Teach your employees to conduct interviews

Conducting regular interviews is essential for any company that wants to find top talent. Not only is there a possibility of finding a random gem, but it guarantees that your business stays informed of the job market. How many people are looking? What are they looking for? Is my business situated to attract the right people? Such an important thing should probably be conducted by knowledgeable individuals, right? Hey, that’s just my opinion.

As someone who has experience being on the receiving end of the job interview onslaught, I want to take some time to give advice to those who conduct the interviews. This obviously comes from the perspective of the receiver, so I can’t help if my opinions are a little biased. Regardless, I think that there’s some valuable information on the other side of the table for those who are conducting the interviews. As a frequent interviewee, it it’s painfully obvious when an interviewer is not interested or isn’t trained well in conducting interviews.

Read the Resume, Please

I’ve noticed an alarming trend of some interviews being conducted without any references to or knowledge of the applicant’s resume. You know there’s some important stuff on there, right? Larger companies seem to be particularly guilty of this. It’s probably a symptom of receiving too many applicants to filter through at the beginning stages. I totally get that. I sympathize with companies that receive thousands of applications each week. But to ignore important background for applicant’s that pass various phases of the process seems silly.

Honestly, I don’t understand why some on site interviewers don’t read or reference anything about resumes. Clearly the applicant has impressed you enough to invite them on site to go through the gauntlet. Yet, you’re not interested enough to ask, at the very least, some minimal questions about the applicant’s background and experience? It’s your chance to get to know the person beyond the academic knowledge that they’ve spent hours memorizing for the interview.

I understand the need to judge an applicant’s ability to perform the immediate tasks through question drills, whiteboard quizzes, and comprehensive discussion. However, by ignoring the important mine of information in an applicant’s resume, it seems like an interviewer would miss out on plenty of opportunities to confirm stories with the applicant. This gives the applicant a chance to discuss their past experiences and projects in complete detail. From this, one can judge an applicant’s ability to hold a conversation, discuss technical details, translate complex project information to a third party who isn’t directly involved with the project, and see if anything in the resume is bogus.

Be Interested or Act Like You Are

Being on the receiving end of an interviewer who wants nothing more than to leave is an awful feeling. As an applicant, you start the interview in an already nervous state, and the last thing you want is someone asking you questions who couldn’t care less about the answers. Why would companies go through the trouble of scheduling time to interview when their scheduled interviewers simply don’t want to do it? I sometimes get the feeling that some companies force their engineers to conduct interviews without any training just to satisfy someone’s yearly objectives.

The worst part is that it’s entirely obvious when an interviewer isn’t interested. Questions come out in a flat tone; interviewers slur their words together; time isn’t attended to; and speaker-phone quality is neglected. I’ve been in a phone interview where the interviewer excused himself to use the restroom while I was solving a problem. On top of that, he either refused to answer my questions or simply didn’t speak English well enough to understand me. There’s no excuse for this type of behavior. If the applicant has to prepare for an interview and show up in their best then so should the interviewer. Anything else is asking for the company to receive negative feedback.

Mandate that all interviewers research the applicant, tailor the questions appropriately, show up on time, don’t leave during an interview, schedule time appropriately so that the interviewer has time to ask questions, and converse with applicant’s in an interested manner. This will go a long way to attracting successful applicant’s simply due to improving the feeling of the interview process.

Back to Basics

My advice to interviewers is to train your employees on how to conduct different types of interviews. Begin by teaching the basics of reviewing an applicant’s resume, how to ask questions about work experience and background, which questions to avoid for legal and other reasons, how to conduct a technical interview, and how to wrap up an interview. Here’s a shortlist.

  • Don’t ask about an applicant’s private life. Anything about family, marriage, age, hobbies, and more are off limits. Not only is this information largely irrelevant to the applicant’s ability to perform the job, but asking some questions of this nature are illegal.
  • As mentioned before, read the applicant’s resume, understand the past work experience, and tailor some questions that are appropriate to his or her background. Asking questions about topics or technologies that the applicant never claimed to experience is asking for nothing more than a lot of “I don’t know” responses.
  • Don’t ask “gotcha” questions just to make yourself feel smarter than the applicant. Sometimes brain teasers and pure math questions may seem like a good idea to judge someone, but studies have shown these types of questions don’t determine how an applicant will perform in a job environment.
  • If your phone interview requires writing code, don’t tell the applicant to read said code over the phone. Honestly, asking an applicant to perform such a task is ridiculous with the existence of easy to use and free code sharing options online. CollabEdit and Google Code are just two of the many solutions which allow code and document sharing. There is no excuse here.
  • Your first choice of communication in a phone interview should be VoIP like Skype. If that isn’t available, avoid speakerphone unless absolutely necessary. Otherwise, just stick to a land-line to avoid awful reception and audio issues. Not everyone has the best hearing and requiring someone to struggle with bad audio is just rude.
  • Be aware of the clock and make sure you provide enough time during the interview for the applicant to ask questions. Many positions are in different areas of the country, so unless an applicant can find out more about the area and the position, they’re likely to pass simply because they are unaware of the facts.


These are just my suggestions based on my many experiences being on the receiving end of the gauntlet. I feel that many applicants avoid engaging in the process due to unnecessary intimidation or are passed over due to the poor handling of the process. Following some of the guidelines above can possibly attract better candidates, provide a more positive image of the company on feedback sites like Glassdoor, reduce employee stress due to forced interviews, and cause a ripple effect of positivity among employees and applicant’s alike.

In conclusion:

  • Read and understand applicant resumes. This is important especially if you’re interested in having them go through the process.
  • Be or act interested in conducting the interview. Good manners spreads.
  • Avoid personal questions.
  • Tailor your business and technical questions appropriately.
  • Use working audio equipment and code sharing technology.
  • Watch the clock.

And above all, have fun and hire some smart people!