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How to conduct an interview to get the best employees for your SME
12 December 2016
Large companies, with regular turnover and in-house HR departments, often have very structured interview processes in place, with plenty of support and guidelines.
But what do you do if you own, or work in, a small to medium sized business and you’re tasked with building a team of fantastic employees, who will add immediate value… and you’ve never successfully conducted a formal interview before?
I mentioned in a previous post about the time cost of hiring great candidates for SMEs that reviewing resumes and conducting interviews is seen as the most time consuming part of the hiring process, according to the 100 small and medium sized businesses we spoke to.
So how can you cut down the time it takes to interview potential employees and ensure that you end up hiring the best of the bunch?
Approach your interview in four steps: preparation, writing the questions, conducting the interview, and the follow up. Here is my advice for SME employees who have upcoming interviews to conduct, broken down into those four steps…
How do you prepare for conducting an interview?
Preparing for the interview is all about deciding what you really want to get out of it and out of the interviewee. You work in a small or medium sized business, so every hire counts and making the wrong hire is not only a waste of time, it can also impact your bottom line.
Read through the applicant’s resume and highlight anything that really stands out to you. You are better off asking five questions that get the interviewee really talking about their skills and experience, than 20 closed questions that will only give you one word answers.
If anyone else will be attending the interview with you, ensure they have a copy of the applicant’s resume and are well briefed on what you expect to discover in the interview.
You should also know how you are going to sell the role and your company to the interviewee – particularly if they are coming from a large corporate and might not grasp the differences between working in big and small team environments.
How do you write interview questions?
As I mentioned above, every hire an SME makes needs to be right first time round, so you need to get as much out of your interview as possible.
I recommend asking behavioural interview questions to identify whether your candidate has the specific skills and traits you are looking for. This technique uses past behaviour to indicate future performance. Go back to your job description to write your behavioural interview questions, as well as looking at the applicant’s resume.
I often ask some common interview questions as well as behavioural ones – you might find there are some basics that need to be covered.
How do you conduct the interview?
This is probably the most straight forward step in conducting an interview. It’s up to you to decide how formal you want the interview to be; consider the seniority of the role, the values and culture of your business and even the position in question.
A basic structure of an interview would look a little like this:
- Introduce yourself and any other attendees
- Briefly explain to the interviewee what the format of the interview will be
- Give an overview of your company (this is especially important for a small or medium sized business, where cultural fit is essential)
- Repeat the role description to ensure the interviewee is there for the right reason!
- Begin asking the questions and include some indication of upcoming work and career progression opportunities
- Close the interview by asking the interviewee if they have any questions for you, thanking them for coming in and letting them know the next steps
When conducting the interview, listen carefully to the responses and take notes for future reference and to discuss with any relevant colleagues afterwards. Beware of attempts to evade questions, and probe deeper if necessary. Pay close attention to the interviewee’s attitude and values – this will also help you to form a balanced opinion of their suitability.
What follow up should there be after an interview?
It’s a good idea to send your candidate an email the same day as the interview, even if just to repeat your thanks for their time. Ideally, you should know when you will have made your decision – if so, let them know that too.
Summarise your thoughts as soon after the interview as possible, while it’s still fresh in your mind. If you are interviewing multiple candidates for the same role, you will need comprehensive notes to refer to when you’re making your comparisons.
Of course, the final step in the follow up to the interview is the offer and salary stage. You will be able to learn more about this in our 2017 webinar series for small and medium businesses, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, for more advice on this topic, watch the recording of our latest webinar ‘How to conduct a professional job interview’.
If you’re stretched for time and haven’t read this article in full, here are the six main steps to conducting an interview for your SME:
1. Introduce yourself and any other attendees
2. Briefly explain to the interviewee what the format of the interview will be
3. Give an overview of your company (this is especially important for a small or medium sized business, where cultural fit is essential)
4. Repeat the role description to ensure the interviewee is there for the right reason!
5. Begin asking the questions and include some indication of upcoming work and career progression opportunities
6. Close the interview by asking the interviewee if they have any questions for you, thanking them for coming in and letting them know the next steps