Good Interviews for Good Hires

Managers who clearly define job requirements and convey these requirements in a definitive and measurable manner to each employee will find that they make better hires leading to improved job performance.  It may seem obvious but how can you hire the right person for the job if you don’t know your requirements?  And if you don’t convey your expectations, how can the new hire meet those expectations?


Many managers go into the interviewing process with little preparation.  They say they are looking for a “good fit” for their team, but rely on random factors and subconscious biases.  To come out of the process with the best hire you need to start before you post the job advertisement.

The first step is to delve deeply into the job description.  Dig it out and dust it off.  Make sure that it covers all the current job tasks and then start to critically question the items included.
•    Is this task absolutely essential to the job?
•    How would you measure adequate and exceptional performance?
•    What skills would be most needed to meet these performance levels?
•    Can these skills be obtained on-the-job or do they need outside training?
•    How long would it take to obtain these skills?  What type of training is truly necessary to perform these tasks at each skill level?
•    List the skills needed to perform the non-essential skills adequately, noting skills that match those for the essential skills. 

Compile the list of required skills that a new hire must have already acquired and the desired skills that can be learned on-the job.  Now you can write the job advertisement spelling out the essential tasks and the skills that are truly required for someone starting the job.  The other skills would be listed as desirable. 

Next plan how you are going to assess if the candidate has the skills you are requiring.  Is this a skill that can be measured with a test?  Should the candidate bring in a sample of their work?  What questions would be appropriate to determine skill level?  Pick the options and questions that will most closely align with the actual job requirements. 

To ensure fairness, a single person - not the hiring manager- should be assigned to review all the applications (or resumes) received and rank them using three or four criteria that confirm the applications match the skills required.  A software program in large companies often does this process.  The candidates with the top ranked applications would be interviewed.

Interview questions can be behavioral – asking the candidate to provide examples of past situations when they demonstrated certain skills. Or situational – giving the candidate hypothetical situations and asking them how they would respond to the situation.  The mix of behavioral and situational questions should match the level of experience needed to perform the job. General questions can be used to start and end the interview or provide a transition between questions.  There are many sources of standardized questions to help you get started – and to inform you of the questions you should never ask!  The Society for Human Resource Management ( has a collection of standard questions, books and other reference materials available to their members.  Your industry association would also be a good source. 

Some jobs and tasks can be measured using simple tests that you devise and there are plenty of behavioral and psychological tests available.   Behavioral and psychological testing need a well trained tester to administer them for the results to be accurate and meaningful.

Plan how you will evaluate the responses.  Know what type of response you expect from the candidates and what that response measures.  An evaluation sheet is a great tool to ensure that you fairly evaluate each candidate and to keep your notes on the interview responses.  Leave space on the evaluation sheet to note details about the answer especially for questions where how they got to the answer is as important as the actual answer.   Be sure that you are evaluating characteristics that will be truly important to success on the job and know why those characteristics are important to the job not just to you, especially for personal characteristics. 

Write out instructions on how you set the measurements of the responses.  This will be a useful reference in the future and provide answers if questions arise about the fairness of the interview process.  Instructions are also important to ensure that everyone doing the interviewing is using the same criteria for evaluation.

How many people should you have doing each interview?  It depends on the job and your company culture, but have a minimum of two people talk to each candidate before they are hired.  The hiring manager would be involved in the interview process, usually with at least one other person in the room during the interview.  If your company has a Human Resources department, they will take the lead in this process.

With the interview planned around the actual job requirements you will avoid many pitfalls of interviewing and build a profile of the candidates based on their relevant skills.  While you might not find the dream candidate you will start the work relationship with clear expectations.

Remember that “a good fit” is obtained by hiring the person who can best do the job!