The Perfect Interview Formula

How to prepare an interview process that will weed out the wrong candidates

Written by Kim Hart Macneill

Interviewing a potential hire can be as stressful as sitting on the other side of the table, but there are ways to lower your stress and make every interview count.

Preparation is key to a good job interview, says Jerry Fitch, president of Toronto-based Marberg Staffing.

Start by enumerating the duties performed in the role. This helps you formulate questions that size up a candidate’s corresponding skills, and prepares you for any questions they have about the position.

Bring a hard copy of your questions to the interview, and ask the same questions of each interviewee. This allows for an apples-to-apples comparison, prevents your own biases from creeping into the process, and helps you keep control of the interview when a candidate’s responses go off on a tangent.

Although there is no magic job interview question (Sorry!), there are several questions that will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

Rowan O’Grady, the Toronto-based president of Hays Recruitment Canada, finds it highly valuable to go through a candidate’s job history one position at a time asking what the candidate liked about the position and company, what frustrated him, why he left and why he took the next position. “It sounds like a boring one,” says O’Grady, “but it generally reveals inconsistencies the candidate wasn’t even aware of.”

Fitch likes to ask candidates where they see themselves in five years. If a candidate’s five-year plan doesn’t match up with his competencies, it can signify that he doesn’t think realistically. Vague answers can demonstrate a lack of vision.

No one’s work history is an unbroken line of successes. Asking the candidate about failed projects they’ve worked on gives you an idea of her ability to persevere and take responsibility for their actions.

Make sure the candidate’s belief system matches up with yours, especially if he comes from the competition. A candidate may have exactly the skills and experience you need, but if his belief system differs wildly, you’ll probably never change it.

Ask open-ended questions, to which a candidate cannot provide a yes or now answer, such as “What was an average day like at your last job?” or “Walk me through how you would handle this project?” Such questions encourage the interviewee to talk, open doors you might not find otherwise, and don’t tell the candidate what you want to hear.

Finally, treat every interview as an exercise in competitive intelligence. “Job hunters are some of the most well-informed people you’ll meet in your industry,” says O’Grady. “They meet people in other companies while looking for a job, and get really good info about all of them.” Don’t be afraid to ask what they’ve learned about other companies in your industry during their job search.

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com