The KEYS to a Successful Interview & Hire

An effective search and interview process – one that will start with a thorough search and ultimately result in the successful hire of the ideal candidate – is the product of a well organized and properly run search and interview process.

KeySearch International offers the following suggestions and information for assembling and educating a successful interviewing team.


(The selection of the interview team is as important as the selection of the candidate)

Each member of the interview team should be selected based upon the direct and indirect reporting line. As well, the members of the interview team should each possess information that is necessary for the candidate to evaluate the opportunity and the company’s resources and as such, will be assessing the candidate from their own specific vantage point. In addition, it is important that each member of the interview team shares the benefits and consequences of the new hire. This means that each member of the interview team will share in the responsibility of making sure that the candidate who is hired will be given every opportunity to be successful by way of company orientation, training, tools, management, leadership, and support.

Since each member on the interview team will qualify the candidate and sell the merits of the position and the company, the members of the interview team should also be chosen based on their success in the company, longevity, and positive attitude of the company and toward filling the position.

There are a couple cautions to be aware of in selecting the interview team:

  • Only upon special circumstances, such as retirement or promotion, should an interview team member interview his replacement.
  • If a valuable member of the company is to be selected as part of the interview team who has not “bought in” on the need for the position, always have that member interview in conjunction with another member of the team. The reservations the uncommitted team member has on the need for the position could be translated as negativity toward the candidate or the company.
  • If it is your company’s policy to have the Human Resource executive participate in the interview process, utilize the skills and the knowledge of that team member where it is most valuable which will usually be accomplished best to have that interview the last on the list. After all the qualifying for job skills and experience has been satisfied; and the selling of the position and the company has been well received, the Human Resource executive can provide relative information the candidate is ready to hear and is interested in. Also the Human Resource executive will have his own set of questions to ask that are usually more relevant after the direct line report members of the team have determined that the candidate possesses the necessary experience and skills. The last interview will be one of the most important and your Human Resources executive will be able to conclude the interview session on a high note by exhibiting the company’s professionalism providing knowledge of the next steps and the timetables.

4 Key Points to Remember during the Interview Process

I. A successful interview should accomplish 2 things:
  • Qualify the candidate
  • Sell and close the candidate on the job and the company

II. There are major differences between Recruited Candidates and Screening Applicants

1. “Recruited candidates”, i.e. “Impact Players” are:

  • Usually “Happy, Successful, and Not Looking!”
  • Have many options
  • Are Perishable (generally won’t stay interested with lengthy interview processes
  • Interviews you, too
  • May or may not have a resume ready
2. The “Applicant” is usually:
  • Looking for a job
  • Not employed – or not for long
  • Always has a resume ready
  • Says whatever is needed to get the job
  • Will stick around when the interview process stales and lengthy interview processes

III. The hiring company and the search firm are on the same team

IV. From the Candidate’s perspective: “How the interview is conducted reflects on how the company is led.”

With a little planning and educating the interview team, the search and interview process will produce highly qualified candidates that are interested and excited about joining your company. Following are 6 KEY steps for each and every interview:

“Raising the Bar.”

1) CONFIDENTIALITY: First and foremost, each and every member of the interview team must “respect” that the candidate has entrusted the process with his interest in the opportunity and company; and has imparted confidential information on his background. The interview team should be kept to a minimum and information on the candidate must be shared among those on the interview team only. Absolutely no industry reference check – formal or informal – should be conducted until the proper time in the process and then only with the candidate’s signed authorization.

2) JOB SPECIFICATIONS: Make sure everyone on the interview team has a written copy of the Job Description. The Job Description should include:

  • The position responsibilities, job function, and expectations
  • Experience needed
  • Goals and challenges of the position
  • Key “hot buttons” to look for
  • Desired personality type
  • Staff size responsible for and supervisors’ titles
  • Career path obtainable for successful employee
  • Salary range, commissions, auto allowance, annual bonus, and all other emoluments
  • Reason for position vacancy – or newly established position
  • Interview procedures and time table
  • Immediate notification to all parties to any changes in the job description or time table

3) ORGANIZE AND CONDUCT a professional Interview

  • Have a plan and know what each member of the interview team will ask
  • Prepare a written agenda with time table and names and titles of everyone involved
  • Ask relevant questions based on the position responsibilities, functions, expectations and goals
  • Thoroughly describe the position including key projects, expectations and challenges
  • Ask behavioral situation questions and past achievements
  • Ask about production, accolades, strengths and weaknesses
  • Ask questions relating to philosophies and management style, targeting and developing business, cost control, increasing profitability or all relevant questions to the position.
  • Spend appropriate time on your background and other team members’ background
  • DO NOT waste time on industry “War Stories” or comparing notes on industry personalities


  • Establish an interview schedule from the first interview to the offer. Keep the timeframe from the first interview to the offer to be no more than 30 days. The candidate will feel exposed and vulnerable if the process is stretched out too long.
  • Honest and thorough feedback should be given to the recruiter after each interview step. The recruiter will also gather feedback from the candidate after each step and will supply information to both parties. The gathering and relaying of timely information is important to both the candidate and the interview team.
  • Diligently keep the scheduled interviews. The top talents have busy and tight work weeks they have to work around to make time for the interview. We all know that there are times a schedule has to be changed by either candidate or interview team. But keeping the scheduled interviews reflects well for the company. It shows respect for the candidate, his time and interest; and presents the company as being organized and professional.
  • Always extend the offer through the recruiter. Even the candidates whose job it is to negotiate on behalf of his company would prefer to have his own salary negotiations done through a professional recruiter. Too often an interested candidate will walk away from the job they are pursuing if the negotiations become uncomfortable.

5) CONDITION THE CANDIDATE’S EXPECTATIONS: This section initially appears like it could be a part of “Respecting the Candidate.” However, it is such a common BLUNDER in the interview process and causes so much harm, that it is important enough to be included as one of the 6 KEY steps on the Interview and hire process.

  • a) Only set deadlines with the candidate and recruiter when you know that you can absolutely meet those deadlines. Otherwise, make sure the candidate and recruiter knows that you have an “estimated” timeframe.
  • b) Know that the salary range is approved and authorized when giving that information to the recruiter and the candidate. If the top end of the range is unlikely, but only possible upon certain exceptional situations, then make sure that is thoroughly explained.
  • c) Clarify to the candidate and recruiter that an offer is forthcoming when all the background investigation and company authorization for hire has been completed.
  • Plan for business interruptions and delays and give feedback and set follow up accordingly. The candidate listens, retains and forms expectation based upon this important information. Too many times an interested interview team member(s) will have the best of intentions to follow up the next day or week, but business crowds the schedule or he can’t get the necessary approval to move forward so the response time to the candidate is delayed a few days to weeks. Since the typical interview has approximately three to four interviews with two to five members on the interview team, so the incident of not meeting the follow up deadlines can multiply fast – and most of the time it does multiple! It is best to schedule more time for each increment of the interview process, and then impress the candidate by completing the interview process early.


  • Remember you are interviewing a “Recruited Candidate” which means this candidate is happy, productive and probably well taken care of by his current employer. While you are qualifying the candidate, you MUST also SELL the candidate.
  • By the professional way in which the interview is conducted;
  • The positive and respectful manner the candidate is treated by EVERYONE in the interview team;
  • Sharing the history, vision and goals of the company and under scoring the inherent opportunity within the company for top performers;
  • Understanding the candidate’s career goals and clearly defining the path to achieve them within you company;
  • Timely feedback for the candidate;
  • LISTEN to the candidate and address each and every one of his issues;
  • Demonstrate your interest and excitement in the candidate joining your company by acknowledgment of his experience and accomplishments;
  • Presenting the type of offer that represents your interest in the candidate while considering his current compensation package and what would make sense to the candidate to make a change. You do NOT sell a candidate on the position with your company by “low-balling” the offer;
  • If the candidate does not accept your offer, always continue future communications and build relationships with top talent. A “NO” rarely means “No – Final!” – it usually means “The timing is not right;” I need more information and more time;” “The money is not right.”

There is a shortage of exceptional talent in every industry field and of those top talents there is usually only a “window of opportunity” given to recruit them over. The top companies know how to position themselves so those top talents are available at “the company’s” choosing.

Here is their secret: “Position yourself in the driver’s seat always!” You do that by qualifying and selling at the same time. Even before you have completed your qualifying process – sell and keep selling so that each candidate wants the job – wants the offer – wants to work for your company! Then it becomes your choice. You won’t have to settle for 2nd or even 3rd choice. You are in the driver’s seat and you will get your 1st choice!