One of the ways that our HR team is measured is by the quality of the candidates that we hire for our organization, as well as new employee retention rates.  What are some practical things that we can do to increase the effectiveness of our candidate interview process so that we can maximize quality of hire and employee retention?

Recruiting Buzz Answer:

Here are the three essential qualities of great interviewers that any recruiter needs to cultivate.


Quality #1: Prepare Well

Preparation for interviewing is an important part of being able to make hiring decisions. Interviewers must understand the candidates and the positions they are hiring for. Legendary interviewers know this. Johnny Carson always rehearsed his interviews before the show, and Barbara Walters advises interviewers to do their homework before talking to their subjects

A good employment interview preparation process should include the following:

  • Research the open position and job description so you understand the candidate requirements for knowledge, skills, education, and experience. Don’t just read the job description though. Make sure you know the department and manager for the position, the skills and experience required for the work, and the work environment of the position.
  • Talk to the hiring manager and ask about successful candidates who have or are currently in the position, noting qualities of the top performers. Use performance evaluations to understand how the employees in the position are evaluated, talk to the best employees and observe them at their jobs. Ask about poor performers too, to understand what it takes to succeed in the position.
  • Review resumes and social media footprints of top candidates and phone screen them before inviting them for in-person interviews to verify resume details, candidate enthusiasm and job fit.
  • Plan an agenda for the interview, including reserving a comfortable, quiet place to talk to the candidate, a tour of the company or facilities, introductions to people the person in the position would work and interact with. Making candidate experience a part of the recruiting process is important, according to Talent Board, a non-profit organization that promotes candidate experience. It benefits both recruiting companies and candidates by protecting and developing relationships with candidates who share their experiences with friends and family and in social media.


Quality # 2: Use Good Communication Skills

Effective interviewers are good communicators. They listen well and convey information clearly. The skills involve asking probing questions and listening in various forms, including paying attention to body language and non-verbal clues such as facial expressions and word choice.


Listening is an interviewing skill attributed to the most famous interviewers including Barbara Walters and Johnny Carson. Producer Peter Jones talks about how Carson’s interview style put everyone at ease and included listening carefully and making people feel as though they were talking to a friend, not being probed for information.

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This is good advice Dick Cavett got from Jack Paar, Johnny Carson’s predecessor, who told him interviews are boring and advised him to make it a conversation. Good communication means the candidates feel comfortable revealing the information you are trying to get from them.


Being a good communicator for interviews means knowing not only what questions to ask but also how to use strategic pauses to coax the information that you want. Knowing when to stop talking is just as important as knowing when to talk.

The best interviewers aren’t afraid of a lull in the discussion because they know they can use it. PBS News anchor Jim Lehrer understands this well. He advises deliberately pausing after an interview subject answers, saying it often gets surprising and unexpected information more effectively than asking another question right away.


Quality #3: Accurately Assess Candidates

Recruiting guru Lou Adler says to accurately assess candidates, you must clearly understand the real job needs and determine candidate fit and motivation from past performance.

Oprah Winfrey prepared well for her interview with Lance Armstrong, and assessed him well before she ever asked the first hard questions about doping, accepting responsibility, and plans for restitution.

She knew he was a strong personality used to lying to get and keep his fame and position, and used a straight-forward approach in the interview. For example, she asked questions using language that the media had been applying to him, such as “cheater and liar” to ask him if he did take drugs, if he knew it was wrong, and if he felt bad about it.

Employment interviews require the same ability to assess the candidates from information gathered through preparation, asking the right questions, and probing for all the information needed to make the best hiring decisions.

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