Interview Preparation

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A business owner from Colorado called me the other day, during which time we began to discuss her company’s approach to interviewing job applicants.  Like most companies, the interview process at her organization is time-consuming, semi-structured, and critical to building the right team.  As this fruitful dialogue continued, I offered some practical tips of advice to increase the consistency, rigor, and value of her company’s interview selection process.

I began by suggesting that the owner mandate that all interviews be conducted with at least two interviewers.  This recommendation is predicated solely on minimizing the likelihood of an interviewee’s claim of harassment, bias, or discrimination in the interview setting.  Make no mistake:  Many discrimination lawsuits occur when a protected class member does not get a job.  By having a 2-on-1 format, the probability of a “s/he said- s/he said” dispute is virtually eliminated.

With the interview panel structure in place, I recommended that the interviewers review the candidate’s job employment packet (e.g., application, resume, assessment), job description and performance appraisal form, and interview protocol two days before the scheduled interview.  We  have all been there:  We know when an interviewer is unprepared, reviewing the applicant’s documents for the first time during the interview.  That posture does initial and indelible damage to the company’s brand image and organizational culture.  Be professional.  Be prepared.

While it seems obvious, make sure to schedule the interview in a manner to minimize job conflict and ensure ample time and space availability.  This is the candidate’s first impression of how the company conducts business; the role modeling process is underway. 

Based upon the pre-work related to the employment interview, here are some key points to remember:

  1. Bring the candidate’s job employment packet, job description, and interview protocol to the interview.
  2. The less the interviewer talks the better it is; being professional is better than being personable.
  3. Welcome the candidate; provide an overview of the job based solely on the job description.
  4. Ask only the questions that are listed; specific job-related follow-up questions may be asked.
  5. Take notes regarding the candidate’s responses; don’t try to remember what was said.
  6. Rate the candidate’s response to each question as soon as the answer has been completed.
  7. When the interview is over, ask if the candidate has any questions, and address them appropriately.
  8. Thank the candidate for the interview and escort the candidate out of the office.
  9. Debrief the interview with the other interviewer, translator, or witness.
  10. Calculate the candidate’s interview score and determine next steps; document all paperwork.

It is important to remember that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission views all employment interviews as selection tests, by which claims of discrimination can be judged.  To that end, it is incumbent upon business owners to take necessary steps to increase the fairness of all selection interviews in order to defeat the inevitable claims of employment discrimination.

If you have any questions or comments about this topic or anything else related to human resources, simply call me at (760) 685-3800.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.