Interviewing is a critical phase in your hiring process. On your end, it’s a unique opportunity to get to know and filter applicants so that you can identify a perfect culture add.
But the job interview can also make a strong impression on the candidate and can be a key factor in their decision of whether or not to work for your company. Consider these statistics:
- 58% of job seekers declined a job offer due to a poor candidate experience
- A negative experience with the interviewer and a slow or disorganized interviewing process are important decision-making factors for applicants
- 37% of job candidates leave a negative review after a single negative experience with an organization, whereas 61% leave a positive review after a positive experience
Good interviews should be conversations – not interrogations – and it’s up to you as the interviewer to set this tone.
So in this article, we’ll talk about how to be a good interviewer.
Table of contents
- Why is being a good interviewer important?
- The qualities of a good interviewer
- 8 tips on how to be a good interviewer
- Good questions to ask as an interviewer
- The next step: Get ready to interview your next candidate
- ✅ Make skills testing part of your recruiting process
Why is being a good interviewer important?
Interviews are a critical part of the hiring process, whether you conduct them in person or digitally. Specifically, they help you in the following three ways:
- They give you a chance to go beyond what you’ve already learned from the candidate’s application, discover the motivation behind their work and experience, and get more context and insight into their expertise. Interviews enable you to assess whether the person can do the job and whether there are any gaps you need to close with training.
- They let you see the applicant’s personality traits and behavior, how they talk, and what they think. You can use them to evaluate soft skills, gain insight into candidates’ potential, and identify a great culture add versus a culture fit (that is, someone who isn’t exactly like the rest of the team they’re joining but can add a fresh perspective and help the company grow).
- They provide important answers fast. This includes anything you need to cover on the spot, potential deal breakers, clarification, or more context. You can easily ask follow-up questions and get to the bottom of the matter within minutes rather than spending days going back and forth via emails.
For the 86% of organizations that have interviewed remotely since the pandemic started – and even many businesses that hold in-person interviews – interviewing is the only part of the hiring process in which they can meet and directly interact with the candidates.
Interviews and assessments provide 60% of the data used for hiring decisions, but this data is often inconsistent and biased.
Further, how you conduct an interview directly impacts the results you get from it. Yet, less than 3% of hiring managers take interview training or coaching on their own time.
Interviewing, by nature, has some downsides and risks (like bias, inconsistency, and time consumption).
But the extent of these problems depends a lot on the interviewer. Fortunately, by improving your interviewing skills, you can:
- Make your hiring process more efficient
- Minimize biases and level out the playing field for candidates from various backgrounds
- Improve consistency across candidate interviews so that you can compare them fairly and easily
- Collect important and reliable data, some of which is easily overlooked
- Make better-informed decisions and hire the right person for the role
The bottom line is that being an effective interviewer can result in more successful interviews, help you make better hires, and avoid rehiring.
The best part is you don’t have to be born a great interviewer.
You can do a lot to improve your approach and get better results.
The qualities of a good interviewer
So, what makes a good interviewer?
In short, these are the qualities you need as an interviewer regardless of the type of role you’re looking to fill:
- Active listening and conversational skills
- A calm, relaxed, and friendly attitude
- An organized and methodical approach
- The ability to recognize talent and potential
- Knowledge of the job on offer and the company
Let’s talk about why we chose these as the main qualities of a good interviewer using some real examples of how they make a difference.
1. Active listening and conversational skills
Active listening means listening to understand by being attentive to a person’s verbal and non-verbal messages, empathizing with them, asking relevant follow-up questions, and providing meaningful feedback.
In other words, you’re not simply waiting for your turn to speak – you’re actively engaging in the other person’s story and are curious to learn more.
Why does active listening matter?
Everyone likes to feel heard. Going that extra step shows that you respect the candidate, which factors into their impression of you and, by extension, the business.
But active listening can also help you understand applicants beyond their initial answers.
When you ask a follow-up question, it’s a cue for them that you’d like to hear more, so they have the opportunity to tell you more about themselves and give you a more complete image of their qualities and abilities.
You can also see more of the candidate’s body language and tone.
For example, suppose the interviewee talks confidently and passionately about their work and has a lot of opinions. This could indicate that they have not only a lot of experience but also self-motivation, a desire to succeed, boldness, and confidence.
This data helps you form an accurate picture of each candidate so that you have more information to work with when it’s time to compare them.
2. A calm, relaxed, and friendly attitude
If the candidates are comfortable in the interview, they’re more likely to be honest. If not, they could resort to mirroring your personality and simply trying to tell you what they think you want to hear.
This is a problem because you could hire a candidate and then be surprised when it turns out they’re a totally different person than you expected based on the interview.
The atmosphere during the interview also has a significant impact on the candidate experience. Why?
It’s simple: The interview serves as an example to interviewees of what their future workplace might feel like.
You want candidates to feel comfortable, relaxed, and appreciated during the interview to give them a good impression so that they want to work with your company.
3. An organized and methodical approach
The key to making the right call is taking strategic, organized action and not letting your emotions cloud your better judgment.
You need to be able to plan ahead, stay on track, keep notes, and maintain a cool head throughout the process.
It’s a lot of effort.
But being methodical pays off. It enables you to:
- Stay consistent and rate applicants fairly
- Reduce bias so that it doesn’t affect your hiring decisions
- Interview more efficiently and make smarter, data-based decisions
4. The ability to recognize talent and potential
This means not just focusing on the candidate’s skills at face value but also looking for learnability.
Applicants who are motivated, willing to learn, and have the right characteristics or predispositions to do well in a role can always learn any hard skills they need to excel at their job.
Recruiting, particularly for highly specialized skills, is not an easy feat given the current unemployment rate (3.5%) and candidate expectations.
But you can make it easier by scratching beneath the surface, hiring for potential, and investing in training and developing your talent.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Does the candidate credit their previous mentors and colleagues for their help? Self-awareness, humility, and collaboration are signs of a good team player.
- Is the candidate great at communication and taking initiative? They might have the potential for a managerial role.
Recognizing potential should be one of your priorities as an interviewer.
5. Knowledge of the job on offer and the company
Candidates appreciate learning as much as possible about the job, company culture, and the next steps ahead of time.
This helps them decide if the job would suit them.
Plus, enthusiasm is contagious – the interviewee can feel if you, as the interviewer, are upbeat about the organization and position.
The knowledge and impression they get from you provide useful insights into the candidate’s potential work life with the organization and even make them excited to work there.
8 tips on how to be a good interviewer
These are the bare-minimum requirements for any interviewer:
- Being on time
- Maintaining a positive atmosphere
- Keeping the process as straightforward and quick as possible
- Communicating with the candidates
Avoid long gaps between interviews, and don’t ghost candidates if they don’t make it to the next stage.
Even if you don’t hire them for this position, you can still add the candidates to your talent pool for the future, so you don’t want to turn them off from your company.
When you’ve got those practices down, you can think about how to be a better interviewer.
We’ll start with the key points in case you’re in a hurry.
But make sure you read the tips in full to ensure you know why it matters to implement each one properly and how to do it.
|How to be a good interviewer||Key points|
|Do your homework before the interview||Focus your interview time on finding out more – who and what’s behind the initial applicationUncover important details, specializations, and soft skills – this is especially important for specialized and senior roles; Show candidates you respect them and value their time|
|Make the interviewee feel comfortable||Eliminate ambiguity – tell candidates exactly what to expect; Overcommunicate to show you care; Be relaxed and friendly so that they can ease up and be more honest|
|Run structured interviews||Create a list of questions to ask each candidate in the same order; End up with comparable and useful data and make your decision easier|
|Ask questions that are tailored to the role||Ask questions that prod the candidate to show they have the right skills and traits; Use specific scenarios that come with the job; Avoid random brain teasers – they don’t work|
|Listen, listen, listen||Listen 80% of the time and talk 20%; Be an active listener – ask follow-up questions and give feedback; Look for potential, motivation, experience, and perspective by also paying attention to body language and tone|
|Rate answers and candidates on a consistent, standardized scale||Know your criteria ahead of time; Ask everyone the same baseline questions to give you comparable results; Have a colleague you trust interview with you to help you stay objective and reduce personal bias|
|Spend time at the end of interviews answering the candidate’s questions||Learn what’s important to the candidate to get to know them and improve your hiring process; Show your knowledge about the company and role to give them more confidence to proceed; Ask for feedback so that you learn from your mistakes|
|Evaluate the candidates after interviewing all of them and reviewing your notes||Make better decisions with a cooler head; Avoid getting sidetracked; Let first impressions settle before you make the final call|
We’ll cover each of these tips in more detail:
1. Do your homework before the interview
Reading up on your candidates ahead of time lets you focus on finding out more about them during the interview and maximizes your returns from the process.
Use the interview to expand on what you already know about them with additional life and work context and test their role compatibility.
This “extra” information is particularly important for senior and highly specialized roles when you want to investigate more deeply into the candidate’s expertise and see how well they match the position you’re hiring for.
Doing your homework also shows candidates you respect them and value their time.
So how do you do it?
- Read their application and review the results of any skills-assessment tests you’ve given them
- Look them up online – you may find crucial details on their LinkedIn profile you would have otherwise missed
- Reread your notes before the interview so that you don’t forget anything
2. Make the interviewee feel comfortable
Interviews are nerve-racking by default.
You can make them easier on candidates from the get-go by overcommunicating before, during, and after the interview.
Tell your applicants what to expect, including:
- What the hiring process will entail
- The dress code and location (if it’s in person)
- Who else will attend their interview
- What the role, the company policies, and their work life will look like if they’re hired
- When and how you’ll contact them
- The next steps
These answers help candidates prepare better, leading to a more fruitful interview.
What about during the interview?
Be friendly. Let the conversation flow as naturally as the interview structure allows.
A little bit of small talk and relating on a personal level go a long way. Reassure the interviewee, tell them a bit about your day, ask them if they need anything, or make a pop culture reference – anything to melt the ice in the room and help them relax.
If the candidate feels comfortable, they can show you their real selves. This will help you avoid hiring the wrong person based on an inaccurate impression or missing out on a great applicant because they were nervous during the interview.
3. Run structured interviews
A structured interview involves preparing a standard set of questions you ask each candidate in the same order to make evaluating and comparing them easier.
Having a well-thought-out order of business is a great way to streamline your hiring process, reduce bias, and make sure you’re left with useful data at the end of the day.
It’s great when conversation flows naturally. But nothing should get in the way of learning crucial information about your candidates. Otherwise, you might end up with an incomplete picture and have a difficult time deciding who to hire.
So, use the following interview-structuring techniques:
- Prepare relevant questions (templates can be useful here; see the section below)
- Be comfortable with silence, and don’t be afraid to interrupt during the interview
- Know your deal breakers and make sure you go through them in the right order with all the candidates
4. Ask questions that are tailored to the role
Brain teasers have been proven not to work.
It’s better for all parties when the interviewer asks questions that are relevant to the role and draws parallels to the position they’re filling instead of having a one-size-fits-all mold or asking about irrelevant details.
But remember to look for learning potential by noting soft skills, motivation, and experience, too.
Picture this: You’re hiring a B2B writer.
The person you’re interviewing is an excellent and motivated writer, but they don’t have experience in B2B topics. What now?
They could gain industry experience with some time and mentoring and excel if given a chance.
But if you’re strictly looking at their abilities at face value, they wouldn’t make the cut.
The best questions are strategic and relevant. In this example, the questions could include the following:
|Relevant question example||What it reveals|
|Topics the writer has covered in the past||Range|
|Opinions on content writing||Personality and drive|
|Best practices or previous experience||Quality|
5. Listen, listen, listen
Use the 80-20 rule: Listen 80% of the time and talk 20%.
If you take up too much space, you may miss out on opportunities to learn more about the candidate because:
- The candidate has less time and opportunity to talk
- Their answers might change based on their impression of you: They might try to tell you what you want to hear instead of going with their original answer
- You have less time to observe them because you’re busy talking
Instead, prod candidates to talk, focus on active listening, and take notes.
Note what they say and how they talk: Are they passionate about the topic? Do they have a lot of opinions on it? Are they reserved?
Any of these might be the deciding factor later.
6. Rate answers and candidates on a consistent, standardized scale
Sticking to a standardized scale helps you fairly rate and compare candidates’ answers and make the best hire, so come up with a measuring stick.
Distinguish between your must-haves and nice-to-haves, and determine how you’ll measure them.
You can also team up with a colleague to ensure you stay on the right track and not let personal bias or immediate impressions take the wheel.
This gives you another perspective, and you can compare notes so that you know you’re being consistent and never lose sight of the most important criteria.
7. Spend time at the end of interviews answering the candidate’s questions
The candidates are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them. Encourage their questions!
You might learn more about what applicants look for when choosing a company and can use what you’ve learned to become a more attractive employer.
At this point, you can also address any hesitation on the candidate’s end and convince them that your organization would be a good fit for them.
Lastly, don’t forget to ask for honest feedback so that you can learn from your mistakes.
8. Evaluate the candidates after interviewing all of them and reviewing your notes
Debrief after each interview, but save the in-depth comparing and contrasting for the end.
After you’re finished with the interviews and the dust has settled, you’ll be better informed and more likely to avoid letting your immediate impressions get in the way.
You save time, judge more fairly, and make a better call with a cool head on your shoulders.
Good questions to ask as an interviewer
We always stress the importance of asking specific and tailored questions. That’s why giving you vague question examples to customize won’t cut it here.
Instead, we’ve listed some good questions to ask as an interviewer hiring for various roles and skills so that you can find the ones that suit your needs:
- Content strategist
- Junior developer
- Help desk professional
- Product owner
- Elasticsearch engineer
- React Native developer
- C++ software developer
- Customer service
- DevOps engineer
- Software architect
- Financial modeling expert
- Graphic designer
- .NET developer
- Customer relationship manager
Skill- and situational-related questions
- Cognitive ability
- Critical thinking
- Microsoft Word
Is the role you’re interviewing for not on this list?
Take a look at our blog.
Alternatively, you can do a Google search like this: “site:testgorilla.com [role] interview questions.”
For example, enter the following to find interview questions for a content strategist:
The next step: Get ready to interview your next candidate
The way you conduct your interviews is essential if you’re trying to build an attractive employer brand, improve your candidate experience, and increase your hiring efficiency and success.
But being a good interviewer takes some planning and practice.
You’re on the right track to get there. So, what’s the next logical step? Plan and conduct your interviews.
Here are some pointers before you start:
- Define your role requirements and prepare role-specific questions
- Use appropriate tests (like our Customer Service or Business Judgment test) to help you qualify candidates with the right skills
- Do your homework on applicants and leave enough time between interviews to go over your notes
- Practice active listening to better engage with your candidates
- Overcommunicate with candidates to manage expectations and stress levels
Keep reading about how to interview someone for step-by-step guidelines to help you get the best ROI for your interviewing efforts.
- “2021 Candidate Experience Report”. (September 27, 2021). Career Plug. Retrieved October 27, 2022. https://www.careerplug.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/2021-Candidate-Experience-Report.pdf