I regularly read articles and blogs from thought leaders in the Recruitment industry offering advice to candidates on how to conduct themselves at the interview, but why isn’t there more out there advising the interviewer how best to impress? I hope that having interviewed hundreds and hired dozens of great people for my teams over the last few years, I have learnt a thing or two about this process! Something that we’re incredibly proud of at Salt MENA is the near-zero staff churn that we’ve experienced over our approaching 2 years of operation, and I believe that a significant contributing factor to that is that we take interviewing very seriously, from both sides of the fence.

I’m a firm believer that an interview is a two-way street; the candidate is having their skills and competencies assessed for the potential role of course, but guess what, that candidate is also assessing the person on the other side of the table about their suitability as an employer, co-worker or manager. There’s a common misconception that by attending an interview a candidate must be super interested in the role, but is that accurate? I don’t think so. We are in the business here of attracting the best, passive, hard to find talent in the global market, and as a result, these individuals aren’t (usually) desperately looking for a job. Typically, these types of candidates see the interview as an exploratory mission, in many cases the main emotion driving their desire to attend is curiosity, believe it or not.

So, this offers a challenge for employers, how do you turn this curiosity into genuine interest?

Fail to prepare? Well, you know…

One of the oldest sayings in the book, but it’s very apt here. Don’t be late, make sure you have a room booked, have the candidate's CV / LinkedIn profile printed and in front of you, be dressed appropriately, and have a working pen!

If the candidate turned up at 10 past the hour, it would be a big tick in the ‘no’ column, so why does it seem acceptable these days for the interviewee to be plonked in a room only for the interviewer to rush in 10 minutes late, having totally forgotten that the interview was even in their diary, and not being able to remember the candidate’s name?

It simply shows tardiness and a lack of care, and will probably say ‘I don’t really want to be here’ to the candidate when you walk in, not the way to get a budding superstar of your business excited about the prospect of working with you.

Oh, and always offer them a drink! What would your mother think 😉

Get the setting right

Different types of interviews call for different locations. Formal interviews should be held in a meeting room, a team cultural fit session may be best done in a break-out or employee canteen area, or you may want to meet over a swanky lunch if you’re out to impress a high-level candidate.

The question to ask yourself is what you want to get from the candidate at the meeting. If you want to relax them and get to know their personality, opt for the more casual setting and meet over coffee. If you want to see how they act under pressure or ask them some more pertinent, professional questions, go for the meeting room.

An interview that I attended around 5 years ago has always stuck in my memory. I had been through the first and second rounds, which were fairly formal affairs, with a lot of traditional interview questions, and whilst relatively interested in the job I wasn’t blown away. I arrived for the final interview, and to my surprise the interviewer was awaiting my arrival with a lunch that he had ordered in for us (my favourite sandwich choice was there as well, little did I realise at the time he’d sneakily asked me this in my first interview!) and an offer letter in an envelope on the table with my name on it. The combination of informality with the takeaway lunch, combined with the private room making me feel comfortable to discuss the offer, was perfect. I accepted the job there and then.

Do your research

Show the candidate that you know their background, and have pre-prepared questions about specific parts of their CV. Make sure the first time you read their CV isn’t when you sit down in front of them! Try to ensure that you don’t make the mistake of asking them only about their work experience, show interest in their interests and hobbies listed, and if they don’t have them on their CV find them out.

Google them and see if you can find out something interesting beyond their professional experience. Have they raised money for charity? Are they a national chess champion? Do they write blogs?

To caveat this point, keep the research relevant. I don’t think that looking through Facebook profile pictures from 2007 when they were at freshers week is appropriate, you catch my drift!

Tell them the story

Whilst the candidate hasn’t necessarily bought into joining your company yet, the best way to get them there is impressing them with your story. Don’t be an ego freak, but be proud of what you’ve achieved with the company and share the successes and challenges that you’ve had along the way. They almost certainly will have a pre-determined view of your company from what they’ve read online or what a friend of a friend has told them, so it’s important they hear the story from themselves. Honesty is the best policy here, and be anecdotal, it will start to build a degree of trust between you and set you off on the right path.

Follow up

Whether the candidate has been successful or not, always follow up with detailed feedback, and thank them for taking the time to meet with you.

If you are interested in taking the process forward with them, do so promptly, and explain clearly what the process will be from there. Tell them that you particularly enjoyed hearing about a particular part of their experience, or you want to tell them more about something that you think they’ll be interested in, it shows you’ve listened and will set the next meeting off on the right footing.

A sure-fire way to ruin the reputation of a business in candidate circles is to not give prompt feedback, or worse give no feedback at all. Word of this spreads like wildfire, and you’ll suddenly be fighting a losing battle when trying to attract top talent.

None of the above is rocket science, but interviewing is a fine art that can be tricky to perfect. It’s critical to remember that people typically make decisions more with their heart over their head, and so it’s usually driven by a feeling or an emotion. If they’ve had a great interview experience then you’ve won more half the battle.

Until next time, that’s it from me!