Hiring a new employee is a big deal. Now imagine only having ten employees. The significance of hiring a quality candidate only increases, as this decision can dramatically alter the overall success of your company. While this may seem daunting, equipping yourself with the right tools to interview candidates can make the hiring process less stressful and more effective in finding the right candidate. 

At BRAC’s Small Business Series event held on November 21, Dr. Craig Ellis from Go Trego shared with attendees the four principles to conducting a meaningful interview. Check them out below. 

Ask Thought-Provoking Questions 

If you want to have a “winning” interview, then you need to get honest answers out of your candidate. And the best way to do that is with thought-provoking questions. Questions that can be found on Google after searching “interview questions” are going to get you crafted responses. Instead, craft questions that make your candidates tell stories.  

Additionally, avoid talking too much! If you try to “carry” the conversation, you are bound to end with a bad interview. Ideally, the interviewer should speak for 15% of the interview and should never speak more than 25% of the conversation. 

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare 

Interviewers must take time to develop questions aimed towards the qualities that are most important in the job. Prepare your questions by looking back on past experiences and employees. What qualities did your best workers possess? What qualities did your less-than-great employees possess? Build your questions based on these traits. And don’t forget to guide your candidates to tell stories. This way you will have a better understanding of what traits they possess. 

Provide (Some) Structure 

Too much structure in an interview can make you appear robotic or scripted, but too little structure can quickly lead you into unproductive conversations. To get that “just right” amount of structure, identify four to five consistent questions to ask each candidate. Not only will this keep you organized, it will also help you evaluate each candidate on the same scale. 

When picking those consistent questions, Dr. Ellis suggests testing the questions on current employees first. It will provide you with a good idea of what types of responses you will receive. This trick can help you determine which questions are the best to ask. 

Do Talk about Weaknesses 

Don’t be afraid to ask candidates about their weaknesses. Their responses will let you know their potential “blind spots” and where you might need to provide additional training. Talking about weaknesses also gives you the opportunity to determine if the candidate is being genuine. If an interviewee responds that they have no weaknesses or they don’t know their weaknesses, it may be a red flag. Knowing this ahead of time can help you make the right hiring decision. 

While turnover is very hard to predict, Dr. Ellis says that following these four principles may help you improve your “batting average” in the long run. It is also helpful to conduct exit interviews to have more information on what leads to success or failure for the specific position and build your future interviews based on the discovery. According to Dr. Ellis, the more information and data that you gather for the position, the higher your chance will be in hiring a quality candidate. 

Jason Avelar

Written by Jason Avelar 

As Economic Research and Policy Analyst at BRAC, Jason conducts research to support key policy focus areas, including workforce development, education, small business, and others, in addition to tracking economic, legislative and market trends impacting the region. He serves as the staff lead for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.