3 steps to interviewing potential staff

27th May, 2016

If you recruit the wrong staff for your business, it could prove to be very costly. Let’s take a look at how to avoid this outcome with some interview tips and techniques.

Preparation is key

‘If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail!’ This is a maxim that applies to many facets of small business, and particularly so to job interviews.

Most candidates prepare reasonably well for employment interviews by making notes and attempting to anticipate some of the questions that they may be asked.

In order for the process to function smoothly, and to achieve its ultimate objective, the prospective employer needs to be fully prepared for the interview too.

As a small business person you may be required to carry out an interview at some point for an employee or contractor, so here are three key points to factor in.

1. Getting ready

If you are not absolutely clear what you are aiming to achieve through interviewing candidates for a position of employment, then you are unlikely to be satisfied by the outcome.

Develop the job description
Firstly, the role you are aiming to fill within your business should have a written job description or profile, including details of the key duties, outputs and deliverables.

Create a shortlist of characteristics
Determine what attributes your ideal candidate should have well in advance of selecting your shortlist. List the key characteristics and behavioural traits of the type of person you would expect to succeed in that position.
In small business, you will probably want to find a candidate who is adaptable, accountable, and a motivated self-starter. Perseverance and enthusiasm are likely to be valuable traits too, while experience in the field is valuable.

Research each candidate
Carry out your research on each candidate before the interview day, which means reading and critically analysing resumes and respective cover letters in full. Small business owners often check the online presence of prospective candidates, such as Twitter accounts or other information sharing sites, but references are not typically followed up until such point in time that you are considering making an offer of employment.

Gather interview questions
As looked at in more detail below, compile a concise list of potential questions that you might opt to ask during the interview, comprising traditional interview and more role-specific questions.

2. Interview day

While it is possible to hold interviews by telephone or online, meeting an interviewee in person is a far more effective approach for building rapport, so generally a face-to-face interview is preferable.

Be smart and punctual in order to set the right impression, and prepare a suitably formal and professional environment, with chairs laid out in appropriate positions and water available. If you have a receptionist, ensure that they are aware of the interview and that you have time blocked out in your diary.

Usually the interviewee will be aiming to sell themselves to you, but don’t forget that it is also your job to sell your business and the advertised position to each candidate! Why should the best candidates want to work for you? What sets your business and its vision apart from the pack?

Avoid discussion that may be perceived to be discriminatory, since this may lead to your recruitment decision being legally challenged.

3. Questions to ask

During the interview itself, aim to ask open-ended questions, which allow the interviewee to talk freely and express their thoughts. Ask one question at a time, and allow the interviewee the opportunity to respond in full without unnecessary interruption.

Learn the basics
Traditional questions can form the foundation of the interview, and tend to inquire about career achievements, qualifications, leadership and delegation skills, and career goals and objectives (such as ‘where do you see yourself five years from now?’).

Find a fit
In a small business in particular, you will need to find a candidate who has a strong cultural fit with your business. Questions to discover a fit might include inquiring as to which work environment the candidate has been most content in.

Does the candidate likes to work alone or as part of a team? Which management style do they operate most effectively under?

READ: How to create a positive workplace culture

Dive deeper
Behavioural interview questions can help you make decisions between similar candidates through assessing their competencies. Past performance may be the best guide to how a candidate will fare in the future.

Behavioural questions might pose problem solving or conflict scenarios, or questions on leadership and team-working skills that the candidate has shown in the past.

Take good notes during the interview so you don’t forget important details.

Read: Talent acquisition: Building a modern workforce

Happy searching!

The aim of the interview process should be to help you identify the candidate with the most appropriate mix of skills, industry experience and attributes for your business and the role in question. Sound preparation is the key to achieving the optimal outcome, both for you and the successful candidate.

Enjoy the search!