Many small business owners have little interviewing experience. Here are some best practices:
- Plan your questions ahead of time. Don't wait until a job applicant is sitting in front of you. Make a list of things you'd like to know, and create some probing questions. Think back to the phone interview. Did anything come up that you'd like to explore further?
- Ask open-ended questions. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no, and questions that have an obvious right answer. You want open-ended, thought-provoking questions that begin with what, when, where, how or why. The answers can be very revealing.
- Set the tone. Start with a firm handshake and a friendly smile. Small talk about hobbies and interests can break the ice and get you started.
- Tell the candidate what to expect. Explain the process and expected length of the interview – then stick to it. Let them know that you'll take notes (jot down what they say, not your opinions, at this stage).
- Plan what you'll say about your company. The best candidates may have other offers, so you should tell them about the upside of working at your company. Share whatever gets you excited about the business. Be positive but be honest.
- Review your benefits. Many applicants are seeking benefits, such as healthcare, gym membership and pensions. If you offer these benefits, make sure applicants know. Also, if you have any unusual benefits or perks, be sure to include them.
- Don't make promises you can't keep. Never make promises about job security, salary increases or career advancement. Those can get you in legal trouble later.
- Remember to listen. Most of the time the candidate should be talking, not you.
- Know what you can't ask. Be careful! Some questions are illegal. You can't ask whether a candidate is planning on having a child, or their marital status, religion or age. But it's perfectly legal to ask about hobbies, interests and long-term goals.
- Put them to the test. Get a feel for ‘hands-on’ ability by asking candidates to solve a realistic problem. Ask a potential office manager how they would improve a particular process. Have a marketing candidate suggest improvements to a web page.
- Leave time for questions. When candidates ask questions, you get insights into how they think and what's important to them. The best candidates will ask you meaningful questions about the job. Of course they'll also ask about salaries and wages but if the only questions are about compensation, they may not be thinking about whether the job itself is a good fit.
What are your interviewing tips?
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