As every employer knows, the cost of hiring someone who is not right for a position is high. This cost includes job advertisements, training, and the salary and severance amounts paid to the bad hire. Therefore it is very important to get it right the first time.

While the job interview may seem to be the most straightforward part of the process – talking to a series of people and then choosing the best candidate – conducting an effective interview is not as easy as it seems.

Here are seven tips to keep in mind when conducting a job interview.

1. Know what you’re looking for. It’s important to do your homework before starting the interview process. Determine the job requirements: this involves not only reviewing the position description, but also thinking about the incumbent(s) and identifying the essential skills they bring to the job.

2. Prepare questions based on the specific job requirements. While there are some standard questions applicable to every position, the majority of the questions asked of the candidates should relate to the specifics of the particular position.

3. Be friendly, and use small talk at the beginning to put the candidate at ease, but conduct each interview in a disciplined manner and within a standard time frame. Remember that the purpose of the interview is to collect data that can later be analyzed and compared – so it doesn’t make sense to spend 60 minutes with one candidate and 90 minutes with another.

4. Ask the same basic questions of every candidate, but then improvise follow-up questions as necessary until you get a full answer to each question.

5. Take notes during the interview. While you may assume that you’ll be able to recall each interview quite clearly, your ability to remember specifics about each candidate’s answers will deteriorate after a certain number of interviews and with the passage of time. Detailed notes will serve to remind you of the precise answers given and your assessment of each.

6. Avoid excessive reliance on your subjective responses to the candidates. While it’s inevitable that you will be more attracted to some candidates than others, it is advisable to resist giving too much weight to this. Remember that some people perform better in interviews than others, but that this doesn’t necessarily correlate to superior performance in the job.

7. Immediately after each interview, take some time to rate the particular candidate’s answers using an objective standard. This is preferable to rating candidates against each other at this stage, because it precludes subjectivity. Then, at the end of the round of interviews, the candidates can be compared to each other by comparing the ratings they received for each question.

Conducting an effective job interview is more a science than an art. If the hiring process is to be more than a popularity contest, it’s essential that you approach each element of the interview in a rigorous manner.

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