Interview day is a big day. You’ve got a candidate coming in who has convinced you that you absolutely have to meet with them in person and you are antsy to get the right person in your department’s empty position. In preparation for the candidate’s visit, there’s a lot to do. You’ve got to set up an interview loop, dust of your favorite interview questions and make sure they’re polished, and discuss process with HR and management.
But while there is a lot to do to make an on-site interview possible, there are plenty of other things to do that will make your interview day *outstanding*. Remember, the candidate isn’t the only one getting looked over that day. Your company is on display too, as a really fantastic candidate can afford to be choosy about where they sign on.
It’s easy to forget customer service on a candidate’s interview day, but it can make all the difference.
1. Make a good first impression.
Lots of startups don’t have a traditional reception area with someone to greet visitors and give them somewhere to sit. A nervous candidate is going to feel really awkward if they open the door to your office and no one is there to tell them what to do or where to go. Don’t let your candidate wander; it’s embarrassing for them and looks bad for you.
Have someone posted at the door well before their appointment (in case they are early — many will be). Have that person show them to a seating area or conference room, and offer them a beverage and the wifi password. Bonus points if you have an iPad they can use, fun materials about the company they can look through, or something else they can do with their hands while they wait.
2. Don’t leave them alone.
Just because you’re interviewing that day, doesn’t mean the constant flow of things in your inbox stops — so it’s easy to feel like as soon as your interview is done, the candidate should be out of your hair. But, candidates who are left alone with nothing to do in between meetings feel awkward and may think your company is too disorganized to keep them occupied all day.
You can avoid this by having a tight interview loop, where promptness is stressed and meetings are scheduled in a way that makes it possible for every interviewer to be there on time or early.
Another good tip, though, is to prepare your whole staff to be unofficial members of the interview loop. Anytime the candidate is alone — from the time they are waiting for their first interview in the morning to gathering their things at the end of the day — a passing employee should pop their head in and say hello. It makes your office seem friendly and cheery, and guarantees the candidate always has someone close at hand to ask questions.
3. Get candid.
Structured interview are great places for technical, professional questions. But the person you’re hiring is much more than that, and you’ll want to get to know that whole person before you invite them into the office 40+ hours a week for a few years.
Taking a job candidate out to lunch is a common practice because it can be so effective for seeing what a person is like when they’re not trying to be “professional”. Choose a couple of the best connecters in your office to take them out to eat, but make sure the candidate won’t be drowned out by too many big talkers.
You can also have an office manager or admin give the candidate a tour of the office, which provides them another opportunity to ask more candid questions in front of a person who’s not in a position to make hire/no hire decisions. These questions can be revelatory, so advise the tour guide to take note of any questions that give them a bad vibe.
4. Put them at ease. Have you ever had an interview where the interviewer just read their questions of a sheet of paper and took notes the whole time? It doesn’t feel great; it feels kind of like taking a test, except you never know how well you’re doing. A good interviewer puts candidates at ease by making eye contact and asking interesting followup questions.
Not only does engaging with the candidate make them more comfortable (and more likely to perform well), but it also helps you get a better sense of who they are and how they work. Asking questions that aren’t strictly programming/marketing/management related allow you to see how they think and what motivates them. It’s worth your while to make it a conversation rather than an interrogation, and you’ll get a better sense of who you might be one day managing.
5. Leave time for them to ask questions. You thought this whole interview was about getting to know them, right? Well, smart candidates know that this is their best opportunity to get real answers about what it’s like to work with you too. Don’t forget that candidate might have a thing or two to go over with you, and schedule that time into the interview. There’s nothing worse than making them rush through their questions, sending the message that their questions just aren’t as important as yours.
What are your favorite tips for making a good interview into a great one?