Building Your Dream Team: Structuring Your Interview and Defining Interview Questions

Structuring your interview process based on your hiring needs is essential for assessing candidates consistently and effectively. Strategically structured interviews lead to more informed hiring decisions, streamline evaluation criteria for the role, ensure necessary information is gathered and create a positive experience for the candidates.

Once you’ve completed your interview preparation, it’s time to translate that groundwork into action. Understanding the various types of interviews is crucial for tailoring your approach to the unique needs of the hiring process. Aligning the chosen interview type with the specific position will ensure a seamless fit with the expectations of hiring managers and teams and help create a consistent, reliable evaluation system.

Here are several different types of interview structures and what each accomplishes:

  • Informational Interview: Sometimes called “evergreen interviews,” these conversations, often characterized by open dialogue, contribute to building a talent pipeline by sharing information about the industry, organization or field of work.
  • Phone Interview: These brief yet insightful calls, ranging from 15 to 30 minutes, serve as a preliminary screening and are intended to assess whether candidates meet the basic requirements and determine alignment with factors like location, onsite work requirements, and salary.
  • Competency-based Interviews: Role-specific and designed to evaluate core competencies, these interviews confirm that candidates possess the necessary knowledge for the targeted role by diving into the technical aspects of a candidate’s skillset.
  • Behavioral Interviews: Behavioral interviews are intended to focus on the assessment of soft skills and behaviors by employing open-ended questions to gain deeper insights into a candidate’s approach to challenges they have faced.
  • Task-oriented or Testing Interviews: More common in technical positions, these interviews look to assess a candidate’s technical, computerized or written abilities, as the focus is to understand the candidate’s problem-solving process and analytical thinking.

Another important step in planning your interview strategy is understanding the different formats available, as they serve distinct purposes. Each interview format presents a unique approach, allowing organizations to tailor their assessment methods to the specific needs of their hiring goals.

  • Sequential Interviews: A one-on-one conversation between a candidate and various interviewers, providing a comprehensive view through a range of questions that assess competencies.
  • Panel Interviews: This format brings together key stakeholders and department heads, creating a diverse audience to gauge the candidate’s fit within the organization. Panel interviews are commonly used for management-level roles or when using a hiring committee.
  • Group Interviews: By placing a group of candidates in a collaborative setting, often working on hypothetical projects, employers can assess teamwork, communication skills, and leadership potential by observing each candidate’s role and contributions to the exercise.

Determining Interview Questions

Crafting effective interview questions is not only essential in identifying the right candidate for a position; it also plays a critical role in ensuring lawful hiring practices and minimizing biases. It is crucial to align interview questions with the job requirements and critical competencies required for the role, so going back to the job description as a starting point is key. Another important component involves incorporating probing questions into the interview. These questions go beyond surface level, offering additional details into a candidate’s thought process and problem-solving abilities. They ensure that you gain relevant insights from all candidates, reducing bias and aiding with consistent evaluation methods.

Role-based competency questions are key to any interview. Covering both hard and soft skills, these questions vary depending on the nature of the role. For hard skills, questions may focus on technical knowledge, such as the utilization of specific systems or tools in previous roles. Soft skills, on the other hand, look into management and leadership capabilities.

Cultural competency questions stand as a vital component of an interview. These questions should reflect the organization’s values and mission, addressing aspects like integrity, innovation, and accountability. Integrating these questions into the interview process is not just advisable; it’s crucial for a holistic evaluation of candidates that considers their skills, backgrounds, work preferences and alignment with the company’s values.

Choosing interview questions requires some attention to avoid potential legal or ethical issues. Make sure to steer clear of inappropriate questions that may inadvertently lead to discrimination or bias. Questions related to graduation years, familial relationships or the origin of a candidate’s last name are cautioned against. Despite their seemingly harmless nature, these questions risk disclosing information related to age, gender, national origin or ancestry. Small talk, though common, can accidentally touch upon these sensitive areas, making it important to exercise caution in interview interactions. Prioritize aligning questions with job requirements.

Interview Grading

After formulating the interview strategy, the focus then shifts to interview grading, an important step in ensuring fair and informed decisions. The process involves defining what constitutes a good answer and establishing an interview grading scale to evaluate candidate responses. Typically, a five-point scale is utilized, although three or four-point scales are also effective. The key to successful interview grading is developing specific examples of behaviors for each level, tailored to the role. Having these concrete examples for each grading level helps maintain consistency and accuracy in the evaluation process based on a chosen standardized framework.

Structuring your interview format, questions and grading criteria based on the unique requirements of the role is paramount for assembling your dream team. Customizing the interview process to align with the position’s objectives, you can effectively evaluate the suitability to your team. For guidance in optimizing your interview processes, consider reaching out to Sikich’s HR team for invaluable support in refining your interview approach to build a high-performing team, ready for long-term success.

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Laura Fischer, PHR, leads the talent acquisition consulting team within Sikich’s Human Capital Management & Payroll practice. With over a decade of experience in Human Capital, Laura has worked with hundreds of organizations, spanning across several industries and varying in size, to meet short-term objectives, while driving long-term organizational growth.

With over 20 years of experience in recruiting and talent acquisition, Lisa Trujillo, STA, has supported multiple industries, from luxurious casino hotel resorts and national security and defense leaders to global geothermal renewable energy and SaaS-based start-up companies.

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