Good interviews don’t happen by chance; instead, they are carefully crafted to put a company’s best foot forward while providing maximum insight into the candidate. Let’s examine some of the factors that can make or break the interviewing process. There’s no substitute for advance planning!

First Impressions

An on-site visit usually presents the first opportunity for the candidate to get to know a prospective employer. It takes some work to make that occasion a pleasant one, and attention to detail can make all the difference. If the individual is coming from out of town, why not get together for breakfast and drive the candidate to your facility? Alert all parties to expect the candidate, and at every touchpoint, make your guest feel like a V.I.P. If you eventually extend an offer, you will have paved the way for its acceptance. If not, the candidate at least will have a positive impression of your organization.

The Face-to-Face Visit

A good recruiter will have briefed you thoroughly on each candidate to be interviewed, so there’s no reason to waste time establishing a person’s work history or basic skills. Concentrate on credibility, not credentials. The objectives of a face-to-face visit are to evaluate the candidate’s likely ability to perform the critical aspects of the job; to determine if he or she is a “good fit” with your particular corporate culture; and to decide if this is a commitment the company wants to make.

If the interview panel is working together for the first time, it should assemble in advance to review the duties of each member. For example, the hiring manager should have primary responsibility for assessing the candidate’s overall ability to perform the job, while cross-functional members may be asked to zero in on the candidate’s ability to interact with their departments. If schedules permit, the hiring manager’s boss should be held in reserve for the end of the day – fully armed by other panelists with issues to be probed and reinforcing comments to be made.

Interview Do’s and Don’ts

The best place to start is the job description. If the person can’t perform the essential elements of the position, all other bets are off. Make sure that everyone understands the essentials. If you feel compelled to ask about greatest strengths and weaknesses, see how the answers “square” with the individual in front of you. Based on the candidate’s responses, does the person seem to have a high degree of self-awareness? A strong, self-confident candidate will certainly want to ask questions of you, and this provides a good opportunity to observe how well he or she prepared for the interview.

Avoid salary discussions – which ruin twice as many interviews as they help. A good third-party recruiter will have confirmed in advance that a candidate’s compensation needs are within an acceptable range, so this should not need confirmation during the interview process. Once the offer stage is reached, the outside recruiter can likewise guide the parties toward a figure that is acceptable for each.

What to Say at the End of the Day

After the interview, let the person know how much you enjoyed the visit and that you’ll be in touch in the near future. Then convene the interview panel and reach a decision. No matter whether you plan to interview one or several candidates, try to make each interview an up-or-down decision in terms of “Should we hire this individual?” If you end up with more than one “yes,” then compare.


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