Learn how to interview (for first-time people manager)

It’s only a matter of time before you’re asked to do interviews as a people manager in order to grow your team or company. I have coached several managers who can nail interviews for fresh graduates but struggle when it comes to assessing candidates with a few years of working experience under their belt. This post provides guidance on how to improve this skill set for a first-time people manager

Spend time to align what your team is looking for

Before interviewing any candidate, you should be very clear about what your team is looking for. This will help to ensure a better interview process and it’ll also give you the ability to spot great candidates that could contribute positively to your company or project.

I encourage the interview team to understand the business need and timing behind open roles. If you have a critical business need and you need to decide within a specific time frame, this will help to fine-tune your approach and consideration sets.

  • Aligning with your team (including your manager) on which experience, knowledge, and skill sets are must-have and which ones are good to have in candidates is crucial. Ideally, you will rank them in order of importance as well.
  • The “perfect” candidate, similar to a perfect life partner, is hardly ever if not impossible to find. So taking the extra time now to consider what you value most in an employee will save considerable time and reduce disagreements about candidates later on.
  • Therefore, not only does it provide a great opportunity for the whole interview team to comprehend the job description better, but this is especially true when you have somebody from another team participating in the interview.

Proper alignment of interviewer roles

Interviewing is a team effort, with each person assuming a different responsibility. If you’re a first-time people manager, having others on your side to help conduct interviews will make up for any lack of experience you have in this area. Sit down with your team members and decide what roles everyone will play. Will you be assessing candidates’ core competencies, cultural fit, client fit or role-related knowledge? Or something else entirely?

With everyone moving so quickly, it’s easy to overlook this step and later discover that you’re all interviews for the same thing. In order to avoid missing crucial information down the road, take your time with this process and make sure you have different questions tailored specifically for various roles and seniority levels.

Appreciate the candidate’s time and effort

Being an interviewer doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and you likely had to go through a number of interviews yourself before becoming one. As such, it’s important to show appreciation for the candidate’s time and effort, as you would have wanted someone to do for you. Always remember to read their CV thoroughly before the interview so that you can notice any relevant experience they may have for the position that you are looking to fill.

As the interviewee is likely anxious and trying to be punctual, arrive on time or even a few minutes early. Most candidates expect you to have an idea of what the next steps are in store for them as well as who they will be meeting with next–If you’re unsure, ask your manager. That way, both parties can be aligned on how best to communicate about moving forward with the process.

Shadow the interview of someone else

It may be one of the best ways to learn to interview. If you are given a chance to shadow your manager interview, try the following steps:

Before the interview: 

  • Together, spend 15 to 20 minutes going through the CV and deciding what role each person will play during the interview.
  • It is good to understand how your manager structures their questions to focus on critical areas of interest after seeing the candidate’s CV. 

During the interview: 

  • Practice active listening. 
  • Now that you’re not the one asking questions, take notice of how they are asked and answered instead. Also, pay attention to the candidate’s body language during this time.

After the interview:

  • Spend 15-20 minutes again to discuss the candidate together.
  • All interviewers should express their thoughts about the candidate honestly.
  • This is where you start to see differences in opinion, and it is a great way to learn. For the same question and answer, your impression may differ significantly from the interviewer, and it’s okay. The critical thing is to talk about it together and learn. 

Look for culture fit and team diversity

If you’re a first-time manager, it’s only natural that evaluating culture fit can be tough. But don’t worry–we’ve all been there before. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should always know what kind of culture your company is trying to build or maintain. This way, when the time comes to hire someone new, you’ll have a good idea of whether or not they would be a good fit for the team. If you’re unsure of your company’s culture, just ask your line manager or even the CEO–chances are they won’t mind explaining it to you if you catch them at the right moment.

I encourage splitting the interviews for those who are capable/experienced in a certain area from those that fit the culture well, as they tend to veer off into different directions. Furthermore, I believe heavily in team diversity as it makes teams more adaptable and stronger overall.

Don’t be afraid to interview people from different backgrounds and take the time to understand their perspectives.

In conclusion, interview skills are something that can be developed and improved over time. Start with the basics (arriving on time, having relevant questions ready for each candidate) and then build up your interview practices until you become an experienced interview master! Good luck! 

That’s it! Hope this helps. Best of luck. 🙂


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