What to Ask During an Interview – Advice for a First-Time Employer

Small businesses and start-up companies are typically created by one or two highly-talented individuals who have a great deal of expertise in their field.  As their business continues to grow, it often becomes evident that additional employees are needed.  Some small business owners, although highly-skilled in their own field, may feel somewhat lacking in the ability to hire quality, reliable talent, especially if they had little or no involvement in hiring decisions made by their past employers.  In this post, we will outline some factors to consider when adding personnel to a growing business.

Interviewing Goals

At its core, the main goal of the interview process is to determine which candidate has the skills the employer is looking for and is able to provide those skills in exchange for financial compensation.  How this is accomplished will vary upon the position being filled.  Positions carrying a significant amount of responsibility will require an entirely different interview process than another position that is basic in nature.

Of course, prior to asking candidates to come in for an interview, an employer should do a background check on the application and resume information provided by the various candidates.  Only those who are verifiably honest about their background should be considered for the next step, the actual interview.

Asking the Right Questions

If the position being filled requires only basic skills, the actual interview process may not be much more than ensuring the proper candidate is able to work the required hours and is willing to accept an employer’s compensation, as well as evaluating their overall attitude and demeanour to ensure there won’t be any personality conflicts while on the job.

A more complex interview process may include two or even three interviews to determine which candidate best suits what the employer is looking for.  The first interview should include a discussion of the tasks and responsibilities of the position being filled and a general discussion of compensation.  A review of all the candidates past work experience and education will help determine if they are qualified, and will give an employer a chance to evaluate personalities to determine which ones might be a good fit. Allowing the interviewees to ask questions and interact with the interviewer is key, as this allows the interviewer to evaluate the attitude and level of enthusiasm of the various candidates, along with their ability (or lack of) to communicate effectively with others.

As the candidate pool is narrowed, second interviews offer employer the opportunity to ask deeper “what if” questions, asking how the candidates would cope with various on-the-job scenarios and their ideas on how they can contribute to the company.  Final compensation figures can be discussed as well.  In rare cases when there is a tie between two people, some employers might want to bring the final two in for a third interview, perhaps over lunch, to determine which candidate seems to be the best overall match.