They are two words that can send a shiver down a grown adult’s spine. Some people will tell you that they are quite confident when it comes to interviewing or that they don’t mind that part of the process, but most of us are very nervous at the mere thought of interviewing for a job.

It’s generally the first interview of the process that invokes the most fear and nerves. As the saying goes, first impressions last and people want to get off on the right foot. You want to make sure that you get it right to increase your chances of progressing through the stages.

Over the 6+ years that I’ve worked at Optimum Consulting, I’ve sent thousands of people for interviews with clients and, let’s just say that some have gone better than others! What I have noticed over the years is that interviewing isn’t all a one-way affair. Most people look at a job interview from the candidate’s perspective, that it is your chance to really impress a hiring manager and, for want of a better word, “sell” your credentials as to why you should get the job.

The fact of the matter is… The company needs to sell the role and the company to you just as much as you need to sell yourself to them!

Very recently I had a candidate withdraw their application for a job that they really wanted after the first-round interview. Their reason???

“They didn’t get to know who I was as a person… they didn’t tell me anything about their team…. They moved straight from one question into the next…. I just didn’t get a good feeling from them…”

This is the feedback from a candidate who was super excited about the position and the company beforehand and who received feedback from the client that they would be a very good candidate and a great cultural fit for their team.

The problem was, they didn’t explain who their team was or what their culture was!

Given that there are endless amounts of material out there for candidates to read about how to impress in interviews, I thought I would offer a few pointers for any interviewers out there on how to make sure that you engage with the right talent and don’t lose them in the first interview.

  • Make the candidate feel welcome. It seems like common sense, but it can be easily overlooked. Offer them some water, ask if they had any trouble finding the place, possibly even make a joke about getting lost in the crazy car park at work. Anything to break the ice and help them settle, this will also mean you are more likely to see the real them during the interview.
  • Set an agenda. Again, a very simple step but by setting an agenda at the beginning of the interview you can prepare all participants for how the conversation will flow.
  • SMILE! This is a direct piece of feedback that I received from my manager at Optimum. I was interviewing a number of candidates for a role at Optimum which was conducted online. All of them were videoed and my manager watched them to make an assessment on who to progress with. His comment to me? “You didn’t smile once in those interviews…. Why would they want to come and work at Optimum?” – I thought he was kidding but after watching it again myself, he was spot on!
  • Explain the culture of the team. Even a simple overview of who works there, what their roles are, what type of person they are, does the team do any social functions together, etc. are really easy ways for a candidate to gauge the culture of the team. This can save a lot of heartache down the track by avoiding getting a candidate who, “isn’t the right fit”.
  • Give feedback. This can be a trickier one but with the help of a good recruitment consultant, you can pass on your feedback from the interview to ensure that the candidate walks away understanding why they didn’t get the job. Although this might not help you and your team in the here and now, you never know when you might run into this person again or who their neighbour, colleague, friend or relative is! You want to leave everyone with a good impression of your company

Hopefully, a few of these tips will be beneficial for anyone new to conducting interviews from the hiring side of the table. Even if you are a veteran, it’s sometimes a good refresher to have a think about your interview style and honestly ask yourself the question of whether you are properly selling the team and the company.

Interviews aren’t always about the candidate selling themselves and just because a hiring manager wants to progress doesn’t mean that the candidate will want to as well.

In a market that is tightening up when it comes to finding good talent you don’t want to lose a gun employee because you didn’t smile in an interview!

Isaac Dufficy

Executive Consultant

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