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How to Interview Efficiently

When I worked in recruitment I gave plenty of interview advice to candidates looking for their next job. I would outline what interviewers were looking for, what their personalities were like, what sorts of questions they might ask. I considered my interviews with candidates to be more like conversations than true assessments, and I was never the person making the final decision on a hire, so I trusted the hiring managers to make the right call.

Some interviewers are actually not very good. At all. They suck at interviewing in a way that really assesses how good the person will be for the role they’re looking to fill.  I had a manager a while back who boasted they were “just really good at sussing people out”.  Based on this person’s hires during my time there, this did not turn out to be the case…

Here are my top 4 tips for interviewing more efficiently.

#1 Do not go with your gut

No. No. No. This myth has been widely refuted already, but I still see people doing this all the time. According to 100 years’ worth of data, this approach leads to a 50% failure rate.

This is not to say that you should hire somebody you really find difficult or awkward to speak to. A candidate’s having ‘likeability’ and good people skills is not the same as your having a great gut instinct… It’s your job to assess softer skills and personality type, without bringing your own emotional recall and preferences to the picture.

If I immediately clicked with somebody, I found I would then relax and the interview would become more of a conversation. This is not a good idea! However enjoyable the conversation might be, you’ll be far less likely to be able to assess the points you need to cover if you lose focus on your role. I’d come out of interviews like that with a great impression of the candidate, and a poor idea of how well they would actually do the role beyond “Well they said they could do it! They seemed great! I’m sure they could do it!”

There’s plenty of time for an interesting conversation over a coffee at a later stage of the process. You’re interviewing for a role, not a friend…

#2 Prepare before you go in

I will go into an interview armed with my laptop and list of questions I intend to ask. I personally see no problem with this approach. As long as you engage with the answers given, and make sure you probe further into each answer, the interview will not seem too static, and you will make sure you actually cover the required ground.

This will also allow you to maximise the time you have with the candidate, and cover plenty of areas efficiently.

#3 Don’t guess; assess

I start to prepare interview questions based on the key demands of the role. It’s not always easy, however, to assess certain requirements. What if you require somebody who works well under pressure? Soft skills are far more difficult to measure. You can prove that somebody is a good salesman based on their previous billings, but not so easily how they might act in a tough client meeting that was going the wrong way.

For these kinds of skills, I like to try to recreate the situation that I’m assessing for. Don’t take the candidate’s word for it. If you want to assess how well somebody performs under pressure, put pressure on them. Probe into an answer and be difficult about it: see how they handle it!

If you’re worried about putting them off, you can always explain after they answer that you’re glad they seem to be able to deal well with pressure 😉

#4 Make notes

You’ll be covering a lot of ground in a short space of time, and you will forget things. So let the candidate know you’ll be taking some notes, and take them! This will help refresh your mind later in the process, and give your colleagues a good idea of the ground covered in the interview and the answers given by the candidate.


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