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Created on 27.02.2019

How to conduct job interviews professionally

Job interviews are not just a challenge for applicants, but also for SMEs seeking to fill vacancies. Diana Gebauer, the owner of the recruitment consultancy beeworx GmbH, explores the key issues in the video and specialist article.

Job interviews are generally prepared and conducted by specifically trained HR specialists at large companies. In contrast, these tasks often fall to the owners at SMEs. Job interviews are conducted on top of day-to-day business. That’s why good preparation is crucial. Conducting job interviews professionally benefits small companies. It results in successful, efficient recruitment and leaves all candidates with a good impression of the company. After all, it’s not just you as the CEO who is selecting new employees – applicants are also making choices of their own. These brief guidelines aim to help small companies in preparing and conducting job interviews.

  • Sift through application documents and check the following points:

    • Personal details: have they been provided? Do you notice anything in particular?
    • CV: are there any gaps? Have advanced training courses, for example, been taken in a logical order?
    • References/qualifications: are they complete?
    • Reasons for moving from covering letter or application documents – are they coherent?
    • Does the information in the application meet the requirements profile?
    • Draw up interview guidelines so that you can systematically assess both professional and personal skills as well as the cultural fit.

    More about professional and personal skills and the cultural fit can be found in the article on “Recruitment”.

    Also decide which:
    • members of your team will take part in the interview?
    • Who will ask which questions (draw up interview guidelines which leave enough leeway to assess the candidate individually and based on the situation)?
    • Where will the interview take place?
    • Who will organize the meeting room and provide drinks?
    • Who will welcome the applicant?
    • Who will compile the documents about your small company (brochures, job description etc.)?
    • Who will say what about salary and fringe benefits?
    • Is a second round of interviews planned for the applicants shortlisted?
    • Can the applicants visit the workplace?
    • Should candidates be given the chance to meet potential new colleagues during the first or second interview stage (e.g. during a break)?
    • What are the next steps after the interview?

    Tip 1: Read through the covering letter and CV again immediately before the interview so that you’re prepared for the person.

    Tip 2: As a small company, use the job interview as an opportunity to get to know the applicant so well that you can then determine whether they would provide the added value required and fit in well with the company.

    Tip 3: Always ensure the applicant feels valued by treating them as you would like to be treated yourself in an interview situation.

    Tip 4: Small companies cannot generally get the upper hand with an eye-catching employer brand which underlines the company’s strengths as an employer publicly. This is why it’s important that the benefits compared to joining a large corporation are clearly highlighted. Show the applicant, for example, that the profile of the vacancy is very diverse and therefore more attractive than some jobs at larger companies.

  • Use the introduction stage to build up trust. Engage in small talk with questions like “Did you find us OK?” or “Did you have a good journey?”.

  • Ask the applicant questions that give them the opportunity to speak. This is the only way in which you’ll get the information required to make your appointment decision. The later the applicant gets the chance to speak, the more difficult it becomes. Open-ended questions like those below will encourage the applicant to open up:

    • What difficult situations did you face at work with your last employer?
    • What tasks did you enjoy most in your last job?
    • Where can we obtain references to confirm your professional and personal qualifications?
    • Why did you apply for this position with our SME?
    • Why are you the best candidate for the job?
    • Why are you looking for a new job?
    • How did you prepare for the interview with us?
    • Do you prefer to work in a team or alone?
    • What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
    • Tell us a bit about yourself?
    • What’s important to you in your relationship with your line manager?

    Tip: Don’t go over facts already clear from the application, but instead explore individual points in greater depth and question them, for example, by finding out why things took a particular course. Reassure the candidate with encouraging words (e.g. by praising their performance record) and make sure the candidate does not feel like a school pupil sitting an oral exam. Ask open-ended rather than closed questions and avoid suggestive questions (for example, if you have doubts over the reason for a job change, don’t ask: “Did this restructuring process that you mention in your application actually happen?”, but rather “Why did you decide to give up your last job after a year and a half?”

  • Present your SME and explain the position advertised to the candidate in detail. As well as the description of the future tasks and the workplace, this also includes an insight into the team the candidate would be working with.

  • Now give the candidate the chance to ask questions themselves to clear up any unresolved points.

  • Leave the candidate with binding arrangements. For example, tell them that you will contact them within a week or ask them to submit any outstanding documents within three days. Thank the candidate for attending the interview and make sure it ends on a positive note – regardless of how the interview went – so that you leave the applicant with a good impression of the company.

About Diana Gebauer

Diana Gebauer is the CEO and owner of The link will open in a new window beeworx GmbH, which specializes in the strategic provision of staff and recruitment of qualified personnel for industry and business. beeworx GmbH, headquartered in the heart of Basel, was founded in 2007 and has 17 employees. Diana Gebauer sees beeworx as an extension of her customers’ HR departments. The company not only supports customers with the provision and recruitment of personnel, but is also able to step in as back-up at any time so that customers can focus on their core business.

Personalberaterin Diana Gebauer, CEO von beeworx GmbH
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