Inner Workings of the Successful Interview – Before, During, and After

    In today’s fast paced, technology-driven world and candidate-driven market, companies can no longer afford to interview without a search process in place.

    Perhaps this article will give you the ideas and structure to move your process from good to great, while landing the top talent you deserve!

    Pre-interview tips

    Once you’ve located and pre-screened your slate of candidates, you’ll need to invite them in for a face-to-face interview. There are a couple of ways to go about this, but first you’ll need to ascertain whether a candidate is both invested and qualified. Sport fishing is full of great analogies, and our favorite is that knowing a candidate is out there and having a fish on the line are parallel situations. However, you haven’t caught anything until you get that fish into your boat. Similarly, knowing whether your candidate is an active or passive job seeker can make all the difference in how you approach them to increase your chances of catching them.

    Active candidates
    An active candidate is in the midst of a job search and therefore is generally unhappy, unemployed, or motivated to make a change. Their desire to find a new job is high.

    Passive candidates
    A passive candidate is employed, perhaps in a great job, and not looking for something new. You may know of them through professional organizations, by their reputation throughout the industry, or they have been presented by an outside, professional recruiter. They are the ones who need to be courted and sold on the job.

    A passive candidate should be approached via LinkedIn or email initially.

    • Check out their profile and take the opportunity to say something nice about their background or work objectives, especially if you’ve found some similarity or commonality.
    • Next, call or leave a voicemail. That’s the best way for them to hear your enthusiasm and desire to establish a relationship first and foremost.
    • Once you connect, be sure to ask if they’d like to come in for a meeting. Don’t call it an interview. That can sound formal and intimidating (or like they might be cheating on their employer).
    • Don’t get discouraged, it may take a few calls to get a response.
    • Use multimedia to connect and mix it up. Email, phone, text, and another phone call is a nice example.

    When contacting an active candidate, it’s okay to set up an interview via email.

    • Allow the candidate to sell themselves.
    • Discuss your opportunity later in the interview.

    Develop your Hiring Process

    Prior to the interview, you’ll need to answer all these questions by filling in the blanks:

    What is the job description?

    • This is the detailed description of what the candidate will do in the job and what background will make the transition smoother and more successful. This should be in writing and should include information on the company and the hiring manager.

    Who will interview?

    • Generally, the hiring manager interviews, however, consider including HR, at least for the first candidate so they get insight to your hiring style and what is most important to you. If not, a peer or boss also works well.

    Do we have a quiet, private space reserved?

    • No calls or texts, a door that closes, and alert co-workers that you are not to be disturbed.

    What is our time range?

    • We recommend 30 – 90 minutes. If you need more time, schedule another interview.

    What does our evaluation process look like?

    • Write out the key characteristics you will use to determine best “fit.” We recommend 5-10 key criteria. Provide space for writing anecdotes and decide on a number-value evaluating system. Keep it simple so if you choose 10 and rate each one up to 10 points, 100 becomes the perfect score.

    Which questions will we ask?

    • See below for more ideas.

    Solid Questions for the Candidate

    Prior to the day of the interview, you’ll need to be prepared with about 5-10 good questions. Here are some to get you started, but tailor others to your industry, business, or position. Be sure to ask the same questions of each candidate, so you can objectively compare each candidate’s responses.

    1. What do you know about our organization?
    2. What would you do or plan to achieve for our organization in the first 90 days? By year one?
    3. Please describe a situation where your work was extremely challenging. How did you handle the situation?
    4. If you could start your career over, what would you do differently?
    5. What was the most difficult ethical business decision you have had to make? How did you handle it and what were the end results?
    6. Tell me about your most significant business accomplishment. Please relate the details of steps needed to overcome obstacles in order to accomplish that objective.

    Envision a successful interview as four quarters

    1. In the first quarter of the interview, the employer lays out the interview process and gives a brief overview of the job and company.

    2. In quarter two, the employer asks their 5-10 preplanned questions.

    • If multiple people will be involved in the hiring process, spread the questions around. When people are not asking questions they can take notes and observe the candidate’s body language and how the candidate answers the questions.
    • The employer lays out the interview process and gives a brief overview of the job and company.
    • Often a hiring manager tells HR they want them to locate qualified candidates but HR never sits in on an interview with the hiring manager. HR will get better insight and clarity of the position if they can sit in on the first few interviews.

    3. In quarter three, invite the candidate to ask questions.

    • The hiring manager can learn if the candidate has done their homework.
    • Many questions from the candidate connote high interest.
    • When the candidate has finished with their questions, the hiring manager should use the remainder of the time to sell the job, company, and career opportunity, if the candidate is a fit. (This is especially critical if it’s a passive candidate.)

    4. In the fourth quarter, close the interview.

    • Politely let the candidate know if you absolutely do NOT think your job is the best fit for their background.
    • If the candidate is a fit, set up a second interview right then.
    • If you’re undecided, tell the candidate you’re planning to look at more candidates and you are early in your process. Let them know they interviewed well, and you need about a week to get back to them regarding next steps. (Note: If you tell them it will be a week, for the sake of the candidate, their family, and your company brand, try to respond in 2-4 days.) If you are undecided, the candidate won’t improve by having been put on a shelf by you. Consider giving them a second chance. If you have a concern, tell them what it is and ask them to think about it prior to the second meeting.

    After the Initial Interview

    If you are moving forward with your candidate after the first interview, have them complete your employment application while still in your office. Consider having the candidate take a personality assessment between the first and second interview, so you can gain better insight into their personality and decision-making process.

    During the second interview, they will be more relaxed, confident, and better able to picture themselves as part of your team after a pleasant initial meeting.

    Final Interview

    Prior to the third and final interview, we recommend that you ask your candidate to develop and present a 90-day business plan. If your final interview will require a meeting with your boss or the president, who is often impossible to schedule, consider using Skype. While face-to-face is preferred, a Skype interview within one week is better than waiting three weeks for a face-to-face.

    Seek References

    When you’re close to making a final selection, specify the references with which you wish to speak. We recommend two previous managers, two peers, and two customers or subordinates. If you don’t ask, you’ll only see the picture your candidate wants you to see.

    Once you’ve vetted the references, you need to close the candidate. Ask them, “If we were to make you an offer, how soon could you start?” Moving quickly here is crucial. Once you’ve made a written offer (contingent on a successful background check), ask for a quick response. Businesses that give candidates more than 48 hours to respond often lose those candidates to other companies. You can always extend the offer acceptance, if you need to.

    We hope these tips help alleviate some of the stress of the hiring process for you and allow you to catch and get the big fish you deserve in your boat. Fish on, my friends!


    Gary Bozza opened the doors of WorldBridge Partners Chicago NW in 1997. Recognized for his ability to get results, he has been building real world leadership teams for four decades on both sides of the hiring process. Gary’s practice is dedicated to helping Owners, CEOs, Presidents, and Private Equity Firms drive revenue and maximize the effectiveness of human capital resources, while building enterprise value. “The WorldBridge Way” is a 26-year proven & rigorous search methodology that produces timely solutions, resulting in successful, high-performance teams. In 2022, Forbes recognized WorldBridge Partners as “America’s Best Recruiting Firm”. 

    Contact Gary at (847) 550-1300 ext. 33 or [email protected]