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Landing top talent depends as much on your skills as an interviewer as any other factor. After all, interviews are a chance for candidates to assess you and your company, just as you’re assessing them and their candidacy. While it can be the hardest part of the recruitment process — particularly if you’re not used to conducting interviews, or doing so is a bit out of your comfort zone — getting it right is certainly well within reach.

To be a great interviewer, you need to inspire confidence, ask the right questions, and really learn about your prospect. Below are some key steps to help make sure you’re getting it right.

Do your homework

First and foremost, you need to have studied your candidates’ resume, application form, and any other supporting materials before the interview. You expect the candidates to know about your company and what you do, so it makes sense that you should have read up on them, too. This way you’re not wasting any time going through information they’ve already supplied and you’ll be armed with better questions.

Put the candidate at ease

For many people, the interview process can be extremely nerve-wracking. Put candidates at ease by being friendly and asking a few easy questions to start with. This will help loosen you both up and work to everyone’s advantage. The interview process is about getting to know the real person behind the resume, not grilling a person to the point where they’re a bundle of nerves. Setting a tone that allows both of you to relax will bring out the best in everyone.

Have a strategy and be prepared

Whether you’re interviewing as an individual or as part of a panel, you need a strategy. If you’re flying solo, write down a list of questions related to the job responsibilities, the candidate’s experience, and personality. Then plan out the order in which you’ll ask your questions. If you’re on a panel, decide beforehand who will greet the candidate, who will introduce the panel, and who will ask which questions. You want the process to go smoothly so that you don’t look like you’re unprepared or floundering.

Outline the interview structure

Let the candidate know what to expect by outlining what will happen during the interview. This might include giving him or her a brief description of the company followed by an outline of the duties associated with the job. After that, you’ll likely ask the applicant your questions, while also making sure to give the candidate the opportunity to ask you questions. By sharing the parameters of the interview at the outset, you’ll both stay more focused. Plus, the candidate will likely be a bit more relaxed knowing what to expect.

Talk less and listen more

Your goal is to understand more about the candidate, in their own words. You can’t do that if you are dominating the conversation. In fact, you shouldn’t talk more than 30 percent of the time during the interview. To get them talking, ask open-ended questions and give candidates time to answer them fully. That’s how you’re going to learn whether or not they’re a good fit for your organization.

Don’t rush to judge

We’re all guilty of unconscious bias, so it’s imperative that you try and keep your initial impressions of a candidate as neutral as possible. Let the interview play out and take time to review it afterwards. Giving every candidate a clean slate and the same opportunities from the get-go could result in hiring top talent you might have previously dismissed because your judgement was clouded. You don’t want to miss out on the best hires because they remind you of someone you dislike or you think their appearance is off. Keep it fair for the best results.

Take notes

If you have multiple interviews to do, it’s important to take notes during each one. After a while it’s easy to confuse candidates and their answers. Then you’ll struggle when it comes to assessing each one at the end of the process. Keep good notes of your impressions of candidates, what impressed you, and what didn’t. That way you’ll be able to make much more informed decisions when the interviews are finished.

Stay on course for the best results

Developing your skills as an interviewer can take time, but there are some tried and true strategies you should use that will help you become a pro. It’s an important process and making the right or wrong hire can have a big impact on your business. Don’t be afraid to review previous interviews and think about what you could have done better. Just remember, the more practice you get the better you’ll become.

What tactics have you used to help your managers become better interviewers?

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