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Preparing for the Interview

Creating an Evaluation Form

Evaluation forms are essential to conducting effective interviews. While it’s important to take general notes during interviews, evaluation forms make it much easier to screen candidates since they give you apples-to-apples comparisons, which can help and shed light on potential interviewer biases. These forms help you figure out exactly what to look for in candidates and ask about in interviews.

When creating a basic evaluation form, keep topics general rather than specific to get the most out of the document.

A standardized evaluation form can be used for most entry- or mid-level jobs; however, for highly skilled or management positions, you should create separate, more targeted evaluation forms. Your basic evaluation form can serve as a template for these, as you should still assess traits that aren’t job-specific – like a candidate’s cultural fit or interest level – but you should aim to include more in-depth questions relating to the job’s success criteria, too.

Here are some topics to cover on your basic evaluation forms:

Educational background
Prior work experience
Technical skills
Overall job requirements
Communication skills
Interest in company/position
Teambuilding and interpersonal skills
Time management
Overall “fit” for company
Overall impression

Each of these criteria should have a ranking or grading scale since quantifiable data will make comparing candidates much easier. For more important sections, include space to take relevant notes, as well as blank space elsewhere for more general notes on the candidate.

Questions to Ask Candidates in the Interview

Job interviews are the best way to get to know candidates, and they’re critical to determining who you’ll ultimately hire. While you should strive to conduct conversational interviews and ask off-the-cuff questions, you should also prepare a set list of questions that you’ll ask each applicant you interview. Creating a list of questions helps standardize interviews, making it easier to compare candidates and weed out any potential biases or favoritism. You’ll also ensure you’re covering all the bases on what you need to know before hiring someone.

To make sure you get a good feel for a candidate, you should ask each of these types of questions:

Educational background or training
In addition to having candidates verify their educational backgrounds, plan on asking questions more tailored to required knowledge or training for the position, too. When preparing a list of questions, review the job criteria for any educational or training requirements. Here are some questions to consider:
Can you summarize your education history for me?
When was your most recent training or class?
What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your field?
How do you keep up to date in your field?
What interested you most about this field?
Skills and abilities
Look over your job advertisement for any required skills. Your questions should be targeted to these exact abilities to verify that a candidate is able to work in the position. For example:
When was your most recent experience using this skill?
How will you apply these skills to the position?
Tell me how you would solve this problem.
How long have you practiced this skill?
If you had to rate your ability to do this job, what rating would you give yourself and why?
Which job requirement are you least confident about and why?
What makes you stand out from other candidates?
What is your strongest skill?
Soft skills
Don’t overlook soft skills. While most jobs require some technical abilities, soft skills are equally important when hiring an employee. Unrelated job experience can help clue you in to a candidate’s other abilities – like creative thinking or communication skills – and so can these questions:
Outside of the job requirements, what additional skills would you bring to the role?
What skills can you bring to the role that other candidates don’t have?
Did your previous employers ever task you with additional work outside of your normal job duties? Why?
What did you learn from your very first job?
Tell me about a time you faced a problem at work and how you overcame it.

Always ask questions about previous jobs, even if the positions aren’t relevant to your industry or the job. Previous work experience can reveal a lot about a candidate’s ability to work with others and within a company. You can also pick up on additional soft skills from asking these kinds of questions:
Why did you leave your last job?
What was your greatest work achievement?
What didn’t you like about your previous job?
Describe your career progression so far and how it’s prepared you for this role.
Which tasks do you not like to do? Why?
Why did you stay at your job for as long as you did?
What was the most challenging part of your last job?
Tell me about your biggest mistake at work and how you handled it.
Attitude and “fit”
Although experience questions help highlight certain aspects of an applicant’s personality, it’s a good idea to ask additional questions, especially relating to teamwork and corporate culture:
Can you describe your ideal work environment?
What did you like most about your previous manager?
What did you like most about your previous company?
How would you deal with a major obstacle facing your ability to meet a goal or commitment?
How would your previous team members describe your interaction with them?
How much structure, direction and feedback do you prefer on a daily or weekly basis?
Which is more important to you: speed or accuracy?
Why should I hire you?
Interest level
It may seem obvious, but don’t forget to ask questions to gauge if an applicant is still interested. Active jobseekers apply to multiple positions at a time, and yours might not be the only offer on the table. These questions can help you figure out if a candidate is truly interested in the job:
Why did you apply for this position?
What interests you most about this job?
Why do you want to work for this company?
How do you feel your current skills and experience will contribute to the company’s goals and mission?
Do you have any current job offers?
What would make you choose this job over another offer?
What questions do you have for me?

Before the Interview

You’ve spent time reviewing resumes, re-reading cover letters, writing questions and creating evaluation forms to prepare for interviews. But what should you do directly before an interview? Here are 10 final steps to take before the candidate comes in:

Tell other staff about the interview ahead of time.
For the sake of privacy, however, try to limit it only to those who need to know. Team members, for example, should be informed so they don’t disturb you or schedule meetings during this time. Notify front desk staff, receptionists or other administrative employees that you’re expecting a candidate for an interview so they’ll be prepared to contact you when he or she arrives.
Make sure no one disturbs you.
Block off your schedule, mute your phone, put a Do Not Disturb sign on your office door, or book an empty conference room. You want to avoid any interruptions during the interview, unless there’s an emergency.
Get enough water for you and the candidate.
Not only should you have water to offer as a professional courtesy, you should drink some as well. Since you’ll both be talking quite a bit, it’s a good idea to have some water on hand to avoid dry mouth.
Have relevant company materials.
You may want to provide applicants with copies of your brochures, press kits or other documents. While candidates should do their research before the interview, providing them with more information will keep your company fresh in their minds.
Prepare any test materials.
If you plan on administering any tests during the interview, make sure everything is set up. For tests involving equipment – such as computers or special machinery – reserve it ahead of time to ensure it will be available at the time of the test.
Print out everything you need.
Most interviewers should have an evaluation form, question list, and copies of the applicant’s resume, cover letter and job application printed out before the interview, as well as any additional materials necessary. Don’t forget to bring pens or pencils, too.
Review the candidate’s resume one last time.
Even if you’ve prepared a list of questions, it’s a good idea to review a resume one final time before the interview. Examining a candidate’s body language is important, so it’s better to ”study up” now so you can focus on observing the candidate rather than scrambling for more questions.
Look in a mirror.
Candidates aren’t the only ones who have to worry about making a good first impression. If you’ve recently eaten, for example, check to make sure you don’t have any food stuck in your teeth or stains on your outfit.
Give your office a once-over, too.
Desks don’t have to be entirely empty, but you should try to organize and tidy up a bit beforehand. Having papers out is okay – as long as they’re not evaluation forms from previous interviews or confidential internal documents.
Candidates will pick up on any hurried or nervous energy you give off. Instead of rushing from an important meeting directly to an interview, give yourself some time to relax and calm down. Take five to 10 minutes ahead of the interview to prepare in a quiet space. Doing so will help you feel more focused on the interview and the candidate, which will help you to truly find the best match for the job.
Jaime Lizotte
Presented by: Jaime Lizotte,
HR Solutions Manager
Hiring, recordkeeping, time and attendance tracking, employee discipline, filing 1099 and W2s ... all of these tasks create overhead expenses and detract from revenue-generating activities.