There are countless resources out there that offer detailed advice to candidates preparing for a job interview. We’ve posted a few ourselves. See: tips to nail your next interview and how to make an impression at a job interview.

Less discussed is how to prepare if you’re the one conducting the interview. Perhaps we assume that by the time you’ve reached the point where you’re the one conducting interviews, you’ve been through enough of them to know how it goes. Though conducting an interview may seem self-explanatory, there’s a fine art to it. Anyone can run an interview, but few do it really well. Here are some insider tips and tricks to make the most of every question you ask.


prepare beforehand and have a game plan ready

Conducting an interview is just like any other type of meeting. You probably wouldn’t make a presentation to your boss if you didn’t know the material you were presenting and have a strategy for presenting it clearly. Have a plan and prepare your questions beforehand. Most importantly of all, decide what skills and traits you’re looking for in candidates. After all, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s pretty challenging to assess if the candidate fits. And isn’t that the whole point of a job interview?

Before conducting an interview you should:

  • Review the job description
  • Read the candidate’s resume & cover letter
  • Know what you’re looking for in candidates
  • Prepare a list of key questions

hold the interview in quiet, comfortable room

Interviews are about determining the right fit between employer and employee, and that goes both ways. The person you’re interviewing is assessing your company culture and work atmosphere as much as you’re assessing them. The room where the interview is conducted says a lot. It’s probably the first time the interviewee is seeing your workplace in person. Make the most of that first impression.

A quiet, brightly lit room with adequate seating is ideal. Avoid conducting interviews in common areas where colleagues may interrupt or there are other distractions. The candidate should be the sole focus of your attention for the duration of the interview. On a side note: avoid having any more than 2 people interview the candidate at any given time.

start with the basics and work up to more detailed answers

Start on a light note to set the candidate at ease. Chances are the person you’re interviewing is nervous. They’re excited about the job and want to put their best foot forward. Instead of playing into their nerves by jumping right into the hard-hitting interview questions, start on a lighter note. Let the interviewee get comfortable and hit their stride, so when you do ask those tough interview questions, they’re in the best position to give you a revealing answer.

avoid asking questions if you already have the answer

Adopt this golden rule: if the question can be answered with a quick glance at the candidate’s resume, don’t ask it.

Some of the worst offenders of this rule:

  • Where did you work last?
  • How many years of experience do you have?
  • Where did you go to school?
  • What is your degree in?
  • Do you have X certification?

Asking these questions (and others like them) is a waste of your time and the interviewee’s. Not only is it interview filler, it gives the impression you didn’t bother to read the candidate’s resume or prepare for the interview at all. If you seem ill-prepared or disinterested, the candidate may wonder if this is the right role for them.

include some open-ended questions

As the person conducting the interview, it’s up to you to guide the general direction of the conversation. However, don’t be afraid of open-ended questions with no right or wrong answer. Limiting yourself to questions that can be answered in a sentence or two can lead to boring answers and reveal very little about the candidate. Give the interviewee a chance to open up about their career goals, the value of their experience and other relevant subjects. You’ll often find that these questions provide the most genuine insights.

Examples of good open-ended questions:

  • Tell me about your career goals over the next 5 years
  • What would your first month in this role look like?
  • Tell me about a time where you went above and beyond at work?
  • What do you consider your most important accomplishment?
  • What is your favourite website and why?
  • Do you consider yourself more creative or analytical, and why?
  • Any question with a ‘why’ element

be open and friendly, but professional

By all means, you should be open and friendly with interviewees. There’s nothing wrong with a light-hearted greeting and a joke to break the ice – after all, the person interviewing is probably nervous, and setting them at ease will lead to a better interview. However, you should absolutely be mindful of professional boundaries. This person may one day be working with or for you. Avoid asking personal questions that may be misinterpreted. It’s one thing to build a rapport with candidates based on common interests. It’s another to ask invasive or prying questions.

listen to what the candidate is saying

You wouldn’t believe how often interviewers ask questions, then tune out the answers because they’re expecting a variation on the same old answer. The whole point of conducting an interview is to get to know the candidate – which means listening. Tempting as it might be to cut someone off or speak over them when they start to ramble, let them finish. You may find you’ll have follow-up questions once they finish their tale. Follow-up questions are often revealing, as they aren’t pre-planned and the candidate may not be expecting them.

don’t be afraid to talk up the role

If you love your job and the company you work for, don’t be afraid to sell the role, especially if the interview is going well! Interviews are a two-way street. Sure, you’ll be the one deciding whether or not to make a job offer, but the candidate is also deciding whether or not they want to work for your company (and with you.) If there’s some must-know perks or a great office culture, let the candidate know! You never know what other offers they’re entertaining. Give them a reason to choose yours.

give the candidate a chance to ask their own questions

An important part of every interview is letting the candidate ask their own questions. If the candidate is excited about the role, they probably have a burning question or two about the role, management or company. Answer their questions as truthfully as possible. Sugarcoating the facts now can lead to disillusionment down the road.

Need help perfecting your hiring? Randstad’s experienced recruiting team can streamline your hiring process by delivering pre-screened candidates for any role. All you have to do is conduct last round interviews and make the final hiring decision! Let us know what kind of roles you’re hiring for, and we’ll let you know how we can help.

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