By Barbara Mitchell
Q: Interviewing is stressful for both me and the applicant. How can I make the candidate more comfortable so I can get the information I need to make a good hiring decision?
A: You are so right—interviews are uncomfortable for both people, and when people are uncomfortable, they tend to close up. So, what can you do?
It starts with how you communicate before the interview. When you set up the interview, let the candidate know what to expect. For example, say, “We’ll have about an hour together, and I’ll want to ask you about your experience in membership management and learn more about your strengths and career goals. I’ll share more information about our association and the job.”
Be sure the space where you interview is quiet and away from interruptions. Turn off your cellphone so you can focus on the applicant.
Let your receptionist know you are expecting a job applicant at a specific time so that a special welcome can be offered. Some organizations have a message board in the lobby: It’s a nice idea to put the applicant’s name on the board so that everyone knows he or she will be there that day. Be sure the space where you interview is quiet and away from interruptions. Turn off your cellphone so you can focus on the applicant.
Start with a handshake and warm welcome. Offer water or coffee or whatever is available, and when you’re settled, begin with small talk. There are easy topics like the traffic or weather, or if your office has something unusual in the lobby or in the halls, point it out.
All this preliminary conversation is to get the applicant to relax so you can begin the interview. Always start by explaining what to expect—basically repeat what you said when you set up the interview. Now the candidate will be able to focus on what’s ahead.
Ask open-ended, job-related questions and listen carefully to the responses. Share information about your association and the job, and always ask the applicant if he or she has questions and answer them. End on a positive note by telling the applicant when you plan to make a decision. Offer your business card and let the candidate know it is OK to follow up with you after the interview with additional questions.
Following these steps, you will likely elicit the information you need to determine if the applicant is right for the job and your association.
Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].