How Hiring Managers and Job Candidates Can Make the Most of an Interview

Mitchell--job interview September 25, 2023 By: Barbara Mitchell

Beyond determining if a job applicant has the skills and experience for the role, a first-round interview is also about giving both the hiring manager and job candidate a chance to get to know one another and determine if they’d work well together. Here’s how to ensure everyone has ample time to get their questions answered.

Q: I think I need some help with my interviewing skills as a hiring manager. Sometimes I forget that the applicant is interviewing me as much as I am interviewing them. How can I balance the time we spend together so we both get what we need out of the interview?

A: This is such a good point. And you’re right—it is easy to get into a pattern of asking questions and not giving equal time for the applicant.

Here’s a suggestion that has worked for me. When you begin the interview, let the applicant know that you are dividing the time you have together into three parts: During the first portion of the interview, you will be asking questions to get to know them and to determine if their background, skills, and experiences fit the requirements of the open position. The second part will be their opportunity to ask you questions, and the last portion will be for follow-up questions that either of you want to ask.

Start with questions that help set the tone for the interview. Interviews should be more like conversations—and less like interrogations—so that the applicant relaxes and eases into the more substantive questions that will be asked later in the interview. I like to start with questions like these:

  • What was it about our job posting that interested you enough to apply for this position?
  • Why are you in the market for a new role?
  • Tell me a little bit of what you know about our organization.

Then, it will be their turn. Be willing to answer any questions they have about the organization, the job, and about you and how you manage your staff. You want them to ask questions as you can learn a lot about their thinking and evaluating skills by the questions they ask. If an applicant does not ask any questions, it’s a red flag to me.

This leaves the last part of your time together for you to share more about the culture, your benefits, your growth plans, your challenges, or anything else that they would like to know. This is when either of you can ask follow-up questions or ask something that didn’t come up before.

There is one final question that I hope you will consider asking: “Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share with me now?” This gives the applicant the chance to give you a good summary of why they are the right candidate for this position.  In addition, always close the interview by letting the applicant know that they can contact you with any follow-up questions and that you will keep them informed as to what’s happening in the selection process.

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR, The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook, The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book, and her latest The Decisive Manager. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer? Send it to