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Interviewing 101: Tips for New Business Owners

Posted by PCC Small Business Development Center on May 01, 2015

the_basics_of_interviewingStaffing is a pressing concern for all types of new business owners. The operations of your business depend on having a solid team that is able to execute deliverables consistently. Recruitment is a $20 billion industry in the United States for this reason.

As a new business owner, you will most likely keep your recruitment process in-house, so that those resources can be used for operations or development. For this reason, it is important to become as well-versed as possible in best practices for the interview process, in order to attract and select the best people for your team.

Of course, one of the biggest parts of the interview process is actually conducting the interview. Asking the right questions can make the exceptional candidates stand out, while exposing potential problems in others. This is why being a strong interviewer is so important to your recruitment process. In this article, we will cover the basics of interviewing with tips and advice, as well as provide starting points to help you learn more on your own.

Before the Interview

Write a Strong Job Description

Think about what tasks and responsibilities will be involved in the position, and what percentage of time will be allocated to various tasks. For example, your front desk reception might spend 50% of their time directing calls and greeting visitors, 30% of their time on file maintenance, and the remaining 20% on additional projects. Don’t sugarcoat the role—this can be misleading and lead to a high turnover rate.

Prepare Your Questions Ahead of Time

Think about what hard and soft skills are required for the role. If technical knowledge is required, think of some good technical questions to confirm the candidate has a strong understanding of the work they will be doing. Also, consider whether it will be beneficial to the interview process to involve other existing staff. Having more than one perspective can be helpful for your consideration, and it can offer the candidate the opportunity to learn more about your company and your team.

Prepare for Each Interview

Be sure to review the resumes of the candidates you are interviewing before you meet with them so that you can tailor specific questions to each applicant.

Best Practices for Interviewing

Make Sure You're Not Asking the Wrong Kinds of Questions

Do your research on what questions you legally cannot ask someone in an interview. There are various resources on this (here is an easy chart that divides questions by legality/illegality and subject matter), but the best way to be sure what is and is not legally allowed is to speak with a lawyer.

Set a Standardized Process

Try to ask each applicant (mostly) the same questions. This will make it easier for you to fairly compare and analyze responses later on.

Be Courteous

When you meet a candidate for an interview, be cordial. Be considerate of the interviewee’s time (don’t be thirty minutes late; it wouldn’t be acceptable if they were!) and offer them something like a glass of water to make them comfortable.

Get Comfortable With Each Other

Although you may feel uncomfortable interviewing at first, remember that the person you are interviewing is looking for a job, which can be very stressful. Hopefully, you and the interviewee are the solution to each other’s problem—they need a job, and you need a great new hire. Start with the easiest questions, and build up to the more difficult questions.

Ask Great Questions

Try to avoid questions that can easily be answered with a simple yes or no. Ask for examples as much as possible (“tell me about a time when…” works great), and don’t be afraid to dig in and ask follow-up questions. Take lots of notes during the interview, and, after the interview is over, be sure to write down your initial thoughts and impressions. Don’t forget that the interviewee is deciding if your company is a good fit for them as well—give them the opportunity to ask questions and answer honestly.

Don't Leave Them Hanging

Finally, be transparent about the interview process and let the interviewee know what the next steps are and when they’ll hear back from you.

Keep Learning

This article is by no means an exhaustive guide to interviewing techniques. There are a multitude of resources out there on different interview styles, sample questions, and best practices. As you become more practiced at interviewing, you will learn what works best for you and your business. Preparation will also alleviate tension and allow you to focus better on finding the best candidate for the position you are looking to fill.

Check out these resources for more interviewing techniques...

  • About Human Resources offers a one-stop post on best practices, questions, and other concerns.

  • Monster Career Advice offers many different interview questions to help give you ideas.

  • Biz Brain has tips on interview techniques, from questions to tips on how to conduct yourself while interviewing for the best results.

  • Resumator has some creative questions to consider.

  • Start-Up Collective can help you find great interview questions tailored to start-up companies.

  • Conserve WY has a guide with tips, comparisons of acceptable vs. questionable interview questions, and more best practices and some legal issues to keep in mind.

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The Oregon Small Business Development Center Portland Community College has  helped thousands of businesses over the past 30 years. We combine one-on-one  advising with programs taught by business experts, giving our clients the  resources they need to grow their businesses. We’ve celebrated many successes  with our clients. We'd love to celebrate your success. 

Topics: Small Business, HR & Organizational Effectiveness, Growing a Business

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