5 Ways to Nail Your Interviews as an HR Manager

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Josh Tolan

This is a guest post by Sean Little, VP of Marketing for FirstJob.com. FirstJob is an integration partner with Greenhouse, that matches employers with millennial talent. In this post, Sean shares helpful ways to improve your interviews as an HR Manager.


No matter what type of candidate you are - passive or active - being recruited by a company can give you a boost of confidence. You enter the interview with a little more excitement and curiosity about what the role and company will offer.

Recently, I spoke with a friend in this exact position; an up-and-coming firm was heavily recruiting him. His initial feelings about the company were positive - he connected with the company’s motto and mission and felt there was clear alignment from the start.

During the second in-person interview, everything fell apart. The interviewer was brusque and distracted to the point that the candidate found them rude and off-putting. When the candidate had specific questions relating to the company’s location and inquired what transportation was like (a valid concern in San Francisco), the interviewer curtly stated: “I don’t know and don’t really care. I drive here everyday and don’t hang around so it doesn’t matter to me.” Cue the crickets and awkward silence.

Most HR managers hear about horror stories from an interview like this one, but usually from the interviewer’s perspective and not from the perspective of the candidate. A story like this serves as a reminder that it’s not only the candidate that can make mistakes; incidents like this one can cost your company a great candidate and set your recruiting efforts back to zero. While it’s impossible to avoid all mistakes, preparing your team ahead of time can go a long way towards mitigating any potential problems. Having been on both sides of the table and recalling prior conversations with job seekers, I’ve outlined a few considerations HR managers should keep in mind before they begin their interview process:  

  1. Lead with a seasoned vet: Having a seasoned interviewer kick it off is always a smart move - you want to have a strong first impression. Often the candidate is nervous and unsure of what to expect. By leading the interview with someone that is confident and reassuring, you set a great tone that will make the candidate feel more comfortable and set their nervousness at ease. By leading with an inexperienced interviewer, you run the risk of errors right from the get-go, and in some cases, the interviewer can be someone who is more nervous than the actual candidate. If you set the right tone early with confidence and calm on your side of the table, you’ll to get a more accurate picture of your candidate.
  2. Train your interviewers: Your interviewer may not be comfortable or know what to do, especially if they are inexperienced (and that’s OK!). Take the time to give them support, training, and feedback on how to conduct a great interview. Build their confidence by pairing them up with a more seasoned interviewer, allowing them to sit-in on a few interviews in the beginning, until they get more comfortable with asking and creating engaging conversation with a candidate. Each time they sit-in they can ask one or two more questions with their partner until they are ready to interview on their own. Additionally, make sure you clearly articulate your goals for the interview and what you want them to pay attention to, such as candidate demeanor, eye contact, etc. Finally make sure you articulate the reasoning behind any required questions so they know why they’re asking it and what to look out for when they receive an answer. The more information you give them and the more you prepare them, the better your interview results.

  3. Do your research & match up appropriately: Just as a well-prepared candidate should do their homework, a well-prepared HR manager should do the same. What activities do they enjoy? Are they an entry-level candidate who loves paintball on the weekend and went to the same college as one of your managers? Are they active in community service groups just like the head of PR? If so, reach out to that person and ask them to speak with the candidate. This is a great chance for you to test the culture fit!

  4. Don’t bring out the circus (and feel okay saying no): I recently spoke with another friend who was interviewing for a mid-level AE role at a prominent Bay Area tech company. When I asked how the process was going, he explained that it had been going on for a full month. By the end of the process he would have completed 15 total interviews. Already a well-known and liked employee, he simply was looking for an in-house promotion. Needless to say this process left him a bit disillusioned with the company and made him question if the company really valued him after making him jump through so many hoops. While getting to know the candidate and finding the perfect fit for the role is no easy task, 15 interviews (with 8 in one day!) is complete overkill. As you start scheduling your interviews, really pay attention to who is going to be doing the interviewing and why they’ve been chosen. Ask yourself: would you want to go through this process? If the person is interviewing for a junior role (anything less than a manager), there is no reason they should be sitting through 8 interviews with everyone from the mailroom attendant to the CEO. Also, as the HR manager, you determine who will attend interviews based off the value they bring to the table; feel free to say no to an employee that doesn’t bring extra value or delivers on an unfulfilled need. A few well-planned interviews that keep to strategy can deliver far more value and information about a candidate than 100 meandering interviews can.

  5. Talk to each interviewer before they talk to the candidate: This is simple, but extremely important. By taking the time to meet with each interviewer before they are scheduled, you can verbally and visually confirm that they are ready to go. Make sure that they are aware of their responsibilities, including any “must ask” questions. Someone may have gotten sick, lost track of their objectives for the interview, or may not even be needed anymore due to a stellar interview before them. Checking in with each employee individually gives you the chance to interact with them personally and confirm that they are ready to go. If they aren’t, you’ll still have some time to grab a seasoned vet to replace them.

The interview process can be full of anxiety for everyone involved. As the HR manager, it’s important that you do everything in your power to present your company in the best light possible. Creating a solid hiring and interview strategy, as well as succinctly conveying it to your employees, is critical to both the success and efficiency of this process. By following the points listed above, you cut down on distractions from your side of the table, making sure the focus of the interview remains where it belongs: on the candidate and their potential impact on your company.

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Interview Planning