17 Interviewing Tips From A Seasoned Recruiter

We have interviewed thousands of candidates. Here is our concise advice for extracting the most value from interviews, not in order of importance.

  • Don’t blindly follow an interviewing model or hiring formula. Think carefully about the culture you are perpetuating with the very beginning of the interview process and be intentional about each step. Map out your process and test its effectiveness.

  • Ask for written answers to three simple questions along with their application. Tailor those three questions to highlight the exceptional candidate you are looking for. This will enable you to evaluate their written skills and motivation.

    • What specifically interested you in this position?

    • How do you think you will be most successful in this role?

    • What would you be most proud of accomplishing in this position?

  • Speed matters to beat competitors. Compress multiple interviews into a longer interview but set intervals where the hiring team can determine if they want to keep going or cut the candidate loose. Don’t waste time on bad candidates just because you don’t want to tell them ‘no’ in the interview.

  • Always involve two interviewers with each candidate so one interviewer can concentrate on asking questions and conversing, while the second interviewer concentrates on observing.

  • Be warm and friendly, even with bad candidates. Burned bridges help no one.

  • When interest is high, demands are low. When demands are high, interest is low. Period. Use this to gauge real interest, both from your organization and from the candidate.

  • Ask follow up questions. Good candidates will appreciate the opportunity to go into depth while bad candidates will resent the inspection. If you sense resentment, dig more. Each follow up question you ask makes it harder and harder for lying candidate to maintain their story and will reveal the character of a good candidate.

  • Inquire about their motivations to both leave their current job and what they are looking for in their next. Avoid candidates with unclear motivations. The candidate MUST demonstrate a passion for your business, otherwise how can you expect them to passionately solve problems or be a delight to your customers?

  • When candidates vaguely refer to negative issues with past employers or coworkers, ask more questions. Do they demonstrate empathy and personal responsibility in the conflict? Did they handle it maturely?

  • Never stop gathering information. If you are doing most of the talking then they are gathering more information than you are. The candidate should get plenty of information on you but not at the expense of your understanding of them. Think about asking “Why?:” every time the candidate makes a statement.

  • Create an interviewing scoring rubric. Use Google Forms so each interviewer can report their score without influence from other interviewers. Do not discuss the candidate before reporting scores. Discuss after and use the scoring system retrospectively to assess who is an excellent interviewer and what can be improved about the process.

  • Genuine and innocent inquisitiveness is the key to politely asking tough questions on sensitive issues. If the candidate gets upset over a fair but tough question, that is a clue it is not a good fit.

  • The more you understand what drives the candidate towards their idea of ‘success’ the more you can predict their behavior.

  • Don’t let desperation push you into a hire. You WILL regret it.

  • Training someone with good character is preferable over firing someone skilled with poor character. The latter is embarrassing, dramatic, expensive, and demoralizing.

  • Ask behavioral questions for consistent problems your team faces.

  • Always run references. While references are most often a platitude, assessing the quality of relationships, enthusiasm, and transparency of the references can tell you a lot about the relationships the candidate is capable of developing.

    About the author

    TJ Kastning is the principal of Ambassador Search Group, a boutique recruiting agency passionate about finding excellent professionals for amazing construction companies.

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