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The 8-Step Foolproof Formula Top Interviewers Use

The interview process can be just as stressful for hiring managers as it is for candidates. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the first interview is very much like a first date. You both want it to work out, and it’s a little stressful for both parties.Even if that stress is just excitement or curiosity, it’s still stress on the basic level – stimulus on the nervous system.Often, the hardest part of the interview process is when a candidate isn’t ideal, especially if they meet all the criteria on paper. That’s why I’m sharing the 8-step foolproof formula top interviewers use.I’ve observed and honed this formula working with 1,204+ CEOs and hiring my own team at Talentfoot. It’s especially helpful if you find it awkward to tell candidates they’re not a cultural fit, and you’ll learn a specific script you can use in this case.If you want to streamline your hiring process and consistently get top performers in the door, follow this 8-step formula…

1. Be punctual.Most schools of thought say it’s just the candidate’s responsibility to be on time, and it doesn’t matter whether the interviewer is late. This is untrue, especially when you’re looking for A+ candidates.Everyone deserves respect when it comes to their time, but top performers are more likely to be aware of this and take it into consideration when making a career choice.This is especially crucial if they’re choosing between multiple job offers – which they should be, if they’re at the top of their class.Of course, occasional lateness is unavoidable and they are on your turf, so to speak, but you always want to make every effort to be on time for interviews.Bottom line: Making people wait 15 minutes past the start time doesn’t show you respect their time and doesn’t set a welcoming tone.

2. Break the ice.Open with a neutral topic to see how comfortable they are talking with you. This lets you gauge how quickly they might warm up to a future client, for example, and how personable they are.You don’t have to brainstorm ice breakers or take a class on social skills – unless you want to.Talking about the weather is absolutely fine here. Another option is making a brief comment about a mutual connection you have, or even a recent office renovation.It’s important to just be natural here and talk about something that has nothing to do with the position. You want to show you’re a real person right away – not an interview robot.

3. Offer something to drink.When newer hiring managers are excited to Hire Today with the interview, this step often gets left out. It’s a great idea to offer something to drink for the simple reason that it’s warm and hospitable.Bonus? Their response will tell you how comfortable they are. When a candidate’s confident and well-adjusted, they’ll typically take that glass of water.On the other hand, if they start asking you what kind of espresso beverages you have – or really, for anything other than water – it’s a sign that they might be high maintenance.It’s not a deal breaker by any means, just a note for you to consider when reviewing their full package.

4. Introduce yourself.Even if you’ve already greeted them and shook their hand, kick off the interview by giving your first and last name, title, and business card – especially when it’s a panel interview.Remembering multiple names can be overwhelming, and it’s very helpful to give the candidate the opportunity to appropriately line up business cards.You also want to restate the position they’re interviewing for early on. This sets the stage and gets everyone on the same page.

5. Put it in context.Start at square one with reviewing why they’re at your office. How did they get there? Do you have mutual connections? This is a great place to start and build rapport before you get into the high-level questions.From here, the candidate might naturally start speaking about themselves, or you can simply say, “Tell me about yourself.”This question is so basic but I love using it as a first question because you can learn so much.Is their answer relevant and succinct? Are they speaking to your needs, or are they rambling about everything from their hometown to their two dogs at home?Top performers know that when an interviewer asks them a broad question like this, it’s actually an opportunity for them to subtly speak to their strengths in relation to the position, not the time to tell their life story, or launch into every relevant factual detail about their career so far.You’re warming them up, but of course, you still want their answer to be thoughtful and aligned with your hiring needs.

6. Warm-up questions.Find out what the candidate is looking for before sharing your specs in depth. Do this by asking them why they feel they’re a great fit for the position, and what it would mean for their career to land it.You want to make sure they’re really the perfect person for the job – not just tailoring their answers to match your needs. Don’t lead the witness.

7. Dive into the full rundown.Ask them to walk you through their background, position by position.Have them share their three biggest accomplishments to date, and the reasons for their major career moves.

Many candidates skim over their accomplishments, and this is a quick way to separate A-players from B-players. Top performers will take the opportunity to highlight their big wins, and this is a sign of healthy confidence.

If their career moves seem random rather than strategic, you’ll want to consider that when making your decision. If their reasons for switching jobs are, “I was recruited, or “I was offered a higher salary,” they might not be in their field for the right reasons.

8. Wrap up.This is where you decide if you’re going to go on a second date.If the person appears to be an ideal fit, set expectations and provide a timeline upfront. Tell them exactly when you’ll follow up and what the next step is for them. Another interview? A trial day?Let them know where you’re at in the overall interview process, too.Do you have 10 candidates left to interview, or is it curtain call after them? Sharing this information is a great way to show you’re transparent and make them excited at the possibility of landing the job.If you know you’re not going to move forward with them – and you probably do, even if you’re questioning yourself – be honest.Tell them you really enjoyed meeting them and give them an idea of how they stack up against other candidates, or why the company may be a less than ideal match for them. Just like in dating, sometimes saying “It’s not you, it’s me” is the best thing you can do.

If this is the case, you might say something like this…“After meeting with you, I’m so impressed by your experience and accomplishments.I really admire your career so far, so I want to be super straightforward and let you know that I don’t think our particular company culture is a fit for you at this moment. But, I’d love to introduce you to two hiring managers I think could be great connections for you.”Of course, only share the last bit if you truly feel you have a couple connections for them. It doesn’t have to turn into a job overnight, but they should be genuinely helpful for the candidate.Even if you feel it is about them – something having to do with their personality, for example – it’s strategic to be conscientious and spin it so it’s not personal. Make it black and white – something they can’t argue.

The interview process can be methodical and personable. It doesn’t have to be stressful, and saying no to a candidate doesn’t have to be painful.

What’s your biggest question about the interview process? Comment below – we can’t wait to hear from you.