You’d think that being on the other side of the interviewing table would be a piece of cake. As the one asking the questions, you have all the power—and, in theory, should have none of the nervousness typically associated with job interviews.
But for a new manager without much interviewing experience, interviewing job candidates can actually be pretty nerve-racking. It’s all on you to ask the right questions, identify the best candidates, and make the company look good in the process. Your own job may not be on the line—but your nervous rambling and sweaty palms could easily lose the company a great candidate.
So how do you get rid of interviewing jitters? It all comes down to preparation. Here are a few things you need to know to help you interview with ease.
1. Know How to Keep Your Conversation on Track
Nervousness often turns into chattiness. One minute, you’re introducing yourself, and the next, you’ve dominated the entire 30-minute conversation with a detailed background of the company, what the job entails, why the person currently in the position is leaving, and how you came to work for the company.
And you know nothing about the candidate.
To make sure your conversation doesn’t get derailed, map out a plan beforehand. Know exactly how you want the conversation to progress. If you’re going to give a spiel about the company and the open position, that’s fine—just know what you want to say and how to keep it short enough to allow for all the questions you want to ask (leaving room at the end, of course, for the candidate’s questions).
Also, come up with a few strategies for turning the conversation back to the candidate. Candidates will often interject questions and small talk, and when that happens, it’s easy to get sidetracked. You have to know how to answer the question adequately (and concisely), then turn the conversation back to the applicant.
With these strategies nailed down ahead of time, you’ll feel more in control of the conversation—which will boost your confidence big time.
2. Know Who You’re Talking To
Another reason for nervousness? Failure to prepare. I often felt like I was the most nervous when I realized, about five minutes before my interviewee was supposed to arrive, that I knew absolutely nothing about the candidate’s background, education, or experience. Which makes it pretty hard to ask knowledgeable questions.
Well before the interview, set aside some time to review the applicant’s resume, cover letter, and any other included materials, including writing samples, a portfolio, or personal website.
Getting familiar with the candidate’s background will empower you with a sense of confidence—you’ll know exactly who this person is, have a better idea of what questions you need to ask, and be able to form them in a way that makes you sound smart (think: “Tell me about the pieces that you wrote when you were in charge of content marketing,” rather than “So, what’s your background?”).
3. Know What You’re Looking For (and How to Find It)
Your feelings of nervousness aren’t unreasonable. There truly is pressure on you to identify the right candidate who’s going to be able to come in and do the job well. If you fail, your department—and entire company, really—fails as well.
So, you have to know exactly what you’re looking for and what questions you can ask to help you identify those things.
Before the interview, take some time to define what you truly need in the person who will fill this role. Do you need someone who can demonstrate specific technical skills? Someone who’s a natural leader? Someone who can work well in a team? Once you define those traits, you can then develop questions that will allow you to measure those qualities in your candidates (here are some suggestions).
If you know exactly what to ask—and what kind of answers will reveal a winning candidate—you’ll have a much easier time asking the questions confidently.
4. Know That it Gets Easier
As a manager, interviewing is going to be an integral part of your job—and that means you’re going to be doing it a lot. Like anything else, it’s going to get easier with repetition.
Until then, remember that truthfully, you have the advantage: interviewees want to impress you. Your responsibility is to go into the interview prepared and get an accurate picture of the candidate. Take the time to come up with a plan, and you’ll be just fine—and if you play your cards right, may just end up hiring your company’s next superstar.