How to Interview a Potential Candidate: An All-Inclusive Guide

How to Interview a Potential Candidate: An All-Inclusive Guide

How to Interview a Potential Candidate: An All-Inclusive Guide
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Conducting a successful interview affects almost every aspect of your business.

Put more clearly, finding the right candidate starts with the interview process, which will affect teamwork, company culture, and productivity, to only name a few factors.

Even though this blog post is aimed at helping HR professionals, it could also be an excellent place to start if you’re a potential candidate preparing for an upcoming interview.

In this article, we’ll work through all the steps, from choosing a potential candidate to cheat-sheet interview questions.

Finding High-Potential Candidates

A potential candidate is someone who is being considered for a position at a company. On the other hand, high-potential candidates are individuals that demonstrate the ability to grow faster (generally with more success) than the average potential candidate.

Finding a high-potential candidate is the goal, of course. However, this may not always be as easy a task as it may seem. Nonetheless, this is where the interview process starts and is, thus, a crucial step to finding the right candidate for the position.

How Do I Find And Evaluate High-Potential Candidates?

There are various steps to follow to evaluate your potential candidates better, and we’ll get to these in a moment. However, finding them is the first and most crucial step.

1. Be Specific And Truthful About Expectations

Let’s say you’re a marketing and communications agency looking for a potential junior candidate; the competition to find a great junior candidate is already very high. Most likely, you’ll be flooded with resumes and CVs after posting a general job description on LinkedIn.

This outcome will be the same for every marketing and communications agency looking for a junior candidate.

However, if you post a job ad describing to potential candidates precisely what the job entails, requirements, and other qualifying factors, you’ll most likely get fewer applications.

The key takeaway is that getting fewer job applications isn’t bad; this is actually the first step to getting higher-potential candidates.

2. Make Employees Part Of The Process

Employee retention is an obvious goal for most companies; ensuring your potential employee fits in with the company culture is essential to employee retention.

Thus, if you already have high-potential employees demonstrating the company’s culture daily, why not make them part of the interview process? After all, these high-potential employees will be working with them in the future.

High-potential candidates with a specific job title at a particular company know what it takes and what skills are essential for other candidates to have. Accordingly, it might be a good idea to get current high-potential employees onboard when interviewing or sifting through the CVs of potential candidates.

3. Include A Trial Period

It can be effortless to be a great candidate during an interview but not a great candidate for the actual open position. Accordingly, it might be a good idea to have a trial period for each employee to better get to know the company's operations and vice versa.

7 Steps To Conduct Successful Interviews With Job Candidates

Conducting successful interviews with potential candidates is no easy task. This is why we’ve compiled a list of the necessary steps to run a successful interview, and we’ve listed these steps in chronological order for your convenience.

1. Initial Screening

potential candidate

After receiving multiple job applications, scheduling interviews with all potential candidates may seem daunting. First of all, this process doesn’t need to be all that bad if you use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to help you track potential candidates throughout the hiring process.

An initial screening process is a good place to start, especially if you’ve received a lot of applications.

Here you can confirm that each potential candidate has the minimum qualifications required for the job opening while not wasting company resources on thousands of interviews.

It is essential to have a job profile that includes background and personal factors. This will help you decide which candidates should move forward in the hiring process.

2. Schedule In Advance

After selecting high-potential candidates for the position, it’s crucial to allow the qualified candidates enough time to prepare for the interview in advance. The general rule of thumb is at least two days before the interview. Furthermore, when scheduling the interview, it’s best to be as accommodating as possible by providing all the necessary information the potential employee might need.

For example, will the interview be held online or in person? Is there a meeting link? Where can the potential employee park for the interview? If there is a dress code, let the prospective employees know.

Another good idea is to describe the interview format to the potential employee. For instance, letting them know how many interviewers will be present, the expected interview time, or just general interview objectives can make the whole process smoother.

3. Prepare For The Interview

Prepare for the interview by evaluating the current open position while reviewing the candidate's resume a few times more. While doing this, consider the needs and requirements for the current position and compare these with the candidate's profile. This will allow you to create intentional interview questions.

We will discuss some examples of situational, behavioral, and our favorite fun questions to incorporate into your interview. Allow yourself enough time to compile a list of relevant questions appropriate to the advertised position.

4. Keeping Score

It might be helpful to find a way to score each interviewee with the help of a scorecard, especially if you’re interviewing multiple candidates. Furthermore, this will simplify the process of taking notes during the interview and help you stay organized.

Note: Ensure all the interviewers are on the same page about the applicable scorecard before the interview process starts. If there are multiple interviewers, each interviewer will receive a scorecard to fill in for every candidate.

Here are some things that are essential to have on each scorecard:

  • Candidate and interviewer names
  • Position applied for
  • Date conducted
  • Checklist of interview questions

One of the easiest ways to keep score is using a scale for each planned question. As a general rule of thumb, these are some factors that are a good idea to include in the scorecards.

  • Cultural fit
  • Soft skills (interpersonal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace)
  • Hard skills (technical skills used to complete specific tasks)
  • Body language
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Areas for concern
  • A place to take down notes after each scale

5. Don’t Be Tardy

Be prompt by showing up on time and prepared, whether the interview is conducted in-person or online. Welcome the potential candidate and try to make them feel comfortable.

6. Background Check

Interviewing candidates

This is the step where you do reference checks to see if everything the candidate has shared is, in fact, true. A good idea is to call or email the potential candidate’s reference and ask the following question: “Would you hire this candidate again?”

7. Wrapping Up

Last but certainly not least is the end of the interview. This is a very subtle but important thing to do to leave potential candidates feeling good about your company culture.

Thank the potential employee for their time and walk them to the exit as getting lost in a new environment is easy.

Also, this will prevent the potential candidates from feeling embarrassed.

Additionally, it is crucial to send a follow-up email to every potential candidate, whether it be a job offer or a job rejection email. By doing this, you’re avoiding the chance of job candidates posting negative reviews about your company’s interview process.

Tips & Techniques To Be A Good Interviewer

A huge part of having a successful interview is to be aware of the right techniques at your disposal to use during the interview.

Qualities Of A Good Interviewer

Let’s start by defining some of the qualities of a good interviewer. These are some things that are non-negotiable and will play a vital role in conducting a good interview with a potential client. Even though some of them may seem obvious, it is important to take these qualities to heart to ensure the success of your interview.

  • Be friendly to get the most out of your potential candidates to select the right candidate for the job.
  • Don’t be biased; this includes looking for shared characteristics with the potential candidate or relying on first impressions.
  • Don’t waste time with unnecessary questions: this also revolves around the idea of structuring your interview beforehand and planning the right questions to ask.
  • Be professional at all times as the interview process leaves an overall impression about the company.
  • Be honest: Along with this point, we have to mention that it is crucial to expect honesty while being honest. In other words, there will be tough questions coming your way about the company most likely, and it is best to always remain honest and positive. For example, just as a candidate can spin their weaknesses to be strengths, interviewers can mention negative aspects of their work in a positive light.

Must-Have Interview Techniques

The following techniques aren’t necessarily ones you should write down and make part of your structured interview. But instead, these are techniques to keep in mind throughout the process. Hopefully, these techniques will help you to guide the process.

1. The STAR Method

The STAR method is a technique that can be used by both interviewers and interviewees.

This method is used to answer questions thoroughly or, if you’re an interviewer, to listen carefully and to notice if there is information missing in the answers that your candidates are providing. By doing this, you can better guide the interviewee and the process in general. This method is an excellent way to respond to behavioral-based interview questions. The action step is especially important when you’re an interviewer.

STAR is an acronym for the following:

  • Situation - A relevant situation the candidate found themselves to be in.
  • Task - A specific goal the candidate worked towards while working on the task at hand.

Action - Action relates to the specific action the potential candidate took to reach the goal. This is where the STAR method becomes truly useful other than guiding the process. If the potential candidate doesn’t provide enough information about any of the steps, you can simply ask them to elaborate.

However, if the candidate cannot elaborate on the action they took to achieve the goal at hand, it is likely that the candidate didn’t actually participate in that task. This is because when someone has struggled with a task, they can usually tell you exactly how they resolved the situation.

On the contrary, if someone says they participated in a task but cannot give enough information as to how they attained their objectives, it is most likely that the candidate may not be telling the truth.

  • Result - Candidates should describe the positive result of actions they have taken to reach a goal.

2. Review CVs

interviewing new people

Even though reviewing candidates’ CVs may seem obvious to some, it is a point that cannot be left out. Shortly before the interview, it is always a good idea to review each candidate’s resume in order to have them clarify some areas of uncertainty, like, for example, employment gaps.

3. Not Confrontational, But Conversational

Good interviewers know how important it is to make potential candidates at ease during the interview, as this will help them pick the best fitting candidate for the job. So the question remains, how exactly does one help potential candidates feel comfortable?

The answer to this question is simpler than one would think. First of all, it is important to treat the interview as a conversation, meaning don’t come off as confrontational.

Additionally, it is often a good idea to start the interview with a few easy questions like “how is your day going?” while slightly increasing the difficulty of the questions as you go about the interview. This will help the interviewees gain confidence while making them at ease before arriving at the difficult questions.

Our Favorite Interview Questions & Decoding The Answers

These questions weren’t compiled with a specific group in mind, but rather, they could be used as inspiration when coming up with interview questions.

For your convenience, we’ve divided the questions into behavioral and fun interview questions.

1. Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral questions, also known as situational questions, are questions aimed at understanding how a potential candidate acted in a specific situation.

Furthermore, these questions aim to understand how candidates conduct themselves in a professional environment, what their skill levels are, and how they handle stress, for example. As discussed, it is important for candidates to use the STAR method to answer behavioral interview questions appropriately.

Behavioral Interview Questions Examples

  • “Give a specific example of a time when you had to solve a difficult problem.”
  • “Describe a time when you had to work with a difficult coworker?”
  • “Tell us about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.”
  • “At the hand of an example, please tell us how you typically deal with conflict in the work environment.”
  • “Describe a time when you set a goal for yourself and were able to meet it.”

Decoding Behavioral Interview Answers

As mentioned above, the answers of the potential candidates should contain the problem they faced, the solution, and the benefit to their previous employer. Let’s take this question as an example: “Describe a time when you had to work with a difficult coworker?”

Here is an example of a correct answer to this question:

  • Situation & Task: I was in a very difficult situation because I had to work on a project with a coworker that seemed always to be late for work and didn’t complete their work on time.
  • Action: I decided to take the time to get to know my coworker better truly and learned that his mother had just passed away.
  • Result: After getting to know one another better, we were one of the most efficient teams in the department.

Here is an example of a bad answer to this question:

  • Situation & Task: I was in a very difficult situation because I had to work on a project with a coworker that seemed always to be late for work and didn’t complete their work on time.
  • Action & Result: I requested to be paired with another coworker as I couldn’t get anything done efficiently.

When comparing these two answers, you can clearly see that both situations were the same, but how the candidates handled them was very different. With behavioral types of questions, you should look for the underlying soft skills of each candidate and consider if that matches your job profile.

2. Fun Interview Questions

Fun or funny types of interview questions are a great way to start the interview as they will lighten the mood while interviewers can get a sense of your true personality (and if it will fit with the company culture). Furthermore, interviewers can use these questions to determine if potential candidates can think on their feet while getting the conversation going.

You can interpret the answers in any way, depending on the job profile candidates are applying for.

However, interviewers should try to focus on the thinking process of candidates to gain insight into their critical thinking abilities of interviewees. Furthermore, these questions can be used to encourage more honest answers. So, without further ado, here are our favorite fun interview questions.

  • “If you were any type of animal, what type of animal would you be and why?”

The candidates should give the interviewer insight into their strengths when answering this question. The candidate could choose any type of animal, but it is important that they state, “because we are alike in the following ways.”

  • “What do you typically think about when you’re alone in your car?”

By asking this question, interviewers can see how thoughtful candidates are.

  • “If you win the lottery right after this interview, what would you do?”

This question will reveal the true motive of the candidates. Employers don’t only want an employee to fill the role, but they want someone to find genuine fulfillment in the role.

Ultimately, you don’t want to hire someone who is solely interested in the money as better engaged employees generally perform better compared to employees who are not.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, effectively interviewing a potential candidate using a structured list of questions can ensure that any areas of concern are exposed. The preparation that goes into interviewing potential employees and making them feel comfortable during the whole process is what makes people good interviewers.

Hopefully, you feel inspired by our small list of questions and prepare for those upcoming job interviews!

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