Employee Management

10 steps for conducting effective job interviews

Learn how to conduct effective job interviews.

Published: November 04, 2013
Updated: January 19, 2017

By HR360

As a business owner or manager, hiring an employee is one of the most important decisions you will make – and interviews are a valuable tool to help you choose the best candidate.

The key to effective interviewing is to focus on evaluating the applicant's job-related qualifications and skills, while avoiding irrelevant questions that may be considered discriminatory. You can follow the steps listed below to help you make the most of your interviews and stay in compliance with the law:

1. Understand the job requirements

Identify the major duties and responsibilities of the position, along with the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are needed to perform the job's essential functions. Organizing your selection criteria will help you develop objective interview questions to evaluate each applicant's potential to succeed. 

2. Develop job-related interview questions

Prepare a set of interview questions that target the essential functions and responsibilities of the job. Develop questions for each job requirement you have identified to help you determine a candidate's qualifications. Ask only for information you intend to use in making a hiring decision, and know ahead of time how you will use the information to make that decision.

3. Establish a system to evaluate candidates

Think about your selection criteria and what types of responses you are looking for that will demonstrate a candidate's skills and ability to perform the job. Set up a formula for rating the applicant's answers that is based on the selection criteria you have identified. Using a standard form helps to make the process more objective and ensures that candidates are evaluated based on the same criteria.

4. Ensure a comfortable interviewing environment

Choose a private area that is neat and quiet – such as an office or conference room – to conduct the interview. Avoid distractions and do not answer the phone or respond to emails during the interview. Offer the candidate water or coffee before you begin.

5. Help the candidate relax

A friendly demeanor helps to put the candidate at ease and encourages a more natural conversation. However, be careful to avoid small talk that could inadvertently lead to potentially discriminatory questions such as those about a candidate's marital status or political beliefs. During the interview, nonverbal gestures like smiling, maintaining eye contact, and nodding your head can show your attentiveness and make the candidate feel more comfortable.

6. Avoid unlawful or discriminatory questions

Questions regarding race, religion, age, ethnic group, national origin or ancestry, political affiliations, military service, disability, or other sensitive topics may be considered discriminatory and should be avoided. Do not ask questions that might elicit such information – for example, asking about the origin of an unusual surname. As a general rule, information requested in an interview should be limited to that which is essential for determining if a person is qualified for the job.

7. Document the interview

Document the interview by taking interview notes. You can later use these notes to refresh your memory when it is time to review the candidate's qualifications and compare his or her strengths and weaknesses against other candidates. Limit your documentation to job-related information and facts, and do not include subjective observations. Disregard any irrelevant or inappropriate information volunteered by the applicant during the interview and do not write it down.

8. Allow the candidate to ask questions

While most of the interview will focus on asking the candidate questions, be prepared to discuss your company and the specific job opening. Give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions and be honest with your answers – as much as it is important for the candidate to make a good impression, it is also important to establish realistic expectations so the candidate can decide whether the position will be a good fit.

9. Provide the candidate with information regarding next steps

End the interview by thanking the candidate for his or her interest in the job and your company, and let the candidate know your time frame for getting back in touch regarding any next steps. Remain neutral and do not lead the applicant to believe an offer is forthcoming until you make a final decision.

10. Make your final decision and notify candidates

Evaluate each applicant's qualifications and extend an offer of employment to the best-qualified candidate. Maintain a positive image of your company by informing unsuccessful candidates that they have not been selected and thanking them again for their interest.

For specific questions regarding how to conduct a lawful interview, please consult with a knowledgeable employment law attorney.

HR360 is the award-winning online HR library featuring easy-to-understand guidance on federal and state labor laws and Health Care Reform along with interactive HR tools and hundreds of forms and posters. HR360 also features step-by-step guidance in key HR areas such as hiring, performance reviews, disciplining, and termination. Reviewed and maintained by a team of attorneys, HR360 helps employers nationwide successfully manage their employees while complying with changing employment laws.

The information and materials herein are provided for general information purposes only and are not intended to constitute legal or other advice or opinions on any specific matters and are not intended to replace the advice of a qualified attorney, plan provider or other professional advisor. This information has been taken from sources which we believe to be reliable, but there is no guarantee as to its accuracy.

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