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With the generational and workforce demographic challenges adversely impacting everybody’s ability to attract, hire, engage, develop and retain people, you need a leg up on ensuring that you are putting your best foot forward in the employee selection process. Gallup reports that, on average, 30 percent of all hires feel mismatched to their role, and almost 70 percent of all working people feel somewhat disengaged either in their role or in their organization. The reality about these statistics is that it all begins with the hire.

There are five secrets to being a great interviewer.

The first secret: Consciously prepare yourself.

By following Stephen Covey’s advice and beginning with the end in mind you provide the most value to your company and candidates. There are three types of preparation: role needs preparation, interviewing preparation and self-preparation. Make sure you know and understand specifically what you want to come away with before you start the interview. Ultimately, you are interviewing to make a hiring recommendation, and it is your responsibility to understand the role you are hiring for as well as understand the person you are considering matching to it.

Role. Ground yourself thoroughly in the needs of the role. Find out why it exists, its impact to the overall business strategy, as well as its success indicators. Understand the role’s core functions and what it will take in terms of people, leadership and decision-making competencies. Be clear about the required technical skills and the mandatory must haves.

Interview. Determine answers to the following questions: Can the candidate do the job? How long will the candidate be happy and productive? How will the candidate impact others?

Self. Bring your best self to the interview. The interview is not something you do to a candidate, it is something you go through together. Prepare yourself for interviewing with a balanced perspective. Consider the perspective of the role, the candidate and the company. Take the time to review the candidate’s resume and the role requirements before you begin the interview. Check in with yourself and make sure you are distraction free and you are willing and able to be fully present during the interview. This means turn off your phone and email, and clear your desk.

The second secret: Bring structure.

Avoid the pitfall of interviewing on autopilot. Get yourself mentally prepped to be in an interview. With how busy a day around the office can be, it’s not unheard of to conduct interviews on the run or in a less than optimal setting. It’s important to use an agenda and an interviewing guide to get the most out of the interview.

Use a formal work history interviewing guide that gives you all the questions that you need answered. Be specific about the time and the duration of the interview. It is important that you plan time blocks for each section of the interview. A specific time block should be set for the beginning of the interview, where you gather insights and an overview of the candidate, their interests and why they think it is a fit. Block another time limit for the actual deep dive of the work history, and another for discovering the candidate’s goals and aspirations.

The third & fourth secret: Active listening & being curious.

Being present is something many working professionals struggle with. The ability to multi-task often comes at the cost of truly listening. The problem is when that happens in an interview, and you’re not actively listening, you are downloading and only hearing what you want to hear or only listening to validate your assumptions. The first level of listening in an interview causes you to miss major clues that could enlighten you on the candidate’s compatibility with the company and the role.

Active listening allows you to come out of an interview with some new data points that you weren't aware of before. Paying attention, listening, and curiosity at higher levels – specifically during the career aspiration portion of the interview – is a major factor for successful long-term hires. Active listening at this level allows you to see reality through the candidate’s perspective – through their pair of eyes.

Active listening allows you to ask open-ended questions in an interview and come out of a conversation with a new perspective, not just new data points. That’s key when evaluating how long a candidate will stay with the company and if the company can deliver on what the candidate wants and needs in a role.

Overall listening to what the job candidate says and does not say illuminates their qualifications, interest and throws up any potential red flags. Listening to how the candidate words their answers, and watching their facial expressions and body language also provides you access to how they feel and the general attitude they have about the work they do.

The fifth secret: Mindful conclusions.

Take the time to debrief and evaluate the match fit for the candidate in the role. Go through your role requirements, and the candidates’ abilities and skills, as well as who they are and what needs and desires they want for their career. Lastly, bring all of it together and evaluate if this match makes sense. If it does not make sense, be honest and transparent and tell the candidate. If it does make sense for the candidate, the role, and the company, tell the candidate and arrange for next steps.