What should you prepare before interviewing?

You are conducting interviews of applicants for a job. You may be ahiring manager (the person that the newly hired employee is going towork for), an HR representative, or a member of an interview team.

Let'sassume that if you are a hiring manager, you know what you're lookingfor in an employee. If you're an HR rep, you have had some training andinstruction in what information to give to candidates and what you mayand may not ask them. So you will probably not need to look here forguidance. This answer is not for you.

If you are a member of an interview team, you may be left on your own. That's when this answer might help.

In that case, here are some of the things you will need:

1. A copy of the job description for the position to be filled.

2.Any instructions and guidance from the hiring manager and from HR; forexample, that they are looking for experience beyond entry level; thatthe right personality is more important than the skills, which caneasily be learned; that team fit is crucial; etc.

3. A copy ofthe job applicant's application form or resume, which you have read andabout which you have noted some key points and possible questions.

4. A list of recommended interview questions if your company wants to make sure certain things are asked.

5.A list of your own questions, which may be direct or indirect ways offinding out the things you need to know when you recommend for oragainst hiring the candidate. You may have (a) certain standardquestions you always ask; (b) questions that pertain to the specificjob opening, to find out about the candidate's background and how wellthe candidate would perform in that capacity; (c) questions based on the candidate's resume; (d) questions that bring out the candidate'spersonality; and (e) indirect questions that test a candidate's abilityto handle the kinds of things he or she may encounter in the job.

Examples of those five categories:

(a) What do you love about doing this work? What strengths do you bringto the position? I also like to ask every candidate for the same job some onepersonality question, such as "What are you reading now?" (in my line ofwork, candidates are always reading something) for an across-the-boardcomparison of types of answers.

(b) What were your primary responsibilities as a (former job title)? What willyou have to learn in order to do (this job)? What's scary about (this position)?

(c) What did (one former position) and(another former position) have in common? I like this one a lot,especially when there is not an obvious connection. If the same persondid both of those jobs, there's a possible relationship. This question oftenbrings out things the rest of the interview team didn't get.

(d) What are your big passions in life?

(e) This one depends on the job. If it's a very stressful job, I mightask a stress-producing question just to see how the candidate handlesit.

Things some people ask (but I never do):

  • Questions that test how well the candidate has done homework on your company.
  • Questions about how they see their role in the company or where they want to be in five years.
  • Questionswith superlative words (best, worst, most, least, etc.)--your greatestchallenge, worst mistake, best skill, and so on. I always phrase thosepositively but not in terms of the "most": what do you see as a challenge in this job?--not what doyou see as the greatest challenge; what is a big project you havehandled? not what is the biggest; etc. Focusing on the extremes in acategory is not really as helpful as just hearing a good example of thecategory.
  • Questions about their relationship with their past orpresent managers and coworkers; you may never get the truth, and youprobably won't know it if you do.

I almost never ask a "why" question. You will nearly always get a better answer with "what" and "how" than with "why."

Behavioralinterviews have become very popular--"Tell me about a time whenyou..."--but I don't like them myself. It's too easy to rehearse littlestories that don't reveal much. I prefer to surprise the candidate afew times without terrorizing them so I can get some honest responses.

Ialso usually wrap up with something like "What one thing would you likeme to remember from talking with you?" Interviewees usually like thatquestion and usually say that no one else has ever asked them that.

Theother thing is to take some good notes and get down a few verbatims ifyou can so that you can support your conclusions with facts when youturn in your recommendations.