Global HR 11 min

Interviewing best practices: A complete guide for employers

June 19, 2024
Anastasia Pshegodskaya


share to linkedInshare to Twittershare to Facebook
Link copied
to clipboard

Solid job applicants spend time learning about your company and preparing for their interview. However, a lackluster interviewing process can cause you to overlook qualified candidates — or worse, drive them to your competitors. 

As a result, it’s important to ask the right questions while maximizing the candidate’s interview experience.

In this article, we’ll go over some key best practices for conducting an effective interview, and look closely at some of the things you should avoid. So let’s jump straight in.

Best practices for conducting an effective interview

An effective job interview ensures you make the most of your time with your candidates, and enables you to obtain the information you’re looking for to make a hiring decision.

To make your interviews more effective, here are some best practices and procedures you should look to follow:

1. Prepare adequately

If the first time you’re reading the candidate’s CV is during the interview, this doesn’t create the best impression. Go over your candidate’s experience and background beforehand, and conduct any additional research if necessary. 

Solid preparation helps you to focus on specific things and ask better questions. It also leaves a good first impression on your end, making the candidate more likely to want to work for you.

Remember: you’re not only assessing the applicant — they’re also assessing you. If they have taken the time and effort to prepare, they will expect the same from you.

2. Create a comfortable interview environment

Create an environment where the candidate can feel relaxed and able to show their best self. After all, a good interview should be a conversation — not an interrogation.

If you’re hosting an in-person interview, find a quiet, private, and welcoming location. Offer them water or coffee and start things off with light conversation to break the ice. 

If the interview is being conducted over a video call, adopt the same approach. Both you and the candidate should have your cameras on to minimize awkwardness and allow you to read each other’s body language.

Verify that the candidate can hear and see you clearly, and make sure your internet connection is strong. Make sure the setting is quiet, too; it’s not a good idea, for instance, to conduct an interview in a busy coffee shop or a moving train. If it’s impossible to avoid some background noise, let the candidate know and apologize beforehand. 

These actions help you establish a connection with the candidate and diffuse potential nerves, enabling them to perform better in the interview.

3. Choose the right questions

The right mix of interview questions can help you get a complete picture of the candidate, and might include:

  • Behavioral questions: These include questions about past experiences in certain work situations, such as having disagreements or facing tight deadlines. You can assess how the candidate responded to these scenarios and grew as a result. 

  • Technical questions: These questions are all about the candidate’s expertise regarding job functions. For example, if they’re applying for an accounting role, you might ask them about their familiarity with the accounting software your company uses.

  • Situational questions: These are open-ended questions about how the candidate would respond to a theoretical scenario, such as how they’d handle a tight deadline and limited resources for a project. 

Alternatively, you may want to assess these competencies separately across multiple interviews.

4. Prepare the candidate

Once you’ve made your introductions, tell the candidate what to expect during the interview. You can outline:

  • The interview structure (but not the questions)

  • The estimated interview duration

  • A brief refresher on the role

  • Any other housekeeping

This adds structure to the interview not just for the candidate, but for you as well. This helps ensure you stay on track timewise, and focus on ticking the boxes you need.

5. Ask follow-up questions

Interviews work best when they flow naturally as a conversation. You may have some core questions written down that you want to ask, but you don’t necessarily need to stick rigidly to the script. 

If an answer intrigues or interests you, dig deeper into it and create a more organic interaction. This makes the interview feel more like a conversation and less like a stilted, formal interrogation.

6. Take detailed notes

Notes help you remember aspects of the interview beyond your initial impressions.

At the start, tell the candidate you’ll be taking notes, and clarify you’re simply writing down their answers to remember them, not to judge or “rate” them. This reduces your reliance on memory, which may be prone to bias.

The candidate may also appreciate the note-taking. It shows them that you care about their answers and are listening closely to what they say.

7. Provide clear info about the role

The candidate may already have received the corporate spiel in the job ad and during the screening interview, but this is your chance to paint a fully clear picture.

Offer them clear information about your department, not just the broader organization. Cover some achievements, and address anything the candidate may not already know. 

Talk more closely about the role they’re applying for, as well. Job ads often cover duties and responsibilities with a broad stroke, so break down what exactly you’re looking for and what exactly their priorities will be.

8. Be open to questions

One of the cardinal sins of an interview is not allowing the candidate to ask questions of their own, so ensure that you make time for this at the end. Alternatively, you can invite the candidate to ask questions as you go along.

As well as providing information, questions give your candidates the opportunity to display what they know about your company and the role.

9. Finish the interview in its entirety, no matter the candidate’s fit

Sometimes, it may be painfully and immediately obvious that the candidate just isn’t a good fit for the role or the company. You should still finish the interview anyway, as cutting it short is rude and unprofessional. Plus, you could miss something that ends up changing your mind.

10. Provide next steps

Interviews are, of course, just one part of the recruitment process. Before you finish the interview, let them know what will happen next.

If there is a test, let them know when they will receive it. If there is another interview, tell them their recruitment contact will reach out to book a time and date. Top candidates don’t wait around forever, so ensure that they are kept fully in the loop.

If it’s obvious the candidate is not a suitable fit, it’s better to let them know after the interview rather than during. This gives you more time to ensure that you’re making the right decision. Whatever you do, don’t make promises and then change your mind — and certainly don’t “ghost” the candidate. This is hugely unprofessional, and can affect your reputation as an employer.

Interviewing etiquette tips

In addition to the best practices outlined above, there are a few etiquette tips to help you leave a strong impression on a job candidate:

Dress appropriately

Dress in a way that is tailored to your company and culture. This doesn’t have to mean business attire such as a suit and tie (unless of course this is appropriate for your company), but it should be professional.

If the interview is via video, a general rule of thumb is to refrain from wearing something that you wouldn’t wear to your office.

Start and end on time

Candidates often have many responsibilities, such as those related to school, their family, or their current job.

Try to respect this time by being ready a few minutes early, and not extending the interview beyond the timeframe you gave them initially. If you find that you’re frequently running over, consider making your interviews slightly longer (i.e. 45 minutes rather than 30).

Balance friendliness and professionalism

Be friendly and try to connect over something basic to break the ice. However, don’t discuss your personal lives too much, as this can be distracting and cause the interview to exceed the time allotted for the interview.

During the interview, avoid interrupting the candidate, and be sure to maintain eye contact. Keep your tone of voice and demeanor positive. 

What are the best questions to ask in an interview?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no set list of questions that you should stick to in an interview. In fact, focusing on outdated, cliched queries can make the process rigid and stagnant, leaving you both cold.

Instead, focus on asking questions that you want to know the answer to (as long as they are legal) — and make them as broad or as specific as you need.

Make sure you tailor your questions to the level of experience, though. For example, “Give me an example of a time where you worked well in a team” may be a valid question for an entry level candidate, but someone with 10+ years of experience may feel a little underwhelmed at such a basic question.

Of course, some questions can’t be avoided — and can reveal a lot about your candidate, regardless of where they’re at in their career. These include:

Why do you want to work here?

This is a good question because it reveals both the candidate’s motivation, and their level of knowledge about your company.

This makes it much easier to identify whether or not they are a good fit culturally.

How would you handle x, y, or z?

Instead of asking about previous situations and experiences, ask how the candidate would approach an existing small problem at your company. This can be a real problem, or a hypothetical one.

Even if you disagree with the course of action the candidate suggests, their answer will give you great insight into their problem-solving skills. It will also demonstrate their level of knowledge and expertise — and possibly even their potential.

Why are you leaving your current job?

This question is a great one, because it provides an invaluable insight into the candidate’s character, motivation, and goals.

For instance, if your company is bigger than the candidate’s current company, this could suggest that they’re ambitious and looking to grow — or it could mean that they see you as another stepping stone. At the same time, it can help you differentiate between candidates who are simply looking for a change from their current role, and those who are genuinely motivated to work for you. 

What should you NOT ask in an interview

Questions about protected characteristics, family, benefits, and leave are all seen as discriminatory (or potentially discriminatory) in most countries. You could face legal action from the candidate for asking these. 

Even if they’re legal, inappropriate questions can still make your candidate uncomfortable, and cause you to lose out on top talent.

As a general rule, steer clear of asking questions on any of the following topics:

Protected characteristics

Do not ask questions about race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation (i.e., “What religion do you practice?” or “Where are you from originally?”). These can serve as evidence of intent to discriminate based on these characteristics. 

Family plans and structure

Questions about personal plans, such as “Do you plan on having a family soon?” or “Do you have kids?” can seem innocuous. But these types of questions can also be perceived to be discriminatory. 

For example, asking if the candidate plans to have children soon implies potential discrimination on the grounds that the candidate will require family leave — even if that’s not your intention.

Benefits requirements

To be clear, you can — and should — market your company’s benefits package. However, be careful about going into too much detail when discussing benefits.

For example, don’t ask the candidate if they need a particular kind of insurance. This can lead to you learning sensitive and confidential health information, such as information about disabilities. It may also appear as a more indirect way to ask about the candidate’s family plan and structure.

Use non-specific language when explaining benefits to avoid implying anything that could potentially be relevant to a candidate’s health status.

For example, “We offer health, dental, and vision to our employees” is broad and non-specific. Avoid asking things like, “Will you need life insurance?” since you may inadvertently learn something about the candidate’s health status.

This also applies to sick leave.

Hiring with Remote

The more effective your interviewing technique, the higher the chances of finding — and convincing — top talent to join you.

But, as mentioned, interviews are only one part of the recruitment process. Remote allows you to hire, onboard, pay, and manage all your hires on one platform — wherever in the world they are based.

To learn more about how we can streamline all your HR and hiring needs into one simple platform, chat to one of our friendly experts today.

Start hiring with Remote, the new standard in global HR

Create an account with G2's top-ranked multi-country payroll software and start onboarding your first employees in minutes.

Get started now
Remote is the G2 top-ranked multi-country payroll software

Subscribe to receive the latest
Remote blog posts and updates in your inbox.