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Every successful interview should accomplish two things:

  1. The determination of whether the candidate is a viable prospect.
  2. Having the candidate want to come to work for your company at the end of the interview.

With a minimum amount of planning, you can change the interviewing process from a chore to a sales tool for your company.

There are eight simple steps to meaningful, successful interviews.

  1. Know what you are looking for. Have a written job description. A job description is the definition of the responsibilities of a given position written in a language that everyone can understand. It provides management with a chance to articulate the functions of the position, and it is a measuring device when interviewing potential employees. A written position description provides the candidates with a means of evaluating the position in terms of their experience and goals.
  2. Be Organized. Have a plan. Know what you are going to do and say. Make sure that all the people doing the interviewing will be available when they are scheduled. See that they have copies of the candidate's resume ahead of time and that all materials needed for the interview are ready. The smoother the interview process takes place, the better the probability that you will have a candidate that is interested in working for you.
  3. Be on time. You do not expect the candidate to be late so why should you? Being prompt signals organization and interest, usually two reasons the candidate is looking for a new position in the first place.
  4. Sell, Sell, Sell. Like it or not, during the initial interview, you must sell your company and the position. Traditionally, candidates had to sell their skill and ability to the potential employer. While this still remains true, the interviewer must also sell the positive aspects of the company. The world has changed; there is a shortage of good people and an excess of good opportunities. Remember that candidates today have a better understanding of the interview process. They usually have a more defined idea of what they want and they have done their homework. Don't be naïve; the candidates are interviewing you just as hard as you are interviewing them. The candidate is looking for a change for the better. You should be prepared to explain why your company could provide that change.
  5. Structure the interview process. Nothing dampens a candidate's interest more than having to wait while someone tracks down the next interviewer. It indicates a lack of organization and communications. Make sure that the other interviewers are prepared. Anyone interviewing the candidate should know the candidate's name and for what position the candidate is being interviewed. Prepare a written schedule for each interviewer with the candidate's name, position for which the candidate is being interviewed, interview order with times to be interviewed and a copy of the candidate's resume.
  6. Remember the candidate. Provide the candidate with a prepared agenda. It should contain the interviewer's names and titles in the order that matches the schedule that was given the interviewers.
  7. Ask intelligent questions. Don't rehash the candidate's resume. Remember that your problem is an empty space on your personnel roster. You need to find the best person available to fill that space. Ask relevant questions.
    • Look at the job description that you wrote. Discuss with the candidate his/her experience in the areas you have included in the position description.
    • What problems or challenges are associated with the position you are trying to fill? Ask if the candidate if he/she has encountered the same problems and how were they resolved.
    • Find out what the candidate believes his/her most significant accomplishments were with his/her present employer and how they were performed.
    • Don't be afraid to ask a candidate what his/her goals are. Obviously their present employer cannot provide the means to meet these goals. By asking the candidate for short and long-range goals, you can quickly determine if there is a fit.
    • Ask what three things he/she likes most about his/her current position or company. Then follow up with what three things he/she would change in their present position or company. The answers to these two questions are a great early warning system. If the things they like are found in your company, you might have a match. But, if your company has some or all of the things they dislike, then you have been forewarned.
    • Avoid asking WHY. "Why" is a challenging word and usually will put the candidate on the defensive causing them to become less talkative and more guarded with their answers. Ask what, how or where but not why.
  8. Information and follow-up. The candidate should always end their visit with the person that arranged the interview. The candidate should be asked if they have any questions as well as given company literature and information on company benefits, holidays and retirement plans. If you give the candidate a date when you will get back to them, honor it. If you have not reached a decision by the promised date, call the candidate and tell them the new timetable. Once a decision is made, contact the candidates as soon as possible regardless of the outcome.

Smart companies learn how to use the interviewing process for more than just evaluating potential employees. By defining your needs, organizing and planning the interviews and asking intelligent questions, you can expand the primary interview into a very successful recruiting tool.

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