Doomsday scenario come interview day? You fail to gather the depth of information you need on your candidate, who ends up rushing for the exit door feeling more than a little awkward. Sounds comical, but it happens to bundles of businesses all too often.

Here are 15 tips, truisms and interviewing techniques for employers to run a steady ship come question time - helping you to wheedle out the info you need to make informed decisions about your applicants.

1. Decide what you want your interview process to look like

There are different interviewing techniques which work best for different types of interviews. To know how to prepare correctly for an interview, you need to be clear what type of interview you’re conducting.

For example, if you’re going to lead a panel interview, you need to ensure everyone has a specific area of focus and that questions don’t overlap. Competency-based interviewing techniques will require you to think of scenarios relevant to your organisation to gain insights into how a candidate would perform with you, while also having potential follow-up questions ready for those interviewees giving obviously pre-prepared answers.

You can find out more about the different types of interviews in our guide to interviewing.

2. Be clear about what the role entails

It doesn’t matter what interviewing techniques you use if you’re unclear about what an applicant will be doing after they’re hired.

While some roles will come with a degree of ambiguity, both you and the candidate need to know the core duties they’ll be undertaking. Failure to do so doesn’t just lead to an unfocused interview, but also deters jobseekers from wanting to take the job.

3. Environment matters

Find somewhere quiet where you can speak without losing focus on the conversation. Your space should be private too. You might feel comfortable having your colleagues within earshot, but it will ratchet-up the pressure for your candidate if they feel that others are listening in.

Reserve your room ASAP if booking is required. Block out the diaries of everyone on the interview panel. And double check everything the day before your interview. Flapping around trying to find an empty room or missing colleague while your applicant loiters in reception will not reflect well on your company.

And that's important because...

4. Interviews are a two-way thing

Of course, you hold most of the cards. But remember that your candidate is searching for the right fit too. You are an ambassador for your company, so it's best not to rollout your version of the belligerent Alan Sugar thing.

Be ready to make a glowing impression. Explain why working for your company is such a buzz. Get your candidate excited. Thank them for their time. You don't know who else is waiting to snap up the potential prodigy sat in front of you.

5. Making interviews more conversational and less confrontational

As well as selling yourself to a prospective employee, ensuring that the interview is a conversation rather than an interrogation helps you with information gathering. This is the most important interviewing technique for interviewers to get right.

If candidates feel like they are on the defensive, they’ll be looking to satisfy you by answering your questions but adding nothing beyond that. This leads to your nightmare scenario of not gathering enough information to make an informed decision.

Conducting a conversational interview gives you a real insight into the person you’re speaking to, making it much easier to determine how well they’ll fit into your organisation. Additionally, a jobseeker who feels relaxed will provide you with much greater information than one simply looking to survive continuous questioning.

6. Know the ABCs of candidate CVs

Good interviewers are active, not passive. Knowing a few facts on the background and accomplishments of your candidate shows respect. More importantly it empowers you to ask questions that force your applicant to elaborate on their career history. That has two benefits: 1) you can check if their competencies match the role; 2) you can make sure the candidate is everything they claim to be on paper.

7. Identify ways to bring out a candidate’s achievements

Interview situations should be about finding what a professional can do, rather than ruling them out based what they can’t do. A great interview technique for interviewers is to examine any key achievements listed in a candidate’s CV or cover letter and ask them about it. This allows you to see the candidate at their best and will help you find out what they can offer to your organisation.

8. Explain how the interview will run

It's just good practice. It will help your applicant feel more comfortable too. Remember to leave time at the end of the interview for questions from the candidate.

9. How to reassure your candidate if they are promising, yet nervous

Nerves are a natural part of the interview process and an important element. You need to see how well candidates deal with pressure.

That being said, you also want to encourage interviewees to be open and engage with you despite these nerves. Try to get to know them and let them know a little bit about you at the very start of the interview, prior to asking any detailed questions about their career or their skills. This should help them to relax and respond to you more naturally.

10. Interviews go quickly. Choose your questions wisely

You only have a few minutes to gather crucial information on your applicant. It's not easy. And hiring the wrong person can be eye-wateringly costly. Bottom line? It's imperative that you ask the right questions.

Replace yes/no questions with open-ended alternatives that allow your candidate to answer thoroughly. Ask follow-ups that push past pre-prepared answers and force your candidate to think decisively on demand.

11. Be careful with your curveball questions

You can even throw in a curveball - but our advice would be to go easy on the weirdness.

  • Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?

  • If you were a pizza deliveryman, how would you benefit from scissors?

  • You're a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why?

Come on. Look for actual evidence of your candidate's abilities. Evidence that your candidate is a good fit for your team. Evidence that their enthusiasm for your company is authentic. Finally - and importantly - check with your legal department about the legality of your questions. There are some absolute no-goes (our specialists can help if you are unsure).

12. Forget about taking notes (for yourself)

If you need notes on the interview, have someone else sit in and write them for you. It's hard to concentrate on having a productive two-way conversation, one that shows respect to your candidate, if you are feverishly trying to scribble every last utterance onto a piece of paper.

13. Analyse your candidate's body language

It's said that body language is responsible for up to 58% of human communication. You could learn a lot about your candidate by studying their posture, facial expressions, hand movements and more. Easier said than done during a one-one conversation. It might pay dividends to hire a body language expert to sit in on your interviews.

14. Be aware of your unconscious biases

Your brain naturally makes judgements on people. This is part of our evolution to quickly assess threats – you get your first impression of someone in just seven seconds.

Having bias is natural, but not being aware of it and letting it control your impression of interviewees won’t help you find the best candidate. Don’t deviate from your planned questions for each jobseeker so that you can make a fair comparison between them, while having a colleague observe the interview will provide another perspective and mitigate for any unconscious bias.

15. Leave time for questions and give detailed answers

Giving interviewees the opportunity to ask their own questions not only helps you sell your organisation and the role to them, but also provides a great insight into how they think and what they understand about your organisation.

Try to give answers which include as much detail as possible. If a candidate asks a question you are unsure about or are uncomfortable answering, say that you can’t answer that question now but would be happy to send them an answer later. This gives you time to liaise with colleagues to think of a good response.

As you can see, interviews are about much more than mundanely separating wheat from chaff. With the right interviewing techniques you can take an active role in finding a candidate that fits your vacancy, your business and your budget.

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