Employer, Interviews

Leading Effective In-Person Interviews

As mask mandates lift and more businesses are returning to the office, you’ll likely be conducting more in-person interviews.  This was stressful enough for eager jobseekers even before the 2 year break from worrying about bad breath.

The thing about stress is that it actively works against our ability to recall memories – which spells certain disaster for behavioural interviews where many questions are of the “tell me about a time when…” variety.

So if you want to see a person at their best, you can take a few simple steps to lead a great interview and put your candidates at ease;


Please please please read the resume in advance.  Here’s an ugly truth; if you haven’t read this person’s resume or it’s not top of mind, you aren’t going to be able to contextualize your candidate’s answers.  And when it seems like you aren’t understanding each other, both of you are apt to become flustered.  This is such a hinderance to YOUR decision-making ability and THEIR performance.

You’ll ask better questions, they’ll feel like they’re being understood….just read the resume.


Have an agenda and share it at the beginning.  Most candidates expect to be led down an exploratory path during the interview and it helps them to know what to expect so they can answer more confidently.

Add Situational Questions

You are looking for a set of skills based on your business objectives…they’re there to help you evaluate if they bring those skills.  Questions that start, “how would you approach ________ problem”. Then it’s not you vs the candidate…it’s you AND the candidate versus the business problems you’re trying to solve. 

As an added bonus, this technique reduces biases that accompany experiential requirements (i.e. an employment gap, such as for maternity leave or relocation from another country, from 2 years ago is irrelevant today).  Asking situational questions lets you evaluate the skills instead of the tenure.

Keep it light!

That is, mind your nonverbal cues like a warm greeting, smile, and active listening to help it feel more conversational and less like an interrogation.  Sitting adjacent instead of across a table from your interviewee also removes the physical barrier which has a tendency to make people feel small and guarded. At the very least try sitting on adjacent sides of a table.

Interview Philosophy

These are just a few tips that are specific to face to face interviews, but do you ever consider why you interview candidates in the first place?

I’m often met with desperate managers so eager for a set of hands that they’d hire a pumpkin if it could code in Java.  At that point, they focus on assessing the candidate’s technical skills, and not much else.

The reality is that an employer-employee relationship is rather sacred. There are legal obligations, protections, tax implications, etc. The true success of this relationship is contingent on both sides not just dutifully fulfilling their basic obligations, but existing in a way that promotes the excellence of the other.

And every person on earth is trying to be excellent.  Nobody is aiming for mediocrity. So when it comes to interviews, the more transparent you are about your business needs, whether that’s specific business problems, a new perspective for innovation, or even just a boost to your output capacity (nothing wrong with needing a set of hands to share the burden), the better able candidates will be in delivering the information you need to decide if they’re right person for the role.  And those examples can come from anywhere in this person’s entire existence. This is why we interview instead of making job offers based on resumes alone.

Despite this, hiring processes are usually about as transparent as mud.  Job descriptions do a terrible job of describing what companies are really trying to achieve and hiring managers worry that they’re leading the witness, giving away too much information, by stating up front what they’re looking for.  Candidates are literally shooting blindfolded.

It’s good business to make candidates comfortable, giving them room to walk you through their interpretation of your needs, and rationale for why they’re a good fit.  Help them help you by not treating them as opponents.

Happy Meetings!



Shannon Roach

Shannon has spent the last decade working to restore human connection to the forefront of hiring. She writes about the realities, humour, and heartbreak of engaging talent and standing out in this age of soundbites. Playing different roles as businesswoman, wife, mother, and advocate, Shannon hopes the future leaves room for us to be our whole selves, our best selves, at work.