5 min read

How to be a More Effective Interviewer

By Chris Scherting on Jan 27, 2021 11:27:02 AM

Topics: Human Resources
ej4 Blog - How to Be A More Effective Interviewer

Hiring the right person for an open position is critical to the success of your team. Hiring the wrong person can crush employee morale and productivity. This puts a lot of pressure on the interviewing process. Whether you are the hiring manager or someone on the decision team, you need to be prepared. How can you be a more effective interviewer? Follow these tips to improve your interview skills so you can find the next star on your team.

ej4 Blog - How to Be a More Effective Interviewer


Review the job description

Take the time to review the open position and think about the skills, experience, and personality of your ideal candidate. What are the “must-haves” and what are the “nice-to-haves.” It’s rare to find a candidate who has 100% of your requirements so which ones are the deal-breakers?

If you are part of the interviewing team, think about how this position interacts with you and others in your department. What attributes made the last person successful? What traits were they lacking?  


Prepare your questions

Align your questions with the job description. To ensure you treat all candidates equally and eliminate bias, prepare a document with a list of key questions you plan to ask all of them. Choose five or six key skills or experiences you want to learn more about and craft the best question. 

Interviews are typically time-bound, so it’s important to focus your questions on the most critical areas of the job and not get sidetracked with chitchat or unrelated stories. A popular style is behavioral interviewing. This requires the candidates to share situations where they demonstrated certain skills. The components are situation, behavior, and outcome. 

  • Project Management: Tell me about a time when you were assigned a challenging project. What were the steps you took to complete the project?
  • Customer Service: Describe a situation in which you had to handle a rude or upset customer. What was their complaint and how did you resolve the issue?
  • Problem Solving: Describe the biggest work-related problem you have faced. How did you deal with it? What was the outcome?


Take notes

Print out your list of questions so you can take notes in writing or use your computer and create a separate document for each candidate. Inform the candidate you will be taking notes so they don’t think you are being rude and answering emails or doing other work during the meeting.  

When I am face-to-face, I like to handwrite the notes. It gives both of us a break from eye contact and a chance to breathe. It’s also a way to convey my interest, especially when I know they are not a right fit but I don’t want to be disrespectful. 


Know the law

Touch base with your HR department or revisit any training videos you have on legally hiring to make sure you understand what you can and cannot ask during the interview process. Revisit some of the important employment laws like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act, and Age Discrimination in Employment Act. 

Make sure your notes relate to the questions and answers and the qualifications of the job. Keep all of your documentation from the interview. This will be helpful if the candidate comes back to challenge your hiring practices. 


Use phone-screening 

Another way you can be a more effective interviewer is to save time with phone-screening calls. These can be a quick and easy way to narrow down your list of candidates to save everyone’s time with longer-form, face-to-face meetings.  

Phone interviews might only take 10-20 minutes each. Again, prepare your list of questions ahead of time, and be sure to include your “deal breakers.” 

  • What are you looking for in your next job? 
      • If they are looking to gain skills the position does not offer, they may not be a fit. In my past experience, I had a candidate express interest in a career in market research but my position didn’t offer this exposure so she was eliminated at the phone screen. 
  • What made you apply for this position?
      • The phone screening conversation can also give you a good idea about the candidate’s enthusiasm or interest in the position and company. I once eliminated a candidate after the phone interview where it sounded like he was half asleep on the couch. I felt like the call was an inconvenience and he was not only uninterested but possibly falling asleep. He was definitely not a fit for our high-energy culture.  
  • What did you think of our website?
      • Once I was hiring a person to handle my web strategy and the job description was clear about leading a complete website redesign. I asked the candidate for her opinion about our current website. She said she had not looked at it yet and that she wanted to hear more about it from me first. To me, that demonstrated a complete lack of motivation. I ended the phone call shortly after that. 


Promote the company

Part of being an effective interviewer is weeding out unqualified applicants but perhaps, more importantly, you also need to convince the top candidate to choose your position. Continue recruiting them throughout the process. 

You’ve seen the articles about labor shortages and skills gaps. The top candidates will likely have multiple offers. It’s important to give them many reasons to choose your company and your job. 

  • Show enthusiasm for your company
  • Share your own personal experiences 
  • Explain unique benefits your company offers
  • Promote your culture

I have a theory that how a company treats you during the recruitment process is indicative of how they treat employees. If your culture is like “The Devil Wears Prada” and filled with intimidation and fear, then your interview process needs to reflect that pressure to find the right candidate for the job. Hopefully, that’s not the case and your culture is more like that created by Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation” filled with waffles and appreciation scrapbooks!


Review training

If your organization works with a company like ej4, you may have an entire library full of videos that can help you be a better interviewer. If so, take the time to review relevant courses. We offer many topics that can be curated to improve your interviewing skills:

  • Our Recruiting Toolkit series covers topics like reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, unacceptable interview questions, extending the offer, and more. 
  • We offer many state-specific courses on harassment and discrimination including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, and New York.
  • We also cover many aspects of the law:
    • Pregnancy Discrimination Act
    • Equal Pay Act
    • Age Discrimination in Employment Act
    • Americans with Disabilities Act


Additional Resources


Chris Scherting

Written by Chris Scherting

Chris Scherting’s passion for marketing began in grade school where she served several terms as Commissioner of Publicity and Public Relations. She graduated from St. Louis University with her BSBA in Marketing and her MBA. She has worked for some of the most well-known brands in St. Louis including the St. Louis Cardinals, Charter Communications (now Spectrum), and Maritz. She joined ej4 in December of 2016 with the goal to bring her big brand experience to a growing company.

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