Candidate Interview Preparation

Jan 7, 2016

Candidate Interview Preparation:
Five Tips To Help You

After sifting through what seems like endless applications, resumes, and cover letters, you’ve narrowed down the applicant field and called each candidate to request interviews for a job opening.

However, your hard work isn’t over; in fact, it’s just begun. With a competitive job market, hiring the right candidate is crucial, and your level of candidate interview preparation should be as well.

As a recruiter, manager, or human resource professional, you should invest as much time and effort into planning for job interviews as your candidates do.

Here are five tips to help you with candidate interview preparation.

1. Know Your Applicants

Once you know which applicants you’ll interview, spend some time reviewing the candidates’ resumes, cover letters, and applications. Pay attention to previous work experience, education, and volunteer opportunities, noting how these experiences may influence how the candidate approaches the interview and the job position.

Take some time to get into the applicant’s skin, as interviewing a recent college graduate of the millennial generation is different than interviewing a middle-aged applicant with years of experience or a stay-at-home parent returning to the workforce. Remember, each candidate will bring unique skills and experiences to the position.

While phone interviews are a great way to screen and get to know applicants, additional candidate interview preparation will help you be ready for a face-to-face interview. Don’t forget to quickly review each candidate’s resume, cover letter, application, and portfolio before the interview or bring them with you to the interview.

2. Create an Outline

Knowing your applicants also helps you determine which questions to ask in an interview. For example, if a candidate is from out of town, you may want to ask questions about relocation. If a candidate has several employment gaps in his or her resume, you might want to ask about those gaps. In addition, if a candidate is changing career fields, you could ask what prompted the change.

Candidate interview preparation doesn’t have to be just about asking questions. You could also offer expect role-playing from your candidates. You can even use the same scenarios or potential situations that could arise in the job position to see how the candidate handles each incident.

In your outline, include general questions about the job opportunity. You may want to ask each candidate similar questions. For example, ask about the candidate’s career goals and motivations, strengths and weaknesses, and how all of these attributes match the position. You’ll want to ask specific questions depending on experiences and skills, or change some of your questions on the fly, based on how the interview goes. Be flexible during the interview, but strive to cover everything on your agenda or outline.

3. Know and Sell the Opportunity

Along with the questions you ask the job candidate, know that a well-prepared candidate will have questions for you during the interview. Proper candidate interview preparation will strengthen your knowledge about the details of the job opportunity so you can sell the idea to the candidate. Finding capable, hard-working candidates for job positions can be a difficult task, especially in certain fields or positions with few qualified applicants.

After establishing a rapport at the beginning of the interview, give the candidate an overview of the company’s culture, project, job position, and expectations. This may answer some of the candidate’s questions immediately. As the interview progresses, identify how the candidate’s attributes match up with the position’s duties and how the opportunity will help the candidate fulfill his or her career goals.

During the interview, keep the tension. You should constantly sell the opportunity, but subtly take it away from the candidate. You can do this by letting the candidate know a little about the hiring process. For example, mention that you are interviewing several candidates first before conducting second interviews with three candidates, and a final interview or dinner meeting with one or two final candidates. With this tension, the candidate sets an internal goal to win the first interview and be invited to the second interview.

4. Be Confident and Mentally Prepared

Candidate interview preparation is also about you, as the interviewer, being mentally prepared. Believe that you know what you’re talking about and have the opportunity to help the candidate meet his or her career goals.

Let your confidence shine when speaking to the candidate. Do not apologize, use false humility, or say phrases like “in my opinion”, or “I think”. Remember, the candidate is out of his or her comfort zone and may be nervous during the interview, so it’s up to you to take control, as the applicant may look to you for direction.

Speaking confidently will help the candidate trust and respect you, and your confidence will become the candidate’s confidence. Recruiters, managers, and human resource professionals go through the interview process on a regular basis and can relieve the applicant’s stress.

5. Post-interview Review

After the interview, you’ll evaluate each candidate in relation to the other candidates and discuss future interviews with the other interviewers, but you should also evaluate how well the interview went for you. If your outline, role-playing scenarios, and questions worked well, consider using similar ones for future candidates. If you felt nervous during the interview, identify why and think about ways to reduce your anxiety.

Just as a job interview is important for candidates, it’s also a good chance for you to represent your company or hiring agency to the outside world via each candidate. Make sure you’re prepared and you’ll give off a great first impression when you conduct each interview.

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie began his career at Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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