Conduct an Effective Interview

As a new graduate, your focus is typically on getting a job. You spend time polishing your résumé, honing your interviewing skills, and, perhaps, picking out your first suit. Interviews can be stressful, but eventually your engineering acumen and stellar people skills (and maybe that suit) will land you a job.

In your new role, the tables may turn, and you will find yourself as the interviewer, rather than the interviewee. It is important to take this task seriously. Not only are you potentially selecting someone who you will be working with daily, but you are also being trusted to make an important financial decision for the company. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) states in its 2016 Human Capital Benchmarking Report that the average cost of hiring an employee is $4,129.

While it is impossible to be certain how a candidate will perform in the role, you can get a good idea by conducting an effective interview. Follow these tips the next time you are the interviewer.


Consider the job description and make a list of skills, personal qualities, and general attributes you think a candidate needs to be successful in the position. Keep the list to  no more than five items. From this list, you can develop questions that will help you discern whether the candidate does indeed possess those qualities. For example, imagine one quality you are screening for is adaptability. You might ask the candidate, “Give an example of a time you handled an unforeseen challenge. How did you react? And, what did you learn?” or “Have you ever had to adjust to a different working style to complete a project or achieve an objective?”

Avoid yes-or-no questions and clichés, and instead prepare questions that elicit how candidates think and how they would solve a real problem. You may even describe an issue your team has encountered or is encountering, and ask candidates how they would approach the problem.

In addition to problem-solving skills, do not overlook the importance of cultural fit. This does not mean looking to hire someone just like you, but rather, someone who shares the same beliefs and values as your organization or team. Prepare questions that will reveal whether the individual would thrive and be successful in your workplace. For example, if your team stresses individual accountability, ensure the candidate can guide his or her own work.

Sell the job

Because you want to attract the best talent, interviews are not only for you to evaluate candidates, but also for you to sell the job. You should describe who you are and your role, as well as the open position and how it relates to what you do. Explain why there is an opening and what it is like working at the company.

All this information will likely generate questions in the interviewee’s mind. Listen carefully to their questions because they can tell you a lot about their understanding of the role and grasp of the organization’s needs, as well as attitude toward the job and the company.

Pay attention

Maybe it goes without saying that you should listen to the interviewee’s responses, but that is often easier said than done. Listening and hearing are not the same thing. After several interviews, it can be difficult to remember who said what. Take notes to keep a record of responses.

Good listening also involves nonverbal gestures, such as smiling, appropriate eye contact, and body language, to confirm that you are engaged in the conversation. This can help you to build positive relationships with candidates that can make them feel valued and go a long way toward selling them on the job.

Follow the rules

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enacted fair hiring laws to ensure candidates receive a just shot at a position. The laws prevent prospective employers from asking questions that could lead to bias, such as about race, religion, gender, or family status.

While many of the fair hiring guidelines will be obvious to most, it is important to highlight a few. Candidates may list clubs, social organizations, or union memberships on their résumé, but it is only appropriate to inquire about relevant professional associations. If a candidate has a disability, you may ask if he or she can perform essential job functions, but you should not ask questions that directly address the candidate’s disability. Avoid questions about marital or family status. For example, you may not ask candidates if they have children, but you can ask if they will be able to perform a job function, such as traveling or working certain hours.

Keep your questions focused around job performance and you should be in the clear. Having prepared questions can help you to avoid any pitfalls that could arise from asking off-the-cuff questions. If a candidate volunteers information that could lead to bias, do not inquire further or make note of the information.

Your first time as the interviewer may feel unnatural, and you may even be more nervous than you were as the interviewee. However, you will get more comfortable in this role as you get more practice. Your human resources team has indicated that they value your opinion, so give them one.

This article originally appeared in the YPOV column in the May 2018 issue of CEP. Members have access online to complete issues, including a vast, searchable archive of back-issues found at