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Top Tips For First-Time Interviewers

Written by: Natalie Gray, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Interviews can be nerve-wracking. We often focus on how scary it is as an interviewee. However, many people forget that the interviewer might be nervous, too, especially if it's their first time. Interviewing for the first time can be daunting. There is a lot of responsibility placed on the interviewer. What's more, if you're nervous about your performance as the interviewer, you may not be entirely focused on what the candidates have to offer.


First time interviewing can take place in a range of formats:

  • You are asked to be part of an interview panel for the first time.

  • You are interviewing for your first direct hire.

  • You are an experienced interviewer but are interviewing for the first time in a new company.

  • You have your own company now.

So, if you're about to become a first-time interviewer, in whatever scenario, how can you make sure you get it right?

Why is confident interviewing essential?

It is the interviewer that is responsible for creating a conducive interview environment for the candidates. By setting the tone, pace, and questioning with confidence, you can get the best out of your candidates. What's more, a structured and confident interview process can also help drive candidate satisfaction. It also allows you to make fair and accurate assessments to make the right decision for your team. When you consider that your interviewing is essential for building a diverse, inclusive, and happy team and organization, there is a lot to consider when hiring.

The cost of a bad hire

Unfortunately, investing in effective interviewing strategies, skills training, and best practice modeling aren't always a priority for companies. The lack of focus on interviews is surprising, as bad hires can cost a company millions.

For example, the CEO of Zappos said terrible hires cost the company over $100 million. Furthermore, the US Department of Labor says the average cost of a bad hire is 30% of the employee's first-year earnings.

It is not just the financial costs that come with a wrong hire either. The team morale and productivity can take a significant hit, as an employee engagement levels. A poor performer can put extra pressure on other employees and cause bad habits to spread like wildfire throughout the organization. With this in mind, upskilling for successful interviews offers many benefits, including the financial savings it can provide for the company. So, if you're preparing to interview, what can you do to be a great interviewer?

Interviewing for the first time: what to do

1. Avoid arrogance

Many interviewers will deliberately try to rattle, provoke and trip up a candidate. This type of behavior can mean you lose out on top talent. After 15 years of career coaching, I've lost count of the number of candidates I've seen withdraw from an interview process because they didn't want to work with their interviewers. Remember, an interview is a chance for both candidates and employers to determine whether there is the right chemistry for both parties. By being arrogant in the interview process, you may deter the people who are the best fit for the team.

2. Show up professionally

When you interview, you are representing the entire company. You are the first experience a candidate will have with the business. Showing up professionally, confidently, and consistently will ensure your business delivers a great impression. Even if the candidate isn't the right fit, they may still talk about your company – you want this to be positive.

3. Prepare for each interview

To ensure you get the right hire, you need to be clear on exactly what you and the hiring manager are looking for. If you are interviewing with a panel, ensure that the whole board knows their role, whether they will speak or just observe. In some cases, it can work well to give each member of the panel a different focus area. Spend time preparing for each interview and create a clear and comfortable process for both you and your candidates. When you consider what the repercussions of a bad hire can be, it is never a good idea just to wing it. Have a clear goal in mind, and make sure you feel prepared and ready.

Top pre-interview tips

  • Ask for help – If you're new to interviewing, or need refreshing, don't be afraid to ask for support. It's much better to do this than end up with a bad hire.

  • Shadow interview - It can help to observe interviews to see what works well. The HR team or recruiting company can help with this.

  • Get clear on values – Understanding the company values and assessment process can ensure you hire the people that will fit with the company dynamics.

  • Understand the feedback process – It is important to create feedback for each interview, so it's important to know what the company assessment process entails; there may be recruitment forms or guidelines that you need to follow.

  • Prepare your questions – Spend time creating a question list. With each question, work out what information you'll gather from the answer. Does each question help you make a hiring decision? You may hear some great interview questions, but the questions you use must be relevant for the role. For example, will the classic 'sell me a pen' interview question help you determine if the candidate is the right hire?

  • Read up on the candidate – Going into an interview with a clear idea of their resume/CV can help you move past the generic interview questions and get to the deeper, valuable information that can help you make a hiring decision.

  • Fully understand the job description – Your candidate will be looking to show how they fit the job description; make sure you know what the company is looking for.

During the interview tips

  • Create a welcoming atmosphere – Get the best out of the candidates by making them feel comfortable. This means smiling, showing interest, and active listening skills (read my blog post here for more listening tips). Try to match the pace of your candidate to create a comfortable conversation.

  • Be open-minded and curious – It is all too tempting to make snap judgments in an interview, but remember, they may be nervous. Refrain from judgment and personal questions that have nothing to do with the role.

  • Ask open questions – You won't find out much about your candidates if they just deliver yes/no answers. Instead, focus on open-ended questions that allow them to deliver expanded answers. For example, can you share a time when…? Can you give an example of what…?

  • Write quick notes as you go – After the interview, you'll want to write up your feedback quickly so that it doesn't get blurred with another candidate. During the interview, try to make quick notes as you go so you can deliver accurate feedback. Don't spend ages writing notes as this can detract from the process and if you are making notes on a laptop, let the candidate know what you're doing.

  • Ask the same questions – If you are interviewing multiple people for the same role, make sure the questions are the same for all candidates; this means the interview process is fair and consistent.

  • Allow time for the candidate to ask questions – The interview process is just as much for the candidate as it is for you; allow them to ask questions and give honest, professional answers. Remember, you are representing the company as the interviewer, not just yourself.

Top post-interview tips

  • Log and share feedback quickly – After each interview, it is good to write your feedback straight away to be accurate. This way, your feedback won't be swayed by the following interview, and there won't be comparisons to other candidates. Instead, it will be fair and candidate-focused.

  • Share supporting example of your hiring decision – What exactly does make your chosen candidate the best choice? What examples did they share which show they would be a good fit for the role?

  • Consider experience vs. ability – It is easy to dismiss a candidate if they don't have the experience that the job description requests. However, it is important to remember that skills can be learned, and experience can come with time – do they have the abilities, transferable skills, and potential you're looking for?

  • Check for bias – It is a good idea to review your interview feedback and check yourself for any bias that may affect your feedback or hiring decisions. Remember, you want the best person for the role, not someone that gels with you. Often, people use their gut instinct on whom to pick; however, there may be an unconscious bias that gets in your way.

  • Ask for your interview feedback – To up-level your interview skills, ask others to shadow you and get feedback from them to help you deliver effective interviews with confidence. Don't just assume you are a great interviewer; keep looking for ways to improve.

  • Look for potential – It is easy to dismiss all candidates because they don't tick every box. Instead, look for potential – who is prepared to upskill and up level, who just needs more experience? Don't spend months waiting for the 'perfect candidate – this can cause work to mount up and your team feeling overwhelmed.

  • Be decisive – It doesn't help to have someone indecisive or neutral on the interview panel. Get clear on what you're looking for and stand by your reasons. This doesn't mean being the only one on the panel always to say 'no.' I've seen countless people who think saying no to every candidate is a badge of honor. People use it to say, 'I told you so,' and it can impact the working experience with the new hire.

Tip for interview skill development

I often hear people tell me they are 'great interviewers,' and maybe they are correct, but as companies, the industry, the team, or even you change, it's important to invest in this skill. Here are some tips for ongoing development:

  • Assess your feedback - How many people do you say yes to versus the no or maybe candidates? It can also help compare your feedback and results with others to see tactics you can use yourself. Asking others to shadow you regularly can help you to improve your skills continuously.

  • Challenge your bias – Bias can manifest in many ways and can often be subconscious. It can help to challenge bias in yourself and in others to ensure interviews are always fair.

  • Invest in coaching and training – If you notice bias or resistance in interviews, a coach can help you work through unconscious bias. You may also benefit from training to ensure best practice interview techniques.

  • Ask your new hires for feedback – They have been through your interview style firsthand and will be able to give you feedback from the candidate's perspective. What can you learn from the candidate side of the interview?

  • Consider candidate experience surveys – These can help you understand how to improve the organization's hiring and interview process.

  • Be willing to change your mind – You don't have to follow the same interview process, and that's 'how you've always done it'; look for improvements, new techniques, and approaches that can ultimately help you get the best hire for the role.

Coaching for Interviewers

If you're looking to develop your interview technique, I provide interview-specific coaching. Coaching can help ensure you make the right decisions around hiring and deliver a positive impression as an interviewer. With 15 years of interview experience, I have helped thousands of candidates, recruiters, and hiring managers. If you want to find out more about how I can help, book your free 30-minute consultation with me today here.

What are your best and worst interview experiences?

Have any of the tips mentioned above resonated with you? I'd love to hear your experiences of the best and worst interviews. My worst experience was when, after a five-hour interview process for a senior role, the HR manager began asking me about whether I wanted children and if the commute would be 'too much for me! Straight away, I had to ring the recruiter and withdraw from the process. Have you had any similar experiences? Let's start listening today by booking a free consultation call.

Connect with me on LinkedIn and visit my website for more info!


Natalie Gray, Executive Contributor, Brainz Magazine

Natalie Gray is a skilled Leadership & Career Development Coach; her unique no-nonsense approach helps clients get clear on their vision, take action, and stay committed to progress. Natalie uses her extensive senior leadership experience in fast-paced global corporations to help executives succeed in their business and career goals. Following ICF endorsed professional coach training, Natalie draws on her talent for helping others connect the dots in both their personal and professional life, enabling clients to move forward with confidence, clarity, and a holistic strategy.

With 15 years of experience in innovative, growth-driven organizations such as Facebook and Cisco, Natalie is ideal for drawing on her business knowledge, extensive training, and natural communications skills. With Natalie’s understanding of growing and excelling in complex organizational structures, she helps clients see their opportunities from a different perspective, drawing upon her industry insights to uplevel her clients.

In short, Natalie brings out the best in people, ensures revitalized progress, and helps clients get to clear, measurable results.



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