As a first-time employer, learning how to interview job candidates is vital – but it can involve a steep learning curve. Here’s our eight-step guide to conducting effective sessions, with tips on virtual interviews too.
Holding an interview might seem simple enough but, for many, the skill doesn’t come easily. You’ll want to make sure your applicant is comfortable enough to speak fluently, maintain a professional image of your company, and of course tick off all the questions on your sheet.
If you don’t get the formula right, you could end up hiring an unsuitable candidate – an expensive mistake. You’ll risk losing money through recruitment, training and support, plus potential customer issues or damage to your reputation caused by the new employee.
In fact, experts believe companies waste more than an employee’s annual salary when they hire an incompatible applicant. So, it’s worth putting in the hard work now to help you make the right decision.
How to structure an interview
1. Introduce yourself
Before you launch into your questions, take the time to greet the candidate warmly and allow them to get comfortable. Welcome them to your business, thank them for coming and offer them a seat. You could also ask whether they’d like a glass of water or hot drink.
Once you’re both settled, explain how the interview will be structured, and be sure to highlight the chance for them to ask any questions at the end. Then, you should tell the applicant a little bit about your business. If you go over your values and ambition for the company, you give the candidate a chance to find out whether they would fit in.
Note: Remember, this is a two-way conversation, and giving candidates plenty of information about your business will help them decide whether they’d be a natural fit for the role. If not, they may turn down your offer, which will help you avoid issues in the long run.
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2. Find out why they want to work for you
The answer to this question can be extremely helpful for you as a first-time employer. It’ll give you a sense of who they are as a person, what they’re looking for in a job and how they view your business. You might also choose to ask why they want to work in the industry, or what they like and dislike about their current position.
3. Learn about their hard and soft skills
This section is probably the most important part of the interview. Your pre-prepared questions should be crafted with the intention of finding out whether the candidate has the right skills and knowledge to do the job well. Before you write your prompts, consider your training scheme; if you plan to run a coaching programme, you may prefer to focus on an applicant’s soft skills and personal attributes.
Try asking both fact-based and hypothetical questions, such as:
- What relevant skills did you develop during your degree?
- What would you do if a customer caused a scene?
Mixing up your questions like this should help you get an understanding of their experience as well as their behaviour and attitude.
4. Work out whether they’d fit in at your business
Use this section to discuss your company culture in more detail. You might choose to ask questions about their preferred office environment or working style. For instance, if they’re a ‘people-person’ with a loud, bubbly personality and flexible approach to work, they might not suit a quiet, fast-paced office with a structured, nine-to-five work day.
You're looking for someone who can do the job the best, not your next best friend. Failing to rate each criteria for each candidate before comparing candidates can lead to selecting someone who is amiable, but not necessarily right for the job. There's also the risk of picking a candidate who isn't qualified simply because they are the most qualified of those candidates that you interviewed.
5. Talk about the role
Give your candidate the chance to learn more about what their role would entail. Go through the responsibilities they’d have, and what their working day would look like. If there are career growth opportunities in the company, be sure to discuss them – most candidates will want to know they’ll be able to move forward in your company.
6. Discuss salary
The most common reason candidates give for rejecting a job offer is low salary (Top Echelon). So, if you haven’t set a specific annual pay for the role, take the time to discuss the applicant’s expected salary range. Then, it’s your responsibility to provide a competitive salary. Not only will this allow you to attract and retain talent, but it should also help you maintain high levels of employee motivation and satisfaction.
7. Answer your candidate’s questions
Don’t forget to ask the interviewee whether they have any questions at the end of the session. You can learn from the queries they raise, particularly as a first-time employer. If you find lots of applicants raise the same concerns, or lack the same understanding, you could focus on these topics in your future interview introductions.
8. Explain the next steps
It’s good practice to let the candidate know what to expect in the coming days. Give them a rough timeline of events, explaining how and when you’ll contact them and how they can get in touch with you, should they need to.
Finally, thank the applicant again for taking the time to meet with you.
This year, many interviews have taken place online. Here are a few tips virtual interview tips for first-time employers:
- Applicants won’t have the chance to see your workspace, as they would in a normal interview. To counteract this issue, think about how you can give them a sense of your workplace culture during the call. You could provide candidates with team photos, testimonials or social media posts showing day-to-day activities or social events.
- Find a quiet spot with a strong internet connection, and check it before you dial into the video call
- If you need to use a separate room in your workspace, check its availability beforehand - you don’t want to be rushing round trying to find a suitable location minutes before the interview
- Your candidates may be living in different time zones, so don’t forget to adjust the interview time for them
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Other interview tips for first-time employers
- Do your research, but don’t make snap judgements – Google and LinkedIn can be useful for finding out more about your interviewees before you meet them, but try to keep an open mind until the big day.
- Print out candidates’ CVs and make notes on them - this will help you remember more after a long day of interviews.
- Start with an easy question to put the applicant at ease. You could ask them how their journey was, or whether their day has been busy.
- Show you’re listening by nodding, smiling and maintaining eye contact.
- Try to link your questions so the conversation flows, rather than sticking rigidly to your pre-prepared sheet. Feel free to follow-up on topics you’d like to know more about.
- The hiring process doesn’t end when the interview comes to a close. If you turn a candidate down, act courteously and call them, especially if they spent a lot of time applying and interviewing for your role.
Be a fantastic first-time employer
You can find out more about becoming a franchisee and hiring a talented workforce in our handy article guides.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©