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The Importance of Interview Preparation: A Guide for Hiring Managers

Candidates spend a lot of time preparing for interviews. The good ones spend time studying the company, preparing impactful answers for commonly-asked questions, and even deciding what to wear. Good prospects prepare well, and good companies recognize and appreciate their efforts.

But as the hirer rather than the hiree, have you ever stopped to think about the flip side of that coin? Have you considered the impression you’re making on your most promising candidates? Let’s talk about why and how you need to nail the interview process as an employer.

Passive vs. Active Candidates

Organizations looking to fill vacancies in top-tier positions often find themselves talking to passive rather than active candidates. Passive candidates aren’t necessarily looking for a job; they’re usually already employed and have the kind of knowledge and experience you want to hire. Since you are hunting for top talent, the interview becomes as much a matter of the candidate interviewing you as it is of you interviewing them. For that reason, it’s important to prepare.

As a hiring manager, you become one of the most influential factors in the candidate’s ultimate decision. A Gallup poll of over a million U.S. workers and executives found that the number one reason why workers quit their jobs is because of a negative relationship with their boss, not because they don’t like the job. This statistic illuminates how important working relationships are, so you can see how the impression you make on your candidates when you interview can be the difference between getting a candidate excited about a new opportunity or making them head for the hills.

So there’s the “why”; now, let’s talk about the “how.”

Do Your Research

Please hold yourself to the same standard you hold your interviewees by learning all you can about them. Let them know you’re aware of who they are, what they’ve accomplished, and the skills they bring to the table. Take the time to really study their resumes. They’ll appreciate your authentic interest.

Conduct a Job Analysis

Aside from learning all you can about the candidate, another important way to prepare is to do a job analysis. In other words, solidify in your mind exactly what the job entails and understand the knowledge and abilities that are minimum requirements for a candidate to be successful. Know what a “day in the life” of the job would look like, and be prepared to explain the impact the role will have on the organization. Most people come into an interview wanting to know everything you can tell them about the position—make sure you can give them a thorough understanding.

Ask the Right Questions

“Through the judicious use of questions, the skilled interviewer not only obtains information but also guides the talk along productive lines” (Harvard Business Review). The right questions on your part are just as important as the right answers on the interviewees’ part. In general, you want to ask relevant, open-ended questions that require detailed explanation and spark deeper conversation.

Additionally, behavioral or problem-solving questions can be extremely engaging. Some examples of open-ended behavioral interview questions include:

  • How do you handle stress?
  • Can you relate an instance when you made a mistake on the job and how you resolved it?
  • How do you organize tasks when you’re assigned to a new project?
  • Think of a time you had multiple projects and how did you handle working on those multiple projects?
  • Can you relate an instance where you resolved the concerns of an unhappy client?
  • Have you ever disagreed with a manager? How did you handle it?

Be Aware of Body Language

You watch your interviewees like a hawk to pick up on nonverbal cues about everything from their interest level to how comfortable they are with certain questions, right?  Well, are you aware they’re doing the same with you? Make sure you send warm and welcoming signals.

Here are some body language tips to practice before you conduct an important interview—and remember, every interview is important (

DON’T – Cross your legs and wiggle your foot, which implies that you’re uncomfortable.

INSTEAD – Sit with your legs crossed at the ankles, or place both feet flat on the floor.

DON’T – Drum your fingers on the desk or rub your neck or face, which says, “I’m annoyed and/or bored.”

INSTEAD – Loosely clasp your hands and rest them in your lap or on the table in front of you.

DON’T – Lean back in your chair and fold your arms across your chest or rest an ankle on the opposite knee, which can imply arrogance.

INSTEAD – Sit straight forward, facing your candidate with full attention and respect.

Remember, when you are interviewing a candidate you become the face of your organization. Aside from the ultimate goal of the interview, which is to evaluate if the candidate is the right fit, another important goal is to provide an accurate impression of who you are as a company. The interview experience should live up to your company’s values.

By Octavio Lepe

By Octavio Lepe

Executive Vice-President

Octavio is the search practice leader for Sales & Marketing, Agribusiness, and D&I in the Americas.

Barbachano International is the premier executive search and leadership advisory firm in the Americas (USA, Mexico, Canada, and Latin America) with a focus on diversity and multicultural target markets.  Outplacement and Executive Coaching services are provided by our sister allied company Challenger Gray & Christmas. BIP has been recognized by Forbes as Americas’ Best Executive Search Firms for 6 consecutive years and currently ranks #26 and #3 on the West Coast.  



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