There is something about the confines of an aircraft that can bring down the barriers between people. Flying up to Port Moresby I sat next to a mining executive who was travelling to the Highlands for some interviews.

My immediate assumption that he was going to be interviewed for a job proved wrong. He was going to conduct the interviews and he was worried about them. “The Problem is,” he confided ‘is that most people make the same mistake you just did. And there are books and books about how to behave when being interviewed; but what is there for people like me, who have to conduct them? What help is there for us?” A valid point.

We had some discussion about what are the main things anyone conducting an interview need to consider; and once he really began to think about the objectives, he came up with some excellent ideas himself.

So what are the skills needed to conduct a successful interview?

If you are conducting an interview, it needs the same careful planning as any other communication process. So –

Step 1 Determine precisely what the aim of the interview is, what it is to achieve. It might be to select the best applicant for the job; to gather specific information or a performance review. Regardless of the reason the purpose must be absolutely clear.

Step 2 What information will you need to conduct the interview? Is there a specific list of questions to be asked? Have they been prepared by others – if so you will need to familiarise yourself with them. You may be required to pre-prepare them yourself, if so do not leave them to the last moment. Are there documents, files, applications that will need to be reviewed? Whatever it is, you will need time to read and digest the information.

Step 3 Take some consideration to the venue. Often, this may not be your choice, but again, familiarise yourself with it. Make sure that the waiting area is not too intimidating. Ensure that there is at least water available for the applicants, or staff member waiting to be interviewed. Nerves can create dryness in the mouth, which will not allow the person to create the best impression.

What about the interview room; what will you require here to enable you to conduct the interview in comfort? Arrange for it to be in place.

Step 4 During the interview it is your job to put the person at ease. They will be unsure whether to shake hands or sit down; so make sure you take the lead and indicate immediately what you intend to do. I suggest that rising to greet the person and a handshake will get the interview off to a good start. If you have a panel, introduce each panel member by name, and explain why they are there; then wait until they have shaken hands before introducing the others.

Use the person’s name often in the opening part of the interview in particular. People like to feel that they are being recognised and hearing their name will indicate that you are treating them as a person rather than an anonymous applicant.

Step 5 Use open and supportive body language throughout the interview; lean slightly forward; use encouraging gestures such as nodding to encourage the person to continue, and encouraging language such as “I see”Uh uh” to maintain a sense of interaction.

Step 6 Use the appropriate questioning techniques to obtain the necessary information – and use them sensitively; you are conducting an interview not an interrogation.

Open Questions, beginning with words such as ‘why’ ‘how’ or ‘when’ will allow the interviewee to explain and expand on his answer; while Closed Questions – the ‘what’ questions are used for specific information.

Step 7 Remember like all communication an interview is a structured process with a beginning (the introduction of the participants, and a brief conversation to set the applicant at ease). Then the body of the interview is conducted to gather the information you need to achieve the purpose of the interview; and finally the closure, where you recap the proceedings briefly, ask if there are any questions the applicant would like to ask, and then rise to indicate that the interview is over before shaking hands.

These seven simple steps will give you confidence to tackle the next interview that you have to conduct; and we will cover it further in days ahead.

So good luck with your future interviewing, and remember interviewers are not pseudo Gestapo members – so keep it warm and friendly and you will get the best out of your applicants.

Michele @ Trischel

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