How To Conduct An Effective Interview

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Table Of Contents

Struggling to hire qualified candidates? Knowing how to interview can help you find top talent and onboard them quickly.

The key is to create an interview environment that will encourage job applicants to share their best selves while allowing you to make a compelling pitch for your organization. Here’s what to do before and during an interview to recognize and engage the best future employees.

Before you can conduct an effective interview, you need to have appliants to interview. Post your first job on ZipRecruiter for free!

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What Makes A Good Interview?

A good interview feels like a conversation and functions as a finely honed tool. The interviewer should make the candidate feel comfortable and respected. The goal is to walk away with a sense of the candidate’s skills, experience, and qualifications and what they can do for the organization.

7 Things To Do Before The Interview

Job interview prep isn’t just for candidates. To get the most out of your conversation with a prospective hire, lay the groundwork ahead of time.

Coordinate With HR and Management

Make sure everyone is on the same page about the interview process. For instance, will HR conduct phone screens, or will the hiring manager? You should also know the budget for the role, how many interviews you plan to conduct per applicant, and which team members will participate.

If your team needs more help managing this part of the process, consider using HR software.

Highlight The Most Important Qualifications

Get a job description for the position--and check to see that it’s current, comprehensive, and reasonable. If you have input in the job description, use it. Many organizations add to job descriptions but don’t subtract, leaving room for confusion about candidate fit.

Once you’ve honed the job description, make a list of the most important skills, qualifications, and experience. Then, prioritize your list. What are the must-haves and what are the nice-to-haves?

Prepare Your Questions

Interview questions should help assess what candidates can do, what they have done, and what they can learn to do in the future. Behavioral questions can be especially helpful. Use the STAR model (situation or task, action, result) to encourage candidates to share how they’ve solved problems or met challenges in the past (or how they would do so in the future).

Research Candidates 

Most recruiters and hiring managers look at candidates’ social media profiles prior to an interview, and for good reason. You can learn a lot about a prospective hire by seeing how they present themselves online. Ideally, you’ll see someone who is engaged with their work, interested in learning more about industry trends, and thoughtful in how they interact with others.

Set Expectations 

Let the candidate know how many interviewers will be present, who those folks are, and what kinds of questions they’ll be asking. Provide an estimate of how long the interview will take and how many interviews they can expect. This will help make them comfortable while ensuring that they have the best opportunity to prepare for your conversation.

Organize The Details 

Secure a meeting space or private place to conduct a video interview, invite the participants, and test any equipment or software that you’ll be using on the day. Ensure that you won’t be interrupted--block off calendars, double-check meeting reservations, and so on. Plan your own interview outfit so that you won’t be scrambling at the last minute.

Set Aside Time To Manage Your Own Stress

Candidates aren’t the only ones who experience nerves before a job interview. Make sure you have time to get settled and comfortable before the meeting.

5 Things To Do During The Interview

During the interview, be sure to do the following:

Make The Candidate Comfortable

Introduce yourself, let them know how your job relates to the role they’re interviewing for, and give them a sense of how the interview process will go.

Ask Follow-Up Questions

Don’t be afraid to dig for more information. For example, if you’re following up on a STAR model-related question, you might ask, “What were the results of your action?” or “What are some other ways to address this issue?” You can also ask neutral probing questions like, “Can you tell me more about that?”

Make Your Pitch

Interviews go both ways. While you’re figuring out if you want to hire this candidate, the candidate is figuring out if they want to work for the company. Highlight the most attractive aspects of the job and the employer, e.g., work-life balance, room for growth, support for continuing education, etc.

Take Notes

During the conversation, note the candidate’s skills and other qualifications, as well as anything else that stands out. Write it down. Don’t assume that you’ll remember later, especially if you’re interviewing multiple candidates. After the interview, take some time to flesh out your notes so that you have a complete picture of the candidate and what they offer.


Above all, listen to what the candidate has to say. Remember that the most successful job interviews are a conversation, not a quiz.

5 Things To Avoid During The Interview

Job interviews also come with a few pitfalls. Avoid these:

  • Asking discriminatory questions, including anything related to age, disability, race or ethnicity, religion, national origin, or pregnancy.

  • Asking about salary history, which is illegal in some states. (It’s also an ineffective way to set compensation, which should be based on the job duties, the candidate’s skills and abilities, and your budget.)

  • Trying to “trick” candidates. Ask tough questions, but remember that the goal is to learn about the candidate’s qualifications, not to trap them into giving a wrong answer.

  • Judge signs of nervousness, which indicate nothing but the stressful nature of the situation.

  • Being rude or unprofessional.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Do You Start An Interview?

Begin the interview by introducing yourself, explaining how your job relates to the job opening, and briefly outlining what the candidate can expect during this conversation.

What Are The Steps In A Job Interview? 

During an initial job interview, you should prepare to introduce yourself, the job, and the company, ask questions designed to determine if the candidate is a good fit for the role, answer their questions about the job and organization, and highlight the benefits of working for the company. You may also introduce the applicant to other members of the team and offer a tour of the worksite.

What’s The Best Way To Conduct A Job Interview? 

A job interview should feel like a conversation. Be ready to listen to the candidate’s responses, ask and answer follow-up questions, and adapt your plan as the meeting evolves.

What Are The Top Questions To Ask During A Job Interview?

Consider asking behavioral job interview questions that prompt a candidate to think about how they would respond to a problem at work (or to relate how they have responded in a similar situation).

The Bottom Line

Job interviews are more than just a box to check in the hiring process. Used the right way, they can help you find the best potential hires, sell them on your organization, and get them in place for the long-term.

Now that you know how to interview, you need top candidates. We’ve vetted the top free job posting sites for your consideration--or post your job opening on ZipRecruiter to find hires that fit your exact specifications.