Interview Skills

Interview Skills

The Hiring Manager’s Guide to Employment Interviews

A manager’s most important job is to select the right talent for every open position, and then to nurture and develop that talent.

To become an effective interviewer, you must first learn how to pose the kinds of questions that will elicit the responses you’ll need to determine which candidate is the right fit for your opening, as well as the right fit with the company’s culture.

A successful interview outcome depends as much upon the interviewer as it does on the qualifications of the candidate being interviewed, so it's important to be well prepared before you schedule a meeting. Here are a few things to keep in mind:


Assessing your needs

Let’s say you need a leader (an 'A' player) in the data access layer of your programming group. Start out by identifying the attributes of your current top performers. These might include a university degree, a technical certification, a key career achievement, a work sample, and/or an outstanding test result. Then consider your organisation’s culture. Technical skills are certainly important, but cultural fit is often more important. Once defined, your job is to identify one or more persons who offer the technical ability and interpersonal skills required to succeed in the role.

Couple your research ability with your interviewing skills

If you glance at a candidate’s credentials packet (CV and SATI) just prior to the scheduled interview, how will you be able to compose and ask pertinent questions? To do that, you’ll need to review the applicant’s material carefully to get a sense of his work experience, technical skills, career goals, and past accomplishments. You can also perform a check of your candidate’s LinkedIn account to review his online profile and professional connections. Your goal here is to know as much about the candidate as you can in order to guide the interview to a successful conclusion.

Carefully review the candidate’s self-assessment questionnaire (SATI)

The SATI provides you with an in-depth assessment of a candidate’s fit with the company’s culture.

At, recruiters and hiring managers have a distinct advantage, as they are provided with each candidate’s SATI responses, highlighted to indicate areas of interest and/or concern, and scored on a ten point scale.

Ensure that you’ve thoroughly reviewed both the applicant’s CV and self-assessment questionnaire prior to the interview. From there, prepare meaningful, open-ended questions for your candidate … questions that are relevant to his qualifications and the position for which he applied.

Some managers look first for technical skills, often to the exclusion of a proper cultural fit. Keep in mind that a great technician is of little value to the organisation if he or she feels uncomfortable when immersed in the company’s culture.

(Company Culture -- these are the values and behaviors that form the unique social and psychological framework of an organisation)

Help in defining the role

A sound research effort is also required of your recruiters – especially when they’re tasked with screening candidates with unfamiliar or highly technical skill sets. Just learning the buzz words and acronyms from a job specification isn't enough to provide you with an accurate assessment of the candidates selected for interview. Each recruiter will need to dig deeply to ensure they identify, and move forward, only those applicants who possess the unique knowledge, skills and experience required for serious consideration.

The Interview

Relax and place your candidate at ease

Briefly talk the interviewee through the interview process before you begin, so he knows exactly what to expect. There should be no surprises here.

Limit the number of questions

It’s important that each candidate receives the same opportunity to answer the same set of questions. A recommended practice is to ask no more than six relevant questions in a 30 minute exploratory interview.

What do you know about our company?

An uninformed candidate is always a disappointment, so if and when an applicant appears woefully unprepared, bring the interview to a speedy close. Remember, if a candidate isn’t interested enough to do the research, he or she will likely fail in the role.

Active listening

Let your candidate do most of the talking and listen carefully. We’re all excited about presenting a fine career opportunity, but too often, we talk too much and listen too little. Ask open-ended questions (those that can’t be answered with a “yes” or a “no”), and give each applicant ample time to respond. You should also give your candidate the opportunity to ask questions of you. Having a meaningful two-way conversation places your interviewee at ease and lets him know that you’re genuinely interested in him as a candidate for employment.

To get the information you’ll need to make the right employment decision, try this technique: start from the beginning of the candidate's work history and work your way through to his current job. Go through each position held and ask the same set of questions:

First, how did you find this position?

Most people find their first career opportunity on a job board or through an employment advertisement, but a candidate who continually goes to the web to find successive jobs probably hasn't decided what he wants to do, and where he wants to do it.

Next, what did you like/dislike about this job?

Ensure that the interviewee describes fully the reason he accepted the role – and for more specific reasons than "it was a great opportunity," or "it was the next logical step in my career." Probe deeply and ask follow up questions.

Finally, why did you leave?

Sometimes, people leave for a better career opportunity. Sometimes they leave for higher salaries and better benefits. More often, however, they leave because they simply didn’t fit within their organisation’s culture.

When that’s the case, continue to pose the same three questions. This will encourage your candidate to remain calm, open, and candid. If you follow the process, many applicants will describe issues with management, disagreements with colleagues, or objections to taking on difficult work assignments - issues they might not otherwise share with you.

The silence is deafening

Silence can be used to your advantage in the conduct of an interview. When used properly, it places significant pressure on your candidate to respond. The best time to use it is after you’ve asked a question. But don’t use silence as a way to add undue stress. Use it to solicit important information and to make assessments of your candidate’s reactions.

Take some brief notes and follow up on each of the things that concern you

If you’re looking for revealing responses, you’re going to have to ask follow-up questions. Listen to your candidate’s initial response, then ask why, when, how, who did what, or what did you learn from that experience? Follow-up questions, when skillfully posed, allow you to dive deeply into the candidate’s background. And it’s in those gritty details that you’ll likely find your top candidate(s). Remember that 'A' players love the challenge of responding to tough questions, so don’t hesitate to pose them.

Next steps?

At the close of each interview, always describe the next steps in the recruitment process.

Compile your candidate list

If no one in the candidate pool is a proper fit for your open position, you'll need to keep on looking. Stop thinking about selecting the best of the applicants forwarded to you for interview, and start focusing your efforts on finding and selecting the best of the best.


If so, give yourself one more opportunity to be absolutely sure that you're making the right choice by scheduling a follow up interview. Don't be afraid to let your intuition influence your decision. Your past experience is very important, so don't hesitate to use it.

Perform a thorough reference check

At, candidates are asked not only to provide the names and contact details of their former manager(s), but to arrange the background checks as well. You can also contact people in the candidate's network; chances are you know someone who knows the candidate and can speak to his qualifications.

When you’ve made your decision and extended an offer, you’re done!