Hopeful job applicants know it takes skill and preparation to nail an interview. They research the company, practice the most unexpected questions and stress over what outfit will make them look both professional and likeable. A substantial amount of time and energy is put into the job before they even know if they will get an offer.
In contrast, many employers don’t go to the same lengths to prepare themselves for conducting the interview. Though it may seem to be an unnecessary use of skill and time, employers who are unprepared can send top talent walking right out the door.
According to new research, more than three-fourths of candidates would turn down a job offer due to a bad interview experience. It’s their first face-to-face interaction with a company, which makes it all the more important to create a positive impression. It’s about more than just creating a pleasant interview experience for the candidate — preparation ensures employers obtain the information they need to choose the best person for the job and reinforces a positive brand.
Here are seven ways every employer should prepare for an interview.
1. Pre-Screen Candidates
Pre-screening job applicants is a critical part of interview preparation. Before you sit down with a candidate, you want to be sure they possess the most important and non-negotiable qualities needed for the job. Such qualities might include a particular level of education or years of experience you just can’t budge on. Even if this is explicitly stated in the job listing, unqualified applicants will still apply. The pre-screening process gives you the chance to weed out the obvious no’s before offering them an interview.
2. (Really) Read their Resumes
One of the most basic ways to prepare for an interview is to closely read the candidate’s resume and cover letter. Still, many employers won’t dedicate more than a few minutes to this task — in fact, the average employer spends just 30 seconds scanning these materials.
Reading a resume on the spot doesn’t provide nearly enough time to absorb the information and do a little fact checking if needed. It also wastes valuable interview time because it promotes using canned questions rather than those tailored to the individual candidate’s experience and unique qualities. Employers should thoroughly read each resume in preparation for the interview and use the research to spark tailored interview questions. Candidates will be able to tell if you’ve familiarized yourself with their information or not.
3. Identify Key Questions
It requires skill to prepare for an interview while still leaving flexibility for the conversation to develop naturally. Candidates don’t want to be asked pre-formatted questions in rapid fire succession, but the interview needs to begin with some structure and planning.
As mentioned above, employers should use the resume and cover letter to identify a short list of key questions that should be asked during the interview, each tailored to the candidate. Just as much as a candidate can freeze on the spot, and interviewer can also encounter a mental block and forget to ask critical questions about past experience or skills. Adequate preparation provides organization and consistency across all interviews.
4. Search for Skeletons
One out of every ten candidates is rejected because of unacceptable use of social media. In preparation for an interview, be sure to check up on your candidates’ social media activity with a quick Google search.
This will help to uncover any skeletons in the closet and and give the candidate the opportunity to address and refute the negative representation. This isn’t something you want to be blind-sided with later on, so don’t turn a blind eye to it during the interview process.
5. Be Familiar with the job Description
It can take months between developing a job description to hiring a candidate to fill the role. This leaves much time to blur the focus of the core responsibilities of the job you’re trying to fill before the interview takes place. Employers should brush up on the job description before entering an interview, and have it on hand during the meeting. This will help to tailor questions to the information that’s most important for this particular role.
6. Prepare Candidates
Failing to prepare the candidate is one of the biggest mistakes employers make before an interview. You’re wasting both the candidate’s time and yours if you don’t explicitly express your expectations of the interview process. Should the candidate bring a paper portfolio? Will a grammar test be required? Do you expect formal or casual dress? Will three people be interviewing the candidate or just one? Is a group interview required?
Think about it: students score best on an exam when they’re informed of the specific information teachers expect them to have prepared. An interview is no different — it’s most effective when candidates are informed of your expectations in advance.
7. Test Their Listening Skills
Listening skills and attention to detail are among the most important qualities of any candidate. While many list these soft skills on their resume, employers should put them to the test prior to conducting an interview.
Test your candidates’ listening skills by asking them to complete a simple task with very specific directions. Maybe you ask them to include a certain subject line in an email or to address the cover letter to someone specific. If candidates fail to follow these simple instructions, it’s a clear indicator that they do not possess the highest level of listening skills or attention to detail.
Employers who prepare prior to conducting an interview reap many benefits. They are able to extract the most important information from job applicants and create a professional first impression of the company. Ultimately, a prepared interviewer will be able to choose the top candidate for the job with clarity and certainty, making it a worthy investment of both skill and time.
Employers, how do you prepare for the interview process? Candidates, how can you tell if your interviewer is prepared?
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.