Interviewing with Style

Interviewing someone for a job isn’t rocket science, but there are some things that can help improve the procedure. Working on your interview style will benefit you and your company, creating good employer branding, and facilitating the recruitment process, especially if you interview alot.

Most hiring managers I meet are pretty skilled at interviewing, but I also come across those who tend to forget that it’s not just the candidate that needs to deliver. Some become a bit too self centered (self = company in this case) and forget to pay attention to the wants and needs of the candidate. Those ways may have worked a few decades ago, but it doesn’t really work like that anymore. Now we need to attract and delight!

Having a structure to begin with will give you the space you need to improvise and pay attention to your gut feeling besides investigating the hard facts. It will also help create a respectful and secure feeling for the candidate being interviewed.


Always read through the CV carefully before the interview. If needed, print it and bring it, but don’t get stuck in it when you have the person right in front of you.

Make sure not to be too many representing your company during the interview, as it can create a counterproductive power imbalance. Two people is generally a good number, three at most. Remember that the interview is a great chance to market your company, so make sure to create a good vibe throughout the interview, so that the person leaves with a positive feeling. For natural reasons, avoid anything ressembling of a cross examination.

Step by Step:

  • Present yourself by name and role, and why you’re in the meeting.
  • Describe the agenda of the interview and the estimated time.
  • Describe your company. Be short and efficient. Remember that the interview should be focused mostly on the candidate, and not just on your company, so don’t dwell in this part (common mistake).
  • Interview the candidate. Ask questions aimed at giving you a whole picture of the person in front of you: background, drives, choices, ambitions, passions, skills, sparetime, future. Focus less on asking the ‘right stereotype interview questions’, and more on getting the answers you need in order to fill all the gaps about the person. If this means you have to come up with questions along the way, that is totally fine. Remember that it is equally important that your company is the right choice for them, as the other way around, so don’t just focus on what you are looking for, but also what is important for them in order to thrive. Try not to show too much if their answers are good or bad in your oppinion. Just use this hour as a time when you really investigate this person. You’ll have plenty of time to evaluate them after they have left the interview with a positive feeling about your company and the time invested.

Based on the above, it’s clear that there are many alternatives to what questions to ask and how. Below are some that, in my experience, work well. Then again, I find interviews to be organic in the sense I don’t always ask the same questions. I ask what I need to get a complete idea of the person, as described above.

To get things going, I like to start with a ‘broad’ question. For example:

‘Tell us about yourself (such as where do you come from, when did you discover what you wanted to do, and what have you done since?)’ Ask about his/her choices, as they tell you their story. This reveals some about how he/she reasons.

Then break it down. Some example questions:

  1. What are your drives* (i.e. what is it that makes you want to go to work in the morning). *example of drives: results, to create/build something, to help people, to improve oneself, etc.
  2. How would your friends describe you?
  3. How would your manager/colleagues describe you?
  4. What are your biggest strengths/assets?
  5. What about yourself do you wish to improve?
  6. How do you spend your spare time? Hobbies?
  7. What is important for you in your next job in terms of tasks, team, leadership etc?
  8. What do you think you are doing five years from now?
  9. What made you apply for this job?
  10. Check if the skills needed in the job are there, and ask the candidate to give concrete examples of situations that prove these skills.
  11. What do you think about working in a team?
  12. In a team, what role do you typically take? Give an example.
  13. What do you think about working autonomously? Give an example when you did something autonomous.
  14. What usually makes you experience negative stress and how do you react to it? Solutions for handling it?
  15. What usually makes you feel uncomfortable / outside your comfort zone?
  16. Give an example of a job project you are proud of.
  17. Give an example of a job situation you found challenging and describe how you solved it.

When you have no further questions:

  • Give a short description of the role your’re hiring for and make sure the candidate has a good understanding of it. The reason for doing this afterwards is because you don’t want it to influence their answers.
  • Ask if they have any questions about the role or the company.
  • Inform them what will happen next; the remaining recruitment procedure and the estimated timeframe.
  • Let them know whom to contact if they have any further questions.
  • Thank them for the interview.

Document for the future:

Make sure to take time for a break and collect your thoughts afterwards. Talk with the other participants if there were any, and document some notes that will help you remember the person further ahead in the process, or in the long term future. You may think that you’ll remember, but after time passes with more interviews and busy schedules, those notes will be a big help. Better yet if stored in a recruitment system so that they are not just on your own desk.

Speaking of which, a good recruitment system is a great support if you hire alot. I might write more about it in an upcoming article. Until then, good luck with your recruitment, and don’t hestitate to get in touch!