How to Conduct the Most Productive Job Interviews

June 16, 2016

Many business executives say their least favorite responsibility is conducting performance reviews of staff members. But rather surprisingly, the task that sometimes ranks a close second is  interviewing job candidates.

These two activities tend to be similarly discomfiting to bosses because they require skills that not every executive possesses, and both are functions for which he or she may not be adequately trained.

Nevertheless, interviewing job applicants, in particular, is a responsibility that’s of crucial importance to any organization. Proper execution requires a process, preparation and active participation to help avoid hiring mistakes that could haunt a department, and possibly an entire company, for months or even years to come.

An abundance of information is available online to help job applicants prepare for an interview, and enable them to thoroughly research the companies that interest them. But interviewers have relatively few resources and rarely are trained to ensure that this critical facet of the hiring process is handled properly.

Following are some factors to consider that can help companies avoid critical mistakes in the hiring process.

Plan Carefully

One of the most common mistakes made by executives is assuming they can simply wing the interviews with little or no advanced planning. Their objective is to save time, but wasted time is more often the result. The hiring process should begin as follows: Draft a comprehensive job description or provide the HR manager with the necessary information to draft one, and review it before the job is posted. This is important not only to help avoid receiving resumes from candidates who are not the right fit, but also to allow the executive to more easily decide whom to interview. The more thought that goes into the job description, the more efficient the process becomes.

The job description should encompass the full scope of the work and the details and functions of the position, including supervisory responsibilities, physical requirements if any, and necessary education and work experience.  All of this may seem obvious, and yet many descriptions fall short of fulfilling their objectives. For example, if one is hiring to fill an expansion post, or for a function that is still evolving, does the job description reflect the potential future requirements?

Some companies schedule preliminary phone interviews prior to an in-person meeting to clarify the job requirements and to get an initial sense of the candidate’s qualifications. It might also be possible to conduct preliminary interviews via Skype, especially for Millennials and Generation Z candidates who are comfortable with that tool.

Very much worth noting, by the way, is that a comprehensive job description can have great value beyond the hiring process; it also can serve as an important legal document and compensation tool.

Ask the Best Questions

Here again is where insufficient preparation can produce poor results. Many interviewers assume that knowing the job requirements and having the applicant’s resume in hand is all they need for a productive interview. But that is rarely the case.  Interviewers should develop specific questions for each candidate, most of which are open-ended in nature, so that candidates can share their thoughts and experiences. Of course, it is acceptable to go off script and ask questions that stem from the candidate’s comments. The goal is to get a complete picture of the individual, rather than a quick snapshot. Note, however, that some questions are illegal and should be avoided, including those related to age, race, religion and marital status.

A good interview also requires good listening on the part of the interviewer. It’s important to allow candidates an ample opportunity to reveal themselves. Most candidates will have researched the company fairly thoroughly, so interviewers need not talk much about the company and can focus carefully on what candidates say in order to make the best decision about whether or not to move forward.

Sometimes a job candidate may seem like a perfect fit after the first interview. This especially tends to happen when the company or the executive is in a big hurry to fill a position. It is best to resist the impulse to hire quickly, regardless of a candidate’s initial appeal. Instead, schedule a second or even third visit, perhaps the purposes of conducting skills tests, or to have the candidate meet others with whom he or she may be working. Hiring decisions always should be made after careful deliberation.

Follow Up with Candidates

In the course of a career, sooner or later nearly everyone has the experience of applying for a job, going through the interview process, and then being left in limbo. The person who is hiring, swamped with other details, may neglect to inform the candidates who were not chosen. Or he or she may be undecided, or perhaps something has come up that requires a delay in filling the position. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to follow up with every candidate who is interviewed. This is true not only for courtesy’s sake, but also to protect the reputation of the company as a desirable place to start or advance a career. And finally, when a job is filled, be sure remove the posting.

The search for top talent has become intensely competitive, especially in industries with high demand for employees with specific skill sets. By giving the interview process the time and effort it requires, interviewers can make it easier for themselves to identify the best candidates available and to ensure that interviews are conducted in a professional and courteous manner that enhances the appeal of their organization as a great place to work.


Written by: John Zilg
District Manager, Insperity

John Zilg is a district manager in the Florham Park, NJ office of Insperity, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 30 years. Insperity provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance. Insperity® Business Performance Advisors offer the most comprehensive suite of products and services available in the marketplace. Insperity delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity through its premier Workforce Optimization® solution. Additional company offerings include Human Capital Management, Payroll Services, Time and Attendance, Performance Management, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Financial Services, Expense Management, Retirement Services and Insurance Services. Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over two million employees. With 2015 revenues of $2.6 billion, Insperity operates in 60 offices throughout the United States. For more information, call 800-465-3800 or visit //

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