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5 Stages of a Job Interview for Recruiters
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Talent Development

5 Stages of a Job Interview Process

One Minute Takeaway

  • Standardizing your interview process helps the hiring manager, interviewers and recruiters make even comparisons between candidates.
  • It’s important to ask questions and to be prepared to answer candidate questions.
  • A standardized interview process will lead to better, more qualified hires long term.

Interview Process Steps

Interviews are typically broken down into these 5 stages:

  1. Introductions
  2. Small Talk
  3. Information Gathering
  4. Question/Answer
  5. Wrapping Up

Understanding the steps in the interview process will help your company standardize its interview process, leading to better, more qualified hires over the long term.

Why is the Interview Process Important?

Standardizing your interview process helps the hiring manager, interviewer and recruiters make fairer comparisons between candidates as each candidate will be subjected to the same interview process.

Below is a more detailed breakdown of every stage in the interview process.

#1) Introductions

Seven seconds. That’s how long researchers say we have to make a good first impression.

For many job candidates those seven seconds happen in the preliminary interview but if your company hiring process doesn’t include that step, the first seven seconds of the introduction phase are key.

Up to this point the candidate has probably been dealing with a recruiter or hiring manager, but now they’re being introduced to their potential managers and maybe teammates. And the first thing they’re wondering is “Can I work with this person?”

It’s important to remember that the opposite is true too. The company has to make its own strong first impression.

Is it An Applicant’s Market?

Overall job employment is two percentage points below the long-term average which shifts much of the power in the hiring dynamic to the candidates. Because of this shift in the power dynamic, companies must make sure they put their best foot forward.

So how does one make a great first impression? The good news is that it’s not complicated: greet the candidate with a smile, shake their hand, and always remember to be courteous.

Of course, in an increasingly mobile work environment many interviews are happening virtually. You’ll just need to adjust by bringing even more energy in order for that welcoming excitement to translate to the screen.

You should also:

  • Make sure that the background the candidate will see is warm and inviting.
  • Minimize external distractions (i.e. pets, phone)
  • Have (and share) a backup plan in case your connection is broken.
  • Stay focused and present. Close out of messaging apps and email.

As part of the introduction you’ll want to:

  • Present the company in a positive light.
  • Address the (potential) elephant in the room –  If your company is known as being a tough place to work, be honest about it, but not to the point of being discouraging.
  • Be as transparent as possible. With so many resources (such as Glassdoor) at a candidate’s fingertips, it is easy to see if a company isn’t telling the whole truth when it comes to the inner workings and culture of their organization.

#2) Small Talk

After introductions are finished, it is a good idea to conduct a bit of small talk with the candidate.

Small talk is important because it’s one of the best methods to foster a healthy working relationship and build rapport. When it comes to picking topics for this stage of the interview process, try to find something that the candidate is interested in. This can be as easy as taking a quick look at their social media profiles and seeing what their interests are. It’s amazing how much of a difference it can make by taking just a few minutes to connect with a candidate on a personal level.

It’s estimated that in 2022, over 90% of recruiters used a candidate’s social media account to learn about them

Do not attempt to talk about anything serious, like religion or politics, as the interview will likely turn into an awkward mess as a result. Not to mention the legal ramifications that come with discussing these topics.

Keep the discussion positive: remember, you’re just trying to gauge if the candidate will be a pleasant person to work with and help them to see themselves working at your company.

#3) Information Gathering

After small talk comes a key part of the hiring process—information gathering, or, in other words, asking the candidate to give you their elevator pitch. This showcases just how prepared, or unprepared, the candidate is and tests their ability to think on their feet.

While the candidate is giving you their elevator pitch, it’s important to pay close attention and consider:

  • Is their speech organized?
  • Is it concise?
  • Does the candidate sound confident about their abilities and qualifications?

What’s their body language like when they’re speaking? (Nearly 70% of hiring managers say that a candidate not making eye contact is a red flag.)

These are all important items to keep track of, as they will often provide you with all you need to know about what kind of employee this candidate could be.

#4) Question/Answer

This is an opportunity to tie some of the candidate’s experience and history into what your company needs. One of the best ways to do this is to have a set of standardized questions that all of the interviewers ask the candidate. This helps in two ways:

  1.  It makes sure there is at least some common ground between the different interviewers when it comes time to evaluate the candidate.
  2. You will know how truthful (or well-rehearsed) the candidate is in their responses by seeing how much their answers change between interviewers.

Ask and Answer

An interview is essentially a two-way exchange of ideas, and the candidate will be interviewing your company just as much as you will be interviewing them.

In addition to having questions prepared beforehand, it is useful to think about how you might answer a tough question from a candidate, as fumbling with your words during an interview will make your company look incompetent and dishonest.

During this stage, if the candidate does have any tough questions about the company, it’s always a safe bet to be honest and to present the company in a positive light while still being truthful. Just like when you ask a candidate what their biggest weakness is and they spin it into a positive, you can also do this with questions about your company.

According to a survey of hiring managers, “Nearly 50% of the applicants wouldn’t get a job offer because of a lack of knowledge about the company where they’re applying for the job.”

#5) Wrapping Up

Too many interviews just…end. Closing out an interview is just as important as the other stages. Just as having a great first impression is important, leaving the job candidate feeling good about the company and its culture is key to hiring the top talent in your industry.

If the interview is in-person, it’s a little easier to close it out in a way that leaves a solid impression with a strong handshake and maybe even a quick tour of the office.

In a virtual interview, it’s important to balance the wrap up of the interview in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re trying to get off a long call with your cousin.

Last but not least, send a follow up email. Whether you are interested in the candidate or not it is important to be courteous and thankful that somebody took time out of their day to interview at your company. Candidates can leave a bad review of the interview process on Glassdoor, so be sure everybody walks away from your interview process feeling respected.

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