How to conduct a great candidate interview – don’t forget your manners

Sheryn Small

Tips To Be A Great Interviewer

Having experienced recruitment from all angles – as a senior suit in an advertising agency, as an internal Head of Talent and now as a marketing specialist recruiter at iknowho, I know as well as anyone how a busy week can get in the way of things, and often providing candidate feedback on an interview whether it be positive, negative or somewhere in between, can fall to the bottom of the pile. 

But consider it from the candidates’ point of view, your feedback might well relate to the job of their dreams, so for them, it’s equivalent to a four-year-old waiting for Christmas morning to arrive. Well, maybe not that extreme, but you get my drift!

Failing to give a candidate interview feedback after they have invested the time to meet you (and possibly bought a new outfit and spent hours prepping) isn’t a sign of being busy, it’s a sign of disrespect. And it’s not just your personal brand that you’re damaging, it’s your company’s too! 

Here are a few tips and pointers for interviewers to consider throughout the recruitment process to make sure you’re setting the right tone, building a positive employer brand, and getting the most out of your interviews for both yourself and for the candidate.

1. Always read their resume before the interview

It sounds like a crazy one to point out, but you’d be surprised how many interviewers try to ‘wing it’, only to spend too much time going over information they already have in the candidate CV instead of drilling down further. It also allows you to come up with specific questions to ask that relate directly to their experience.

2. Plan the interview structure before the interview

It’s always a good idea to give some structure to an interview and to have thought about the questions you’re going to ask. It also helps to ensure that you’re asking the same questions of all candidates and that all interviews follow a similar format. 

Don’t forget to ease a candidate in at the beginning with some light chit-chat about their weekend or one of their hobbies. Aside from helping with candidate interview nerves, it also allows you to get to know them better and build some rapport. 

3. Have two-way conversations

The best interviews are two-way. Make sure you allow room for the candidate to ask you questions about the company, the role, the team structure and the company culture, and be prepared for those type of questions with answers that will inspire them to want to work there. 

4. Sell yourself!

Remember that candidates buy into people as much as they buy into roles. Your level of interest in them and the passion with which you talk about the company and the opportunity, how much eye contact you make and the rapport you’re willing to build in the interview will all have a huge bearing on whether they can see themselves working in the business.

5. Be clear on reporting lines and client accounts

Make sure that everyone in the team who are involved in the interview process is clear on reporting lines and in the case of creative agency roles – client accounts! You’d be surprised how often a candidate walks away confused as they were told one thing from one person and a different thing from another.

6. Manage candidate expectations

The close of the interview is the perfect time to manage a candidate’s expectations on next steps. Don’t tell them that second round interviews are happening next Wednesday if you have no intention of taking them through to next round. It will just get their hopes up unnecessarily and doesn’t reflect well on you or the company. 

If they’re the first candidate you’ve met and you still have another week of first-round interviews, let them know it may be a week before they hear back from you about next steps. If you’re working with a recruiter, they can help with managing the expectations for the candidate.

7. Communicate!

The number one rule in ensuring you don’t damage your brand in the hiring process is to communicate. Whether that’s with a candidate or the recruiters, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open before, after and during the recruitment process. 

Even if it’s that you’re still deciding or need a few more days before you can communicate your feedback, it’s better to come back with something than not responding at all. 

A lot of emotion surrounds a career move, and the more a candidate gets ghosted, the more chance they will take that other role they’re also interviewing for, or even lose interest.

8. Give constructive feedback

Whilst being kind is important when giving feedback, it is still important to be as constructive as possible. If you felt they were underprepared, or simply didn’t have enough experience for a particular facet of the role, then let them know! And try not to use the “culture fit’ as a reason not to hire – part of being kind is leaving personality out of it and focussing instead on any skill gaps.  

Just remember that candidates are people too and in a relatively small industry it pays to be considerate throughout the interview process, and to always remember your manners!

If you’re looking for more advice on how to conduct great candidate interviews, are interested in finding out current salary brackets in the marketing industry, or you’re looking for client-side or agency marketing roles in Sydney – feel free to reach out to me anytime

If you want more tips on how to be a great interviewer, head here where the team share interview facts and more helpful advice. 

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