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Tips for the interviewer

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In response to a recent column, several readers asked for more tips on how to approach an interview from the interviewer's viewpoint. Here is a list of suggestions to be used as a starting point.

Be sure you know what skills, traits, attitudes, etc. you want in the people you hire. Write a complete job description if one doesn't already exist.

Define the areas most important to the position. For example - technical skills, attitude, motivation, initiative, work habits, social skills, analytical ability, etc.

Rank the areas in their order of importance top to bottom.

Learn how to ask interview questions. My suggestion would be to learn a currently popular but very effective technique called "behavioral interviewing". In essence, it involves asking the candidate how they reacted in a real situation instead of a theoretical one. Rather than "how do you react to stress?" you might say "describe for me a recent situation when you were under a lot of stress and tell me how you reacted to it."

Develop a repertoire of questions to spotlight each area you defined earlier as being important.

Prepare an interview "plan sheet" that lists all the information you want to tell candidates. Also, prepare a checklist of important areas that you want to discuss with them.

Learn how to listen to what the person is really telling you. Don't try to formulate your next question while halfheartedly listening.

Take notes during or immediately after the interview.

If more than one person will interview the candidate, give each of them a copy of the plan sheet and ensure that they know why they are interviewing the candidate. Meet with them and review their notes as soon after the interview as you can.

Consider using a commercially available "personality trait assessment system". We use one that can be completed by the candidate in a matter of minutes and immediately evaluated by PC based software. It won't tell you everything you need to know but it is a good tool when used properly. I evaluated myself and quickly became a believer - it was very accurate!

Develop a personal interviewing style or system, you will be more organized and at ease if you do this. By following the same path through each interview, you will be able to compare candidates using consistent data.

Commit to yourself and the candidate that you will make a go or a no-go decision within 48 hours of the interview (go means to the next level in the process). That commitment will force everyone involved to prepare for the interview, to conduct the interview and to make a decision - not waffle. Indecision is enemy #1 in the hiring process. You owe yourself and the candidate the courtesy of an expedient decision.

I have hardly scratched the surface ... we may need to revisit this area. Comments?


Tom Whitley and the staff of Management Recruiters of Kannapolis, specialize in recruiting information systems, telecommunications, and networking professionals at both the technical and managerial levels. If you are interested in discussing career opportunities, if you need assistance with your recruiting efforts, or if you have comments about the Career Advisor contact Tom at

Write a resume, not a job description
Network World, 7/20/98

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