How to be a good interviewer
June 26, 2013 9:33 AM   Subscribe

So we'll be hiring for an accounting assistant in about a month. I'll be reviewing the resumes, and conducting the majority of the interviews. I have interviewed people before, but it's been a while, and it was mostly for administrative positions. Can you suggest any resources for me to use to become a good interviewer? Books, blogs, etc?

I have a list of skills that I would like the person we hire to have - QuickBooks experience, attention to detail, etc.

Most of the information I have been able to find is relating to interviewing well is from the interviewee side. I do already read Ask A Manager.

I feel like how to tell if they will be a good fit is not clear to me - I know there is only so much you can tell from an interview, but I'd like to do the best I can!
posted by sockpuppetfairy to Work & Money (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Focus on specific instances that demonstrate the skill or attitude you would expect in an ideal colleague.

The interviewee advice tells people to us the "STAR" technique. You can use this too. If the interviewee doesn't answer your question in the STAR format, ask them to fill in the gaps.

I like questions like, "tell me about a time when there was a problem (e.g. your project was off track) and you took action to fix it (e.g. get it back on track)". Insist on hearing about the situation, task, action and result. Read between the lines about their decision making. If you don't agree with some of it, probe and ask why. Insist on hearing about their own particular involvement. Guide them away from "we" statements. You need to know about the interviewee not their team or organization.

If there is a raw technical skill required of this position, construct a toy question that would be relatively straight forward and would rule out anybody you would consider to be a unable to get started doing the job.
posted by maulik at 10:08 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fit of the new employee to the organization is harder to interview for, but often more important than skills.

Ask questions such as "tell me about the best boss you ever worked for." And, "give an example of the best team experience."

Good luck!
posted by Jandasmo at 11:05 AM on June 26, 2013

There's a ton of academic research on what makes an interview effective. The big take-away from this literature is that interviews are only consistently useful if they are "highly structured." In a structured interview you, at least, (1) come up with a set of questions ahead of time and (2) ask every candidate the same questions in the same way. The questions might be technical in nature or refer to things such as cultural fit. The most important thing, however, is to ask the same questions to every candidate so that you're able to compare their answers and select the person who is the best fit for the job.

A quick google search for "structured interviews" will also lead you to many helpful guides on this technique.
posted by eisenkr at 11:29 AM on June 26, 2013

When my company has hired accounting assistants, we always give a quiz. The quiz will contain some errors that the applicant has to find and also requires them to use an adding machine so that they can demonstrate 10-key proficiency. We also use a well-known accounting software and ask several trouble shooting/process questions about basic use of the software.
posted by quince at 1:23 PM on June 26, 2013

If you want to determine whether a prospect is qualified, question them rigorously both about their stated experience and qualifications. Ask current employees for tips about questions that would stump (and thus winnow) neophytes and posers.

If you want to determine whether a prospect is a good addition to the workplace, you'd need to shift gears and talk to them not in the weird artificial interview tone, but in the tone of an actual employee conversation. Some great employees are lousy at interview scenarios, and vice versa. So it's your job to try to see around that corner a bit by staking out a few minutes for non-stilted, non-interrogative back and forth.
posted by Quisp Lover at 1:30 PM on June 26, 2013

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