I feel one of the keys to successful interviewing is using a checklist. Would you take a seat on an airline that didn’t use a pre-flight checklist, as in Dr. Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto? Silly question isn’t it? Hiring employees may not be life or death, like a pre-flight checklist could be, but it can positively or adversely affect your organization. When interviewing applicants, does your organization use an interview format?

8-Point Interview Checklist

• Greet the candidate
• Review the application
Use an interview profile
• Complete an interview
• Share the opportunities of the position
• Share the pitfalls
• Challenge the candidate
• Make a decision

Let’s look closer at each point:

1. Greet the Candidate

Personally greet the candidate and escort them to a quiet area to complete the employment application. Offer refreshments and invest 3-5 minutes to put them at ease with some chitchat, such as weather, etc.

2. Review the Application

Study their job history, position(s) desired, and qualifications — including schooling, training, and experience. Also, evaluate any criminal history, salary desired, and references. During the review, question incomplete answers and contradictions with open-ended questions like who, what, when, where, why, or how. Here are a few suggestions for asking questions.

For example, when reviewing the job history of a candidate, look for the following — Are there gaps in employment and why? What was the candidate doing between positions? Are there short employment periods on the job (under 1-2 years)? Again, ask why. Your application should ask the reason for leaving. Are there similar reasons for leaving more than one position, and is it a trend?

They are many employment applications available online. We suggest approval from your HR department and your Attorney before implementing any new employment form.

3. Use an Interview Profile

An interview profile is a list of character traits, skills, and observations based on current successful employees, and it’s used to identify the best candidates.

4. Complete a Pre-Selection Interview

To me, an interview is an information sharing dialogue. A pre-selection interview should focus on gathering information to determine if the candidate fits the position and the position fits the candidate. Questions like, “…what makes you happy and unhappy at work…” may give insight as to how they will fit your culture. Candidates who FIRST share what makes them happy, in my experience, have proven to be positive employees. Asking, “…what would you most like to improve about yourself…”, may demonstrate the candidate’s desire to improve. I’ve found people who share their areas of desired improvement to be open, honest, and usually easier to train. They want to learn — they want to improve.

5. Share the Opportunities

Share success stories of others on your team – especially entry-level employees who have risen from the ranks. Talk about the culture of the company – training, charitable initiatives, group outings, etc.

6. Share the Pitfalls of the Position

Don’t downplay this. Tell it like it is. If there is frequent overtime, weekend work, travel, late hours, etc., — divulge it. No job is perfect, so share the pitfalls. How can a candidate make an informed decision without all the information? If you’re unsure of the pitfalls, ask team members currently holding the position.

7. Challenge the Candidate

One example is asking the candidate why they want to work with your organization.

8. Make a Decision

f it’s a multiple interview process, send the candidate home to consider the pitfalls of the position and a time to contact you to schedule the next step.

If a candidate doesn’t qualify for the position, don’t lead them on. Tell them the truth. You may find it easier to share something you like about them first, then explain why the position is not a good fit.

I’ve seldom had anyone not appreciate the truth when I’ve explained why the position wasn’t a good fit. I’ve also had candidates fight for the position, which caused me to reconsider. With this upfront tactic, I’m never inundated with calls or emails from candidates I wouldn’t consider for the position. If they contact me, it’s because I wanted them to contact me.

Pre-Selection Interview Download (pdf)