in their resume.
- Make sure HR is properly trained — If you’re using behavioral interviews, for example, train the relevant personnel in the appropriate techniques.
Ask about achievements
Take time to look up your candidate online, review their resume for any achievements, and look at their LinkedIn page. What stands out? What can you ask them to expand upon in the interview? Questioning things the candidate has listed shows them you’ve thoroughly reviewed their profile, making them more likely to invest in you as well.
Often, candidates step into interviews with no idea of how long the hiring process takes or what it entails. Tell your candidate up front how many interviews you expect, how long the entire process is, and give them a deadline (firm or estimated) by which they’ll hear about your hiring decision. This reflects positively on your company and improves their confidence in and experience with the organization.
Put candidates at ease
People are often nervous in anticipation of an interview, and although it’s good to see how they handle pressure, you should take steps to help each candidate relax. Being friendly, taking time to get to know the candidate before you ask the formal questions, and sharing information about the process can put them at ease and improve the quality of their answers.
Only ask questions you want answered
If you can’t articulate an answer’s potential added value, you shouldn’t ask the question. Go over your list of prepared questions before the interview to ensure they’re relevant, valuable, and allow each candidate to explain themselves clearly.
Record the interview or use a transcription tool
It’s difficult to concentrate on an interview if you have to take notes. So, you should either have someone else take notes during or use a recorder or dictation tool to do the task for you. If you want to take a few notes or mark important items, you can do so, however, you should largely pay attention to the candidate, not your notes.
Make adjustments for unconscious bias
People are biased, whether it’s about someone’s name, the fact they have pimples or a stutter, they went to a college the interviewer dislikes, or something else. Although unavoidable, the important thing is to be aware of them and take steps to limit their influence. Stick to prepared questions, involve multiple perspectives on the gathered input, and be sure to score every candidate with the same rubric.
Allow time for long answers
Open-ended questions should be a major part of your interview. Making time for longer, more detailed answers and follow-up questions can give you much more information about the candidate than rushing through a long list of surface-level questions. Pick your questions carefully and give each candidate the time to answer them fully. If you still have time left at the end of the interview, you could let them ask their own questions.
Keep it conversational
Even going through a list of questions, try to keep the interview conversational; you won’t learn anything of importance from a series of rapid-fire questions. Instead, adopt an informal attitude: Take time to get to know the candidate and create pleasant conversation.
Ask about assessments
Assessments reveal information that can produce richer interview questions. Reviewing information like answers from previous employers and background data will allow you to formulate pointed questions that can help you delve deeper into a candidate. For example:
- Reference data — “We called your previous manager at your last job and he said you’ve had some issues with conflict on his team. What’s your side?”
- Background data — “What convinced you to switch from marketing to finance? Are you happy with that choice?”
Generic questions often reveal little about an individual, their career choices, or why they’re in your office. Asking specific questions about data they’ve given you that’s relevant to the information you need will help you gain better results from your interview.
Question prepared answers
Candidates now have the tools to prepare for nearly any type of interview. Having behavioral and competency information on a candidate gives you the opportunity to question prepared answers based on assessments.
This forces an individual to provide more honest answers, because they won’t have time to prepare for this sort of questioning. Nearly everyone expects they’ll be asked, “How would you respond to X situation?” but following their answer with something like, “Your personality profile suggests you prefer to avoid conflict. How do you manage that in a situation like the one we just discussed?” would prompt an unfiltered answer.
Integrating assessment and personality testing into the interview process makes it easier for recruiters to gauge an individual’s demeanor, how they react to certain situations, and their abilities. They can also compare the behavior displayed during interviews and create a clearer picture with the extra data to make a final assessment.
Common interviewing mistakes
Generally, HR personnel run interviews rather than professional recruiters. That leaves a significant amount of room to make mistakes and miss out on valuable information in the interview.
Failing to prepare
If an interviewer is unprepared, they won’t be able to gain an accurate estimate of the potential hire. Good hiring involves comparing the candidate’s skills to the role, and that requires a job profile for the position so they know what to look for. In addition, you need to know how to get the information you need, whether it’s through assessments, interview questions, or their professional profile.
People often form preconceptions upon meeting others and then seek to confirm them. For example, if you go into an interview thinking someone is a strong candidate, you’re more likely to overlook their flaws or look for reasons to support their potential instead of fairly evaluating them. This includes the halo effect, where you allow appreciation for one aspect to affect everything, despite any severe deficiencies in other areas.
If you feel inferior to the candidate, you might subconsciously form a negative opinion of them; this is known as the social comparison bias. Be mindful of it throughout the interview process to prevent any influence from it.
Making quick decisions
Half of all employers make a decision about a candidate within the first five minutes of meeting them. That’s too fast to think objectively. Ignore that initial gut reaction, have someone who hasn’t met the candidate review their data, and take your time when deciding.
Holding out for the perfect candidate
No candidate is perfect. Rather than spending time and resources trying to find your ideal candidate, you’ll have to settle for the best in your talent pool. That means letting go of high ideals and looking at what you have in front of you. Keep in mind what skills can be trained, what can’t, and what’s most important for a candidate to have coming into your organization.
The goal of any interview is to collect clear and accurate information in a uniform manner so you can compare all candidates fairly. You have to know what each role needs and what to look for in a potential hire. Once you have that down, you can walk into an interview better prepared. Implement tools to gather relevant information before and during interviews and to record each session for later review.
You can also make the process easier for your candidates, hiring managers, and yourself by following the tips and techniques we’ve discussed. Additionally, use this guide to arm yourself with the necessary knowledge to structure your processes and guarantee a seamless interview and successful onboarding process for all hires.