Fri Oct 29 2021

Interviewing Is a Skill You Can Practice

While there may be people who are naturally good at interviewing, conducting successful, meaningful interviews is a skill you can work on like any other skill. Anyone can become a better interviewer and have more informative, more enjoyable interviews through thoughtful planning and consideration. Some keys to becoming a better interviewer are understanding what your strengths as an interviewer are, identifying areas in which you need to improve, and developing a plan to improve your interviewing in a measurable way.

Understand Your Strengths as an Interviewer

You may not know it, but you probably bring special strengths and knowledge to your interviews that other people do not have. Consider the role you have in the interview.

For example, if you are the hiring manager, you might have intimate knowledge of what exactly you need from a new hire and what your plan is for the person joining the team. You can narrow down your questions to focus on your team’s skill set and to identify how well a candidate would work on your team.

If you are not the hiring manager, are you a subject matter expert? Subject matter experts will often be a part of the interview process to assess the knowledge and aptitude of candidates in the team’s domain expertise. If you are a subject matter expert, you probably can tell when a candidate really knows what they are talking about or is just acting.

Think about what sets you apart from other people in your organization who are involved in interviewing, especially people who interview alongside you. You are there for a reason. Being asked to interview is usually a strong recognition of your knowledge, skills, and capabilities.

Identify Areas in Which You Need to Improve

Perhaps the easiest way to figure out what can be improved in your interviews is to see what part of interviewing feels the most awkward or uncomfortable.

Are you not a huge fan of meeting new people? That is an understandable reaction many people have.

Do you get uninformative answers to your questions? Asking good questions takes planning and practice.

Are candidates confused by the questions you are asking? If more than one candidate is confused, the questions might need work.

Generally, anywhere the conversation has friction or discomfort is a good candidate for closer examination. There are usually things you can do to make conversations less awkward.

Make a Plan

The most important part of improving your interviewing, and probably just about any skill, is making a concrete plan for what you are going to try to do better next time. This is the most important step because if you do not know what you are going to practice, how you are going to practice that area, and how you will measure your success you will not know if anything you do will actually help or if you are actually going to get better.

Let’s say you decide to get more informative answers to your questions. The plan for improving this area might look like the following example plan.

Example Plan Goal: Get Better Answers

The problem is too many candidates respond with yes, no, or simple answers that do not say anything. The goal is to have the next candidate give complete answers for every question.

Example Plan Practice: Ask Open-ended Questions

Open-ended questions invite longer, more detailed answers than a simple yes or no. I will rewrite my questions to make them open-ended and difficult to answer with just a yes or no.

Example Plan Measurement: How Many Simple Answers

The main measure of success is how many questions the next candidate answers with yes, no, or a simple answer. The next candidate should have fewer of these answers than the previous candidates.

Important: Only Focus on Improving One Area at a Time

You should avoid trying to make too many changes or plan to practice multiple areas at the same time. Trying to improve multiple areas at the same time splits your focus and makes it harder to get better in any area.

In addition, once you have improved one area of interviewing, you should take a look at what else might have changed in your interviewing. For example, interviews with good questions often feel more comfortable and proceed more easily than interviews with awkward answers. You may find that other areas of concern are no longer as bad as they once seemed.

What Is Your Plan for Making Your Interviewing Skills Better?

Every interview is an opportunity to practice your interviewing skills and to become a better interview. What will you do to make your interviewing better? What does your plan look like?