Client Interviewing Tips

Here are a collection of free tips on preparing and conducting the ideal interview and in writing the perfect job description. Click on each of the headings to open up the relevant section.

Prepare in Advance

  • Know what you want in a candidate before you begin the interview. Review the job specifications and requirements that have been prepared.
  • Know the job and its responsibilities. Review the job description.
  • Prepare a list of standard questions concerning the candidate's skills, abilities and past work performance that you want him/her to answer.
  • Prepare a list of prioritised and measurable criteria, either in the form of a worksheet or other method, for analysing and comparing the candidates.
  • Review the candidate's CV prior to the interview.
  • Set specific appointment times and reasonable time limits.
  • Be prepared to justify the use of any required employment test. Typically, the most legally defensible tests are those that involve a "piece of the job."

Collect Pertinent Information During The Interview

Since past behaviour predicts future behaviour, look for the candidate's behaviour "patterns" as you collect information. For example, has the candidate enjoyed "big picture" work or detailed analysis more? Is he/she more of a generalist or more of a specialist? Oftentimes, by listening to how the candidate responds to your questions about previous jobs, you will be able to get a very good idea of what their behaviour will be like in the future.

Try not to offer too much detailed information up front so that the candidate will be able to formulate answers that exactly fits your company's needs. Don't put the right words in his/her mouth! Remember, the candidate (hopefully) wants the job and will be looking to say the right thing to impress you.

Ask questions that focus on the candidate's past performances. For example, if the job, such as an office manager, demands an individual who is well-organised and handles paperwork easily, you may want to ask, "How do you keep track of your own schedules and desk work in your current position?"

Ask specific, structured questions in regards to specific problems that the job holder may face. Focus on past behaviour and the results of the candidate's actions in a particular situation. For example: "As the Help Desk person, you may encounter a few unhappy users who will yell and scream at you over the telephone or in person. Have you had any experience dealing with difficult users? Who was the most difficult user you had to deal with? What was the situation? How did you resolve the problem?"

Notice how well the candidate listens and responds to the questions asked.
Note the candidate's choice of words and non-verbal behaviour. Are they answering your questions clearly?

Listen to the questions the candidate asks. Clarify the reasons why the questions are being asked. Notice which questions he/she asks first as they may be his/her primary concerns.

Take detailed hand-written notes concerning job related topics that will help you distinguish the candidates from one another (especially if you will be conducting several interviews). Help yourself remember each candidate and each interview clearly.

Record information pertaining to the set criteria that will help in the evaluation of candidates.

Organise and analyse the information immediately after the interview when memory is fresh. Don't try to remember everything, it's impossible. One idea is to "rate" each candidate on each of the criteria immediately following the interview.

Look and Act Professionally During the Interview

Structure the interview and inform the candidate of the structure. Let the candidate know you will be focusing on past results and that you will be taking notes.
Provide information on the company and the job to each candidate.

  • Dress appropriately.
  • Avoid appearing bored and fatigued.
  • Set a businesslike atmosphere.

Treat All Candidates Fairly

  • Use your list of standard questions during each interview so that you treat the applicants the same and so that you can compare apples to apples.
  • Refer to the criteria for analysing candidates. Ask questions in regards to the job criteria.
  • Keep all questions job-related.
  • Do not ask discriminating questions.
  • Show a genuine interest in every candidate you interview.
  • If possible, have at least one other person meet and/or interview candidates who are "finalists". They should also "rate" the candidates on each of the criteria; ultimately, all interviewers should compare their "ratings" and discuss any discrepancies. Having more than one interviewer helps control for personal biases.

Be Courteous and Respectful

  • Conduct the interview in a private place away from distractions.
  • Begin the interview on schedule.
  • If possible, conduct the interview without interruptions.
  • Allow sufficient time for the interview.
  • Appreciate the candidate's accomplishments.
  • Do not patronise the candidate.
  • Do not argue with the candidate.
  • Thank the candidate for his/her time and interest.

Facilitate Open Communication

  • Immediately attempt to establish a rapport with the candidate by breaking the ice; for example, ask about their experiences in a particular industry or geographical location (refer to his/her CV).
  • Promote a relaxed environment with free-flowing conversation.
  • Do not dominate the discussion by talking too much. Many experts use an 80/20 rule - you talk 20% of the time and the candidate talks 80% of the time.
  • Politely probe the candidate for information by asking open-ended questions that will provide insight into the candidate's values and traits.
  • Ask structured questions that will require some thought on the part of the candidate.
  • Listen carefully to the candidate's answers. If they do not provide you with specific results, probe until they do.
  • Explain the selection process to the candidate. Offer realistic time frames and stick to your word!

Questions to Consider

Why are you interested in leaving your current assignment and why do you feel that this assignment would be better for you?
Do you feel this position is a promotion, a lateral move, a broadening of your professional experience, or just a change? Why do you think so?
How does this position fit into your overall career goals?
What is your favourite part of your current job and why is it your favourite part?
Describe a situation in which you did "all the right things" and were still unsuccessful. What did you learn from the experience?
Have you ever had a great idea but been told that you could not implement it? How did you react? What did you do?
Can you describe how you go about solving problems? Please give us some examples.
Can you share with us your ideas about professional development?
Describe some basic steps that you would take in implementing a new program
What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?

Job Description Writing Tips

Finding the perfect employee is not an exact science, but some job descriptions might lead you to believe that!

Personnel, Recruiters and HR staff are often tasked with finding the perfect employee for a company with less detail than they would have if they were taking a lunch order. "I need a Developer with 3-5 years experience in the software industry" is not going to get you what you need!

Here are five questions you should answer in creating a great job description:

  1. What is the job's primary purpose or contribution to the department or Company?
  2. What are the essential technical skills, what versions and what should they have done with them. Three technical questions set by the IT Department along with their answers will help with preliminary interviews and agencies when qualifying for the position.
  3. What are the essential duties and responsibilities? You should include all important aspects of the job - whether performed daily, weekly, monthly or annually; and any that occur at irregular intervals.
  4. Does the job have supervisory responsibilities? Are there subordinate supervisors reporting to this job? If yes, how many?
  5. What education and amount of experience is needed to successfully accomplish the essential duties of the job?

And last, but definitely NOT least, is why would the candidate want to work here?

Do you have a fund to allow each employee to pursue their personal development through training or books?

Do you provide Flexitime, Crèche facilities? Play lunch time 5 A Side? Gym membership, Healthcare? Discounts? Tell them what's in it for THEM!

Writing your job description in this manner will increase your chances of finding the perfect employee for YOU.