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Hiring Advice Hiring process 5 tips to sharpen your interviewing skills
5 tips to sharpen your interviewing skills

5 tips to sharpen your interviewing skills

You’ve whittled down your pile of candidate resumes to a manageable shortlist and are now ready to start interviewing candidates. But you're plagued with another concern: Should you start with a phone interview or meet candidates in person immediately? And will you need to set up a panel interview?

Justin Boots, HR Business Partner at SEEK says the step you take next depends on your business and the demands of the role for which you’re hiring.

When should you use a phone interview?

Phone interviews are handy if you want to refine your shortlist of candidates or if you're interested but need information beyond what the resume and cover letter provided.

“If I couldn’t distinguish between 10 or 15 candidates and I needed to cut that down in a quicker and more coordinated fashion, I may use a phone interview,” Boots says.

“I may also use a phone interview when trying to bring all of the parties who are required to assess the candidate together is not logistically possible, or it’s going to take way too long.” Phone interviews also reduce first impression bias based on physical appearance or body language.

When should you conduct an in-person interview?

An in-person interview is ideal if you have a refined shortlist and want to learn more about a talent's personality and presentation skills.

“I would do an in-person interview to assess how they present themselves in front of a panel or a group of stakeholders, depending on the nature of the business,” Boots says.

How many people should be in an interview?

Deciding how many people should be on the interview panel comes down to the size of the business and the demands of the role, Boots says.

One or two people on the interview panel are enough if:

  • you’re operating in a very small business

  • you’re hiring for a small, non-complex role

  • the role has low ambiguity

  • the role is well-structured and well-defined.

“Businesses should aim to have at least two people on any interview panel because everybody comes with their own internal biases,” Boots says.

“Having someone on that interview panel who is completely different to you in their thoughts or background, or any of those markers of diversity, is really powerful in getting the best outcome for the organisation you’re hiring for.”

When should panel interviews be used?

In cases where a candidate will need great people skills or the role is complex, a panel interview will get the best results, Boots says.

Use a panel interview if you’re looking for a candidate who:

  • is able to take on a role with a high level of complexity or ambiguity

  • has excellent stakeholder management skills

  • has the ability to communicate with diverse groups of people

  • is able to influence across a broad range of stakeholders.

Why are panel interviews effective?

Panel interviews also allow hirers to see how candidates respond to different styles of questioning, Boots says.

“Some people may have a direct questioning style within that interview, and others may have a very indirect questioning style,” he explains.

“The candidate’s ability to navigate through those different styles and apply their own style to the responses is what hirers are looking for.”

Quick tips for interviewing candidates

Now that you know the most effective medium for screening potential recruits, the next step is the interview itself. This Q&A is necessary since the right questions can get you the salient details you need to know about the candidate. Your tone is also crucial in conveying not only the urgency of this role but also your company culture.

1. Prepare thoroughly

You can bet that the jobseeker researched the company and the role. A good interviewer provides them with the same courtesy. Review the resume, cover letter, and other relevant materials. It goes without saying but don't forget to understand the job description, especially if you're a general interviewer like HR or a headhunter. Prepare a list of specific questions that will help you assess their qualifications and how they fit the role.

2. Create a welcoming environment

According to a study on Malaysian fresh graduates, comfort is a factor for interview success. They can think clearly and answer your questions better when they feel at ease. Offer a warm greeting, introduce yourself and any other interviewers, and provide an overview of the interview process. These details encourage candidates to open up and present their best selves during the interview.

3. Ask open-ended questions

Instead of relying solely on yes/no questions, ask questions that prompt candidates to provide detailed responses and examples. Use the STAR method as a guide. It allows you to gain deeper insights into their skills, abilities, and problem-solving approaches.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What's your understanding of the role and why are you interested?

  • Why are you looking to leave your current role? What action have you taken to try and make it work?

  • You realise that an early mistake in a project is going to put you behind deadline. What do you do?

  • Tell us about your most recent project and how you drew on your professional skills to deliver an outcome.

  • At times you will be asked to do many things at once. How do you prioritise your tasks?

4. Listen actively

Pay attention to the jobseeker's responses, ask follow-up questions to clarify points or delve further, and demonstrate genuine interest in their statements. Active listening helps build rapport with the candidate and ensures you fully understand their qualifications and suitability for the role.

5. Evaluate beyond skills

While technical skills and experience are ideal, you must also study soft skills, cultural fit, and potential for growth. Check out their communication skills, teamwork, adaptability, and alignment with the company culture.

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