For many people the thought of an interview can be pretty scary. We think of interviews in terms of what we have to go through to get a job or promotion. That’s from the Interviewee’s perspective but chances are the Interviewer will be just as nervous, if not more so. For all but the most seasoned of HR professionals conducting an interview is a rare event but so much lies on it – the future performance of your business being the most important.
First of all it’s worth mentioning that interviews are far more commonplace than you might think and don’t just relate to job applications. When dealing with suppliers and customers, with banks or partners you will be conducting an interview, even if it feels like you are on the receiving end sometimes.
It doesn’t matter what type of interview we are thinking about, there are some basic steps to giving ourselves the best chance of getting the outcome we want.
1. Prepare Thoroughly
Sounds obvious but you need to be completely clear on what it is you want out of the interview whether it’s a new employee who will meet specific needs and fit in with you, your team and your customers or a supplier you can trust not to let you down. Added to this you should think about aspects to avoid, things you don’t want. After putting this list together you might end up with others that aren’t essential or to be avoided. These you will want to find out about during the interview even if only to allow you to ‘get a warm feeling’ for a potential employee or to trade with a potential supplier. It might sound a lot but it need be no more than a sheet of paper in reality.
2. The Interview
Chances are you will be interviewing more than one candidate employee or supplier. You want to find out as much as you can in what is a short space of time so make sure you let the ‘candidate’ settle in by asking them a suitably comforting question to start with. No-one performs well under stress and you want to find out what they are really like. Use your list of what you need and don’t want to go through what they have to offer allowing them to fully explain their answers.
Keep your questions open and always be open with why you are meeting, e.g. that you are interviewing a number of potential suppliers to find the one that best meets your specific needs.
Closing interviews can be difficult, especially if they are going well. If you’ve been clear to start with about how long you expect to take then it’s OK to say ‘we’re coming close to the end now’ as you draw things to a finish. It’s always worth finishing by asking if there is anything else they would like to add and give a little gap for thought. It’s surprising how often really important points come out which for one reason or another were missed earlier on.
Remember, you want to find out as much as you can to enable you to make the right decision for your business.
3. What Next
You should have been able to answer all your prepared questions for each ‘candidate’. You can then rank the candidates in terms of what is important for you and your business. If another interview is needed then so be it, you want to get it right but it’s best to be clear with people up front that this might be the case. You need to let each person or supplier know the outcome of their interview. If it’s good news for them then be clear what you are offering as the next stage could be negotiating a contract or employment terms, and yes, that could well be another interview. If it’s not good news then provide some brief feedback as to why that is making sure it’s based on what you discovered at interview.
Most people’s preference is for interviews to be face-to-face but that isn’t always possible so telephone interviews are very common. The above tips still apply but just remember that you won’t be able to read the all important body language. If the interview is significant for your business, it might be a new supplier or a key member of your team then you really want to treat any telephone interviews as preliminary discussions and finish off with a face-to-face.
One last point to remember, interviews work both ways. Just as it’s important for you to decide which supplier or person to take on based on your interviews, the ‘candidates’ will be interviewing you at the same time as they want to fully understand who it is they will be working with or for in the future.