Some people might thrive on the challenge of interviewing for a job, but for many, it’s a toss-up between that and a root canal. As an interviewer, you’re in a position to show interviewees that time spent with you is indeed more pleasurable than a trip to the dentist. Putting someone at ease, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask the tough questions, such as asking candidates to describe how they have handled situations in the past and what they can bring to your company.
A firm handshake, looking someone in the eye and a big smile can go a long way toward making people feel comfortable. Start the interview off with some small talk. This allows your interviewee to see that you’re a real person and not just someone who might hold the power of life or death over her career. It also gives her time to relax and gives you the chance to size up the first impression she’s making. Keep the conversation topics generic and don’t stray into territory too personal, such as family status.
Explain the Process
Many people fear the unknown. While many interviews are conducted the same way regardless of the company or industry, you might also conduct group interviews or a skills demonstration interview, or have more than one person asking questions. Whatever your process, explain it thoroughly to the interviewee. Even if you’re just conducting a simple first interview, tell the candidate you’ll be explaining the job, asking her some questions, and then she can ask you questions. The more people know what to expect, the less they have to fear.
When you ask your candidate interview questions, give her time to answer. You can also encourage her to keep talking – hopefully still on the subject – by smiling, nodding and giving other nonverbal cues that show you’re really listening to her. Taking notes is important for you to jog your memory later about the interview and the strengths and weaknesses of your candidates. A candidate might run out of things to say while you’re still writing, but as long as you look up, smile, and tell her you’ll be right with her, she won’t be too anxious about what it is you’re writing.
There’s a good chance your interviewee is doing everything she knows how to relax, calm her anxiety, and get into a good groove of question and reply. A ringing phone or knock at the door can throw you both off-stride and make it hard to recover. Ensure you won’t be disturbed during an interview, turn your phone off, and let your know candidate there won’t be any interruptions. Even if you’re pressed for time, don’t tell her the interview has to be over in 15 minutes – just structure the interview for the time available.
Since 1997, Maria Christensen has written about business, history, food, culture and travel for diverse publications. She ran her own business writing employee handbooks and business process manuals for small businesses, authored a guidebook to Seattle, and works as an accountant for a software company. Christensen studied communications at the University of Washington and history at Armstrong Atlantic State University.