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How to Interview a Candidate for Your Small Business: 5 Tips

As a business owner, you need to be equipped with the right interview questions to ask candidates and other essential hiring strategies to employ the best talents for your team.

3 mins readSeptember 16, 2018

How to Interview a Candidate for Your Small Business: 5 Tips

Whether you have a new business and are planning to build a team of amazing individuals or are hiring due to company growth and natural employee attrition, it’s important to have an effective interview process.

The interview plays an integral role in every recruitment process, as it serves as confirmation of whether or not the candidate is the best fit for the job.

However, conducting an interview is always easier said than done. Most people find it challenging, and two strangers sitting and talking next to each other for the first time isn’t a comfortable situation for many of us.

As a business owner, you need to be equipped with the right interview questions to ask candidates and other essential hiring strategies to employ the best talents for your team.

1. Prepare a list of questions before you interview a candidate

Conducting an interview without good interviewing questions is like going to school without having done your homework. Being unable to identify the personality, skills, and capabilities of candidates will only result in job mismatch, leading to work dissatisfaction.

Keep in mind that interviews don’t last for hours and you only have a limited amount of time to learn everything about your applicants.

Starting an interview with the candidate’s resume is a great platform towards an in-depth and more thorough questioning. Along the way, make sure to stay on track by preparing a list of appropriate questions even before the interviewing process commences.

Below are 4 simple tips you can use now to craft your job interview questions:

  1. Gauge the applicant’s level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

  2. The candidate’s working style should match the company culture of your business.

  3. Assess the applicant’s desire factor and if he or she is really committed to join the company.

  4. Use the 80-20 paradigm. Let them speak 80% of the time while you educate them with the remaining 20%.

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2. Use team leaders to help you interview a candidate

Choosing the right interviewers will ensure a good fit between the job and the applicant. For small businesses, you might be the direct person who will handle the process, but if you can tap into other people knowledgeable about the position, allow them to interview the applicants as well.

For large businesses, let the direct supervisor or manager conduct the interview as they’ll have an eye for compatibility that goes beyond abilities.

A great interviewer will find valid reasons to continue the search even if the applicant seems to be the perfect match based on submitted papers. To generate a more comprehensive and thorough assessment, make sure to discuss what interview questions to ask candidates with the right people.

Likewise, train them about the do’s and don’ts when asking questions:

  • Avoid questions pertaining to marital status, sex, religion, race, and country of origin.

  • Do not ask any questions related to outstanding debt or credit history.

  • It is illegal to ask questions about drinking habits and illicit drug use.

  • Instead of asking about criminal records, rephrase the term with “convicted of a crime”.

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3. Ask “what-if” questions to interview a candidate who can think on their feet

Asking situational questions is a great way to accurately predict the working behavior of candidates. Common questions will only give you practiced or canned responses and won’t provide useful information in the interviewing process.

Using “what-if” scenario-based questions allows you to evaluate the problem-solving skills of the applicant. It gives you a fuller picture of his or her capabilities that transcends beyond the resume.

When formulating situational questions, you should focus on the job description and scope of practice.

Don’t expect candidates to fully adhere to company protocols just yet, instead look for particular skills and aptitudes to carry out responsibilities.

Mark a red flag against candidates that offer vague answers and meaningless words. Below is a list of suggested topics:

  • Situations involving work collaboration with hard-to-please fellow colleagues.

  • Scenarios where you need to prove your point with a difficult manager or client.

  • Cases where you’ve made a mistake professionally and things you did to correct it.

  • Circumstances dealing with criticism, initiative, and tight deadlines.

4. Set expectations and discuss company culture

Interviewing is a learning opportunity for both the employer and the applicant. As the hiring manager, you’re assessing the candidate’s ability to find out if they’re fit for the job while they assess the company for possible growth and career enhancement.

Including expectations for the role mixed in with your interview questions to ask candidates is crucial to avoid disappointment to both parties.

Make sure to set expectations with regard to the job, working hours, leadership, and opportunities.

Additionally, you need to choose an applicant that exhibits the best culture fit for your business. Aside from skills and qualifications, make sure that they share the beliefs, behavior, core values, and philosophy of your trade.

Find out if the candidate is a good match with your culture and work environment. Use these top 4 cultural fit questions below:

  1. Describe the culture, environment, and management style that will bring out your best work.

  2. What are the positive and negative aspects of your previous or current job?

  3. Do you feel comfortable making friends with co-workers? Why or why not?

  4. What are the important things or factors that should be present in your workplace?

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5. Give top candidates a second interview

The initial round of job interviews is primarily done to shortlist candidates. To narrow down the list, even more, to consider only the best and most highly-qualified applicants for the position, a second interview is needed.

Bear in mind that although you have a good list of candidates with high aspirations, you haven’t hired the employee yet so be respectful of their time and other obligations.

Be courteous and sympathetic enough to invite only those candidates at the top of the list and allow some flexibility when it comes to scheduling.

As a business owner, you need to dig deeper by asking more detailed and defined forms of questions. Below are great topics for the next round of interview questions to ask candidates:

  • Explore the professional experience and specific expertise of the applicant.

  • Use behavioral interview questions that are related to the position.

  • Evaluate their creativity and let them think uniquely by probing problem-based questions.

  • Use leadership questions to discover remarkable achievements and hidden potentials.

Bonus tip on how to interview a candidate: Streamline the Onboarding Experience

The candidate experience doesn't end once the contract is signed. From the Form W-4 to your employee handbook, the Namely platform is designed to help teams set new hires up for success.

The most crucial step in integrating new recruits into your organization and preparing them for the rigors of their new position is onboarding. Just 15% of employees are interested in their work, according to a 2017 Gallup study, a statistic that has increased as a result of the epidemic.

This is a major worry for businesses, who know that one of the keys to enhancing employee engagement is ensuring new recruits have a solid start.

The most effective onboarding initiatives are well thought out, effective, and have a lasting effect on employee retention.

It's a candidate's market, so make sure you know how to interview a candidate and make them a life-long asset in your new small business.

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