Guest Post by Trevor McDonald
Whether you're the interviewer or the interviewee, job interviews can be stressful. Even as an interviewer, you may feel overwhelmed with stress — but you know the person you're interviewing has even more anxiety.
And while there may be some merit to seeing how people handle pressure, you may not get the full picture of someone's value if they feel intimidated and anxious.
It's important to help your candidates feel at ease, especially when you're interviewing for a position where someone doesn’t need exceptional people skills. It might be different if you’re interviewing for a high-stakes PR job, but if you’re hiring a data entry clerk, people skills aren’t necessarily an indication of how they’ll perform their job.
In this post, we’re going to cover some of the best tips to help you put candidates with ease and make better connections during the interview process.
The reason why so many candidates get flustered during interviews is that there is an implied shift in power where the interviewer is in control. It’s akin to a student talking to a teacher or a driver talking to a police officer. But if you want to get the most out of this interview, you’ve got to level the playing field. Your interviewee should feel comfortable interviewing with you without feeling judged.
To kick off your interview, offer a friendly hello and a beverage. Simple gestures can help your candidates feel like you care about their well-being. It makes the experience feel more human, which is always a good thing. And remember that offering a glass of water is more than just a gesture of kindness. It can quell a dry throat and give candidates a chance to pause and reflect over a sip when you’ve just asked a difficult question.
One of the worst things you can do as an interviewer is to show up late for an interview. You know that person has gone through great lengths to show up on time, so as a sign of respect, it’s a good idea to do the same.
Don’t let meetings run long that could interfere with your interview. It’s bad manners and it can leave a bad taste in the interviewee’s mouth. Imagine this person was your ideal candidate and they have to decide whether or not to work for you.
If they see that you don’t respect their time, they’re probably going to decline any job offers, or even leave the interview early without even meeting with you. Your poor punctuality will end up wasting your time and theirs.
Remember that candidates are also interviewing you as a boss and the company you work for. If you want that candidate to remain excited for the opportunity to work for you, respect their time.
Most interviews are conducted in the interviewer’s office or a conference room. There usually aren’t many options available to you. But if you want to connect better with your interviewee, you may want to spend a few minutes thinking about where you want to conduct your interview.
The space you choose should have comfortable chairs, natural light, and comfortable temperatures. If your office is too stark, dark, and cold (or hot), the candidates you interview are likely to be distracted by their discomfort.
You should also choose a space that’s private. No one wants to feel like they have an audience during an interview. This rules out common spaces like break rooms or employee lounges. Holding an interview in a common space also sends the impression that you aren’t taking it very seriously, which sets the wrong tone off the bat.
If you really want to connect with your interview candidates, open up the conversation by talking about yourself a bit. This isn’t open season to brag about your accomplishments or get too personal. Keep it professional and job-focused.
Talk a little about your career background and what led you to work for (or found) the company. This should be brief but allow for the candidate to interject and ask a question or two. This can break the ice and make it feel more like two colleagues talking than an actual interview.
Because the candidate probably has questions about the company, you can use this time to cover the basics. Talk about the company story and background and touch on company culture and morale. You want to remain honest, so if there’s something you don’t want to say, just avoid it. Emphasize the positive and do your best to deliver a warm welcome.
Just one word of caution: If you plan to ask the candidate what they know about the company, you may not want to give too much away in your introduction.
A skilled interviewer will ask pointed questions to get to the root of what they want to know:
1. Is this person qualified for the job?
2. Is their personality a good fit for company culture?
This advice isn’t telling you to hold back, but be careful of asking questions that are too much of a challenge.
And this means avoiding trick questions. We all know trick questions when we see them. We may not always know the right answer, but we know when someone is painting us into a corner. If your candidate picks up on this, you’re probably going to lose some trust. It’s only going to put the candidate on the defensive, and it’s probably not going to get the result you’re after anyway.
Some interviewers will also ask questions they know the candidate can’t answer. And they do this to see how the candidate will respond. Will they tell you they don’t know the answer or will they make something up on the spot?
There can be some benefits to this if you think you’re dealing with a dishonest person, but in most cases, it’ll just make candidates unnecessarily uncomfortable.
And if you’re ever in the position of being a candidate, this is why it’s important to tailor your resume to highlight your strengths and knowledge. This way the interviewer knows what to ask about.
Interviews can be challenging for everyone, but you’re always going to get more from the process when you make a genuine connection with candidates.
Trevor McDonald is a freelance content writer who has a passion for writing. He's written a variety of education, business, health, and lifestyle articles for many different companies, currently writing for Resume Coach. In his free time, you can find him running with his dog, playing his guitar, or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.