How to ace the interview … when you’re the interviewer?

Dan Kirkpatrick explains how to get the most from the candidate selection process now, that interviews have migrated to videoconferencing platforms.

You’re sweating. Your heart’s pounding. And you’re really wishing you’d prepared more for this interview. You can’t afford to mess it up… Because you really need to hire the right person.

If you thought being interviewed was nerve-wracking, being the interviewer can be worse – especially when you’ll probably have to do the whole thing over video.

Don’t worry – read on for a clear guide to exactly what you need to do to be a great interviewer, handle the challenges of video interviewing, select the best people, and make them want to join you.

Be prepared

Being prepared is not just about being prepared. It’s also about communicating that this matters to you. Nobody wants to work for a company that doesn’t value them.

Here’s a to-do list to check off before every interview:

  • Look at the candidate’s CV and print it out.
  • Make a list of questions to pose. Ask each candidate some of the same questions, but not all the same questions. Use the CV for inspiration.
  • Know what not to ask about. In the UK, it’s illegal to ask about age, gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, marital status, and children.
  • Make sure you’re clear on the benefits for the role, progression and training as well as the company’s structure and mission. You may be asked this by the candidate.
  • Ensure you give candidates the opportunity to ask questions.

Structure your interviews

A friendly unstructured chat may be more relaxing for both of you, but it’s likely to leave you swimming in vague information.

Prepare a list of questions that focus on behaviour – get them to tell you a story about what they did or would do in a given situation. Make sure you write down candidates’ actual answers, not just your opinion of them.

After you’ve finished all the interviews, book some time to properly review your interview notes.

Top 10 video interview tips for employers

If Covid-19 has forced you to conduct video interviews for the first time, and you’re feeling apprehensive, you’re not alone. Luckily, there’s a simple set of steps you can take to avoid technical or interpersonal awkwardness.

#1. Test your software first

Avoid embarrassment by testing and troubleshooting your video conferencing software. Check that your audio and webcam are working, your internet connection is up to scratch, and your computer is plugged in or fully charged.


#2. Make sure your candidates know how to use it

A few days before the interview, send your candidates a step-by-step set of instructions to connect. Ask them to show up a few minutes early to make sure everything’s working.


#3. Give yourself time

Given the technical demands of video interviews, they’re especially likely to overrun, so if you’re doing them back-to-back, allow longer for each one than you think you need.


#4. Give yourself space

Ensure you have separate “meeting rooms” for each candidate. Consider how embarrassing it could be if the next candidate shows up in your online room while you’re still interviewing.


#5. Make sure your background space looks professional

Choose an area that’s clean, well-lit, and free from distractions in the background.  Facing a window is best but block out direct sunlight. Avoid having a window behind you, as you’ll be a silhouette.


#6. Minimise background noise

Let everyone in your household know what’s happening, shut the children and pets out of the room, and close down your emails and move your phone away from your reach.

At the beginning do mention that you have children/pets. If noise does happen, the candidate won’t feel awkward. Just make sure you don’t react to it.


#7. Prepare an intro script

As video interviewing can be awkward, write down a few lines you can say verbatim to start the interview (say them out loud to check they sound okay) and a few icebreaker questions to put the candidate at ease before moving on to the meat of the interview.


#8. Wear ALL the suit

Don’t only dress professionally from the waist up. At worst, something unexpected will happen, and the candidate will get an eyeful of your jeans/pyjamas/leg hair. At best, you’ll feel only half professional, and it’ll show.


#9. Act professionally

Professional body language is especially important in video interviews. Sit up straight, smile and nod to show interest. And make eye contact – that means looking at the webcam from time to time, not at the candidate’s eyes on the screen.

Also explain that you will be making notes so that when your head drops the candidate doesn’t take that as a negative cue.

Pause to make sure candidates have finished speaking – on video it’s easy to miss the subtle cues that say “I’m done.” Also, choose your words carefully, as your tone can be misinterpreted more easily


#10. Follow up

While following up afterwards is good practice with any interview, it’s especially helpful now, when candidates are likely to be more stressed than usual.

Keep people informed with a quick email, even if it’s to let them know that they haven’t been successful, or that you haven’t decided yet. This is important for your reputation – again, you want to be known as a company that values people.

Above all, make certain you’re a person and not a robot – you need to promote the role and company and want somebody to work for you while also getting the information you need.


Dan Kirkpatrick is Head of Customer Success at Hunter, The Manufacturer’s Official Talent Partner.

He has 17 years’ experience in engineering and manufacturing recruitment across all sectors and all disciplines.