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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

10 Best Practices for Conducting a Great Candidate Interview

10 Best Practices For Conducting a Great Candidate Interview

Finding the right person for a job is challenging, especially with other responsibilities on your plate. Rushing through the process and taking shortcuts can lead to costly mistakes. A poor hiring decision can be expensive and difficult to reverse. Worse, once you part ways with a mismatched hire, you’re back to square one, facing the same urgency as before.

Consider this: if you don’t have the time to do it right now, when will you find the time to do it all over again? To avoid wasted time and frustration, getting it right the first time is crucial.

How To Prepare For Candidate Interviews

So, what is a "great" interview? Your interview will be great if:

  • You gather honest, reliable, and useful information.
  • You learn whether the candidate fits your needs and your company culture.
  • You leave the candidate eager for the next steps.

5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts for Your Next Candidate Interview

In advance of the interview:

1. Make a “Shopping List”

Just as you wouldn’t go shopping for the ingredients of an important and complex meal without planning the menu, it's crucial to have a clear list of “must-have” characteristics for your hire. To do this, consider the job responsibilities, the people they will work with, your expectations, and your unique management style so you set the bar properly.

2. Conduct a Validated Talent Assessment (if possible)

This will provide you with a clear understanding of your candidate's strengths and weaknesses for the specific job role and give you strategic insights for the live interview.

3. Do Your Homework in Advance

Don’t read their resume for the first time during the interview. Instead, review it along with their application and LinkedIn profile in advance so you can highlight areas you want to learn more about and structure questions to get them talking about their past performance.

4. Prepare a List of Interview Questions

You will use these questions consistently with all your job candidates. Make sure it includes two types of interview questions: those designed to uncover their skills and experiences and those designed to determine whether they are a strong fit for your culture.

5. Be Transparent About Your Process and Timeline

If your candidates may be asked to go through multiple interviews, standardized assessments, or complete any assignments, let them know upfront.

Understanding Talent and Fit with Better Interview Questions

What To Do During Candidate Interviews

1. Warm Up The Interview

Select a warm-up question they will be delighted to answer to set the stage for a comfortable conversation and lower their guard. This will help prevent canned answers and encourage them to trust you and open up.

2. Stage Your Questions

Initially, ask those questions that are easier to answer and then ramp up to the more challenging questions as you go.  

3. Ask Experiential Questions

Ask questions that allow you to gain insight into how the candidate has previously responded to a variety of situations. For example: "Tell me about a time when you achieved something that felt very challenging and take me through it step by step.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Dig

Asking strong, specific, multi-layer questions can be done in a friendly way that demonstrates genuine curiosity. You need to understand their past performance to project into the future, so probe deeper when necessary with phrases like, “Tell me more” or, “I’d love to hear about a time when you did that.”

5. Share a Realistic Situation and Discuss How They Would React

They may not understand your systems and processes well enough to give a “correct” answer, but you will gain great insight into their thought process and how they are likely to handle the unexpected.

6. Do NOT Ask Ridiculous Questions 

Avoid ridiculous questions like, “If you were an ice cream flavor, which flavor would you be?” or “What would you say is your greatest weakness?” They will never help you make an educated decision.

7. Take Plenty of Notes

This sends a clear message to the candidate that what they are saying is important to you, and it will also help you recall information accurately when it’s time to make a tough decision.

8. Highlight Job Features and Company 

Remember, while you are interviewing them, they are also interviewing you, so take every opportunity to highlight the best features of the job, such as your company culture, reputation in the market, and management style.

9. Make it a Two-Way Conversation

Encouraging candidates to ask questions and answer them in the most honest and straightforward way possible.

10. Wrap Up With Clear Next Steps

Do this so your candidates know what to expect and when. Also, keep them apprised of their status as you move through your process.


By thoroughly preparing, asking the right questions, and creating a comfortable yet revealing dialogue, you set the stage for making an informed hiring decision. Remember, the goal isn't just to fill a position—it's to find the right person who will thrive in your organization and contribute to its success.

A well-executed interview process benefits both you and the candidate. It allows you to gather crucial insights about their skills, experience, and cultural fit while also giving the candidate a clear picture of what working for your company would entail. This mutual understanding is the foundation for a successful long-term working relationship.

Talent is only a strength when the fit is right.

Topics: hiring salespeople sales talent selection