Interviewing a New Applicant

In order to obtain the best results from an interview, the interviewer must put the applicant at ease. To do this takes a little time, but even in a brief interview is well worth it. Your goal is to establish rapport immediately.

To make the applicant feel at ease, the interviewer must also be at ease and feel comfortable about the interviewing process. An ideal setting for an interview is a private room, comfortably furnished with a minimum of distracting papers on the desk. To avoid telephone interruptions, turn on your voice-mail or have somebody else answer your phone.

It’s much better to personally go to the reception area than to send a secretary to fetch him or her. So get up from your chair and get out there. Introduce yourself and escort the applicant to the interviewing room. When greeting the applicant, use his or her full name. “David Livingston. Hi, I’m Henry Stanley.” This makes the applicant feel that you identify him or her as an individual, not just another candidate. Dale Carnegie put it best when he said, “Remember, a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” By using both the first and the last name in addressing the applicant and in introducing yourself, you are putting both of you on equal footing. If you call yourself Mr. or Ms., and call the applicant “Dave” it sounds condescending.

The opening should be related to the interview, but should not make the applicant defensive or upset. Don’t start with such questions as “What makes you think that you could handle this job?” or “Why were you fired from your last job?” A better approach would be to select an innocuous area from the application and comment on it. It may be based on something in the background that you relate to. For example, “I see you went to Lincoln High School. Did you know Mr. Davis, the drama teacher?” or “I see you live in North San Diego. That neighborhood is growing rapidly.”

To get the most out of the interview, here are some guidelines to follow when asking Questions:

  1. Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.” This stifles information. Instead of asking, “Have you any experience in budgeting?” ask, “Tell me about your experience in budgeting?”
  2. Don’t put words in the applicant’s mouth. Instead of asking: “You’ve called on discount stores, haven’t you?” ask, “What discount stores have you called on?”
  3. Don’t ask questions that are unrelated to your objectives. It might be interesting to follow up on certain tidbits of gossip the applicant volunteers, but it rarely leads to pertinent information.
  4. Do ask questions that develop information as to the applicant’s experience: “What were your responsibilities regarding the purchasing of equipment?” “How did you, or would you cope with this problem?” “How do you feel about heavy travel?” Or “Why do you wish to change jobs now?”.


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