Top tips to creating a positive interview experience

Pointers to help relax even the most nervous candidates and will go a long way to creating a good first impression

Having spent time sifting through candidate applications and compiling your shortlist of people to interview, understandably you will want to create an environment which enables each candidate to shine and demonstrate to you their worth. Nerves often strike even the most seasoned professional so its important to help them relax quickly and the often the best interview feedback received is where the interview has been a relaxed and informal one (usually this only applies to a first stage – second/final interview stages are more focused and detailed). Helping people to open up and feel like its more a meeting of the minds will be a far more productive use of time than a stress inducing Alan Sugar Apprentice approach to interviewing technique – unless of course your aim is to stress test and see who breaks first!

Following are some suggestions from Rowena Shorey, Director at Tinderbox Consultants, to help relax even the more nervous of candidates and just as importantly, will go a long way to creating a positive impression about you and your company:

Prior to interview

  • Email confirmation details of the interview which provide information on how to get to your office (by car or public transport). Advise about parking in the area – is it off-street or do you have a car park they can utilise. If its off street are there metres or is it free. This helps the candidate to plan their trip, feel confident and in control. If your car park requires a parking permit inform the candidate of this and where they obtain it from.
  • Notify your reception desk to expect candidate arrivals and provide names and times so the reception team can meet and greet.
  • Book out the interview room and ensure it is tidy and make everyone aware interviews are in progress on that day – you do not want anyone accidentally walking in mid-interview.
  • Check the temperature is set to an ambient one and neither too hot or cold.
  • Check the lighting in the room – that no glaring sun is going to blind them
  • Ensure there are water glasses and a topped-up water jug on the table.
  • If you plan to show the candidates around your showroom then check that products are on the shelves and neatly displayed.

Interview day

Before you go to greet the candidates, put your mobile or any other tablet device in your desk drawer, do not leave it in your pocket or take it into the interview room. You would not be impressed if the candidate’s phone rang in interview or if they were to place their phone on the table – courtesy extends both ways.

  • Ensure that your colleagues are aware you are interviewing and that you do not wish to be disturbed.
  • Ask reception to advise you as soon as the candidates have arrived, allow them chance for a comfort break then go and meet them in reception
  • Offer a tea/coffee or soft drink – they may have travelled a long way
  • Ask how their journey was and how did they get to you today – it’s a gentle ice breaker
  • Advise your candidates to include their hobbies and interests on their CV’s as these are great ice breakers and often common ground areas. Even if the candidate is not showing any sign of nerves, it will help them to open up more readily if they’ve had a gentle warm-up conversation with you.
  • You may feel it would be even more productive to bring into the interview at some stage another department manager – someone with a different perspective to the role you are interviewing for. It’s also a great way for the candidate to learn more about your business and gain a feel for the type of people who work in the business.
  • If you feel the candidate is someone you could be interested in seeing again then its worth making time showing them around the offices so they can get a better feel for the culture. If your business is very open plan and the candidate is used to the polar opposite, they may feel its not the right environment for them. Or if it’s a really quiet place and they’re used to a lot of noise and buzz that could be off-putting, so often it’s a good idea to make the time at first instance as this could be the one thing which deters the candidate from wanting to proceed to next stage. At least you’ve not wasted your time in inviting them back for further interview only to then learn the environment is not one they could happily work in.
  • Before the candidate leaves thank them for their time and inform them when you will be likely to make a decision by and how they can expect to hear from you – phone/email.
  • If there is a time delay of a week or so between stages and decisions it is advisable to keep in touch with the candidates to keep them interested in your opportunity otherwise you risk losing them from the process.
  • Give bad news swiftly and provide constructive feedback as to why it was not a positive outcome for them on this occasion. Letting them down swiftly with feedback will help create a positive impression of you and your company and they will be far more likely to recommend you to a colleague or a retail contact that you may not have an existing relationship with.

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