How Can an Interview Preparation Checklist Make Your Hiring Process Better?
Charlie expects any job candidates to come prepared for the interview. As an HR professional, I like to hold myself to the same standard.
One of the most challenging aspects of the interview process is consistency. You need to evaluate your candidates by the same standard, making sure that each question is targeted to the role, that the process itself is unbiased and evaluates candidates fairly, and that you’re following the same set of procedures.
How do you do that? Checklists.
Checklists make the interview process fair, efficient, and effective, and help you quickly find and fill the best candidate for the role you’re hiring for. The HR team at Charlie uses checklists all the time for this exact reason.
In this post, I’ll show you how to make an interview preparation checklist, how they improve your hiring process, and how the Charlie checklist feature makes your interview process easier.
How We Prepare for Interviews at Charlie
When we interview job candidates for a role at Charlie, we look beyond just their technical skills and feel for their cultural fit within our team. We like to put in as much effort into preparing for the job interview as the candidate.
Just like an exit interview, the initial interview is a two-way street. The candidate has taken the time to make a good application and follow our interview process, and we owe them that same respect in kind.
Generally, here’s how the interview process at Charlie works.
Stage 1: Phone Screen
The point when we get on the phone is our first touchpoint with our candidates. We view this as a two-way conversation - it’s as much a chance for them to decide whether Charlie is a place where they can grow and thrive, as much as for us to assess how well they can perform in the role they applied for.
We talk about some of the particulars like salary expectations and remote working vs. in-office requirements. However, we also talk about less tangible things like their preferred way to work and their aspirations for career growth.
When we ask questions, we look for one or two of our key high-performance behaviours:
- Drive for results: Tell me about a time you faced a difficult problem
- Give energy: What’s the most exciting thing you’ve done recently?
- Get uncomfortable: Tell me about a time that pushed you out of your comfort zone
- Be humble: What something you’re bad at
The goal here is to determine that it’s a good potential mutual fit before moving forward.
Stage 2: In-Depth Interview and Task
If the candidate passes the phone screening, they’ll have an interview with the hiring manager and a task. Each of these will be split into about 30 minutes.
When the candidate meets with us, they’ll ask deeper questions about the candidate’s experience and see if it matches what we need for the role.
For example, for a customer-facing role, we might ask:
- Tell us about a time you faced a difficult customer and how you dealt with it
- How do you manage high volumes of queries while maintaining high-quality customer care
Then, the candidate will do a task the hiring manager prepares beforehand or that they’ll do directly on the call.
For an operational position, this might be something like:
- We’ve just launched a new policy at Charlie — share a plan for how you would share this with the team to ensure it has a high impact (prepare before the call)
For a product designer, the task might be:
- On the call, we’ll run through a whiteboard challenge to see how you approach your work on the spot with other designers and managers (on the call — no prep)
Stage 3: Final Stage
For the last stretch, we have one more informal meeting. The hiring manager will greet the candidate with two members of the Charlie team, and answer any remaining questions they have about life at Charlie, how they might work together, and what kind of future the candidate sees for themselves at Charlie.
Our Chief of Staff will meet the candidate too, and ask questions like:
- How would your friends describe you?
- How do you like to work in a team?
Then the hiring manager closes out the interview, and the interview ends. The Chief of Staff and other team members will pass on their notes to the hiring manager and together they’ll arrive at a decision.
Creating Your Interview Preparation Checklist
A well-prepared interview checklist can save both you and the candidate a lot of time and effort and make the most out of each stage of the interview process. It ensures that the interviews are efficient, consistent, and thorough and that you are just as prepared for the interview as the candidate.
Reviewing Job Descriptions and Candidate Profiles
Tailor your questions to the job requirements, making sure each question reflects the demands of the role.
Dive into the candidate’s background - their resume, their cover letter, and work samples they submitted. Understand who they are and what they have to offer.
Structuring the Interview
Decide on the format of the interview. Will it be in a closed one-on-one setting, a group interview, or a mix of them both?
To make the most efficient use of your time, allocate specific time slots for each part of the interview - from the initial greeting to the core questions, then leave room for the candidate’s questions at the end.
Collect some interview feedback and get a feel for how the candidate feels about how the interview went. Balance what you’ve seen and heard against the interview criteria you set. Having a checklist here can help you compare candidates fairly.
Interview preparation checklist – example from Charlie
Role preparation & expectations
- Read the candidate’s resume and have it nearby for reference during the interview.
- Review any work samples that a candidate submitted
- Check the job description again to make sure you can discuss the role and its requirements.
- Read through your prepared list of questions to ask
- Refresh your knowledge of your Charlie’s mission and structure, as well as the benefits and salary for the position you’re hiring for.
Greetings and communication
- Open on a positive note. Greet interviewees on time and make them feel welcome: smile, offer them something to drink and maintain eye contact as much as possible.
- Ease them into the process. Introduce yourself and your fellow interviewers, and briefly describe your role and why you’re hiring. This helps humanise your hiring process for candidates. Then, ask candidates to introduce themselves or walk you through their portfolio or work samples, if applicable.
- Outline your note-taking technique: let the candidate know that you will take notes throughout, and whether this will be typed or hand-written, and ask them to let you know if this is ever off-putting.
- Focus on the conversation. Being distracted by calls or thoughts about future meetings can damage your rapport with interviewees. Instead, focus on what the candidates say.
- Answer their questions. Candidates want to learn about your company and open roles. Give them the chance to ask questions and give them honest and direct answers. Answering questions will also give you the chance to pitch your company to candidates.
- Take your time. If possible, don’t schedule anything directly after an interview. Some candidates may have more questions than others and will appreciate more time with you. Rushing candidates out isn’t a pleasant way to close an interview.
- Take an Implicit Association Test (IAT.) The first step in fighting biases is becoming aware of them. Harvard’s IAT can help you become more aware of your biases.
- Learn how cognitive biases work. Understanding different kinds of bias can help you recognise them when they’re at work.
- Think about your unique prejudices. Personal concerns, preferences and experience may interfere with our judgement. For example, if an interviewer believes that overqualified employees will eventually get bored with their job, they may refuse to hire them. That way, they may miss out on talented people who might still have been valuable team members.
- Slow down. Resist the urge to make a decision about a candidate before their interview ends. It’s best to make your decisions after you’ve met all candidates and have consulted your notes.
- Distrust body language cues. Body language isn’t an exact science; some non verbal cues may indicate many very different things.
- Keep records. Recording and filing your notes helps you as an interviewer since you can refer back to them any time. And your company can also use them in court, in the unlikely event that they face a lawsuit.
- Seek advice. Look for resources online and, if possible, ask more experienced recruiters or interviewers in your company for advice. If you plan to interview often, you could also make a case for attending interview training or workshops.
How You Can Use Technology to Make Consistent Interviews
Using the right tools can make the interview process simple, smart, and effective.
Here are some of the ways an HR checklist tool can improve your interview process.
- Automated Scheduling Tools: Ever have to raincheck an interview due to scheduling conflicts? Using scheduling software can make sure that never happens again by integrating calendars and sending automated reminders
- Standardized Interview Templates: Make sure each candidate is evaluated with the same set of questions and make the interview process fair and objective
- Feedback and Evaluation Tools: Automatically collect and systematize the feedback you get from candidates so you can continually optimize your interview process
Charlie has a checklist feature that can create and manage your interview preparation checklists for you. You can either use one of our pre-made checklist templates or make your own, and check the completion rates for all your checklists.
Make Interview Checklists to Be Prepared and Ready for Interviews
A successful interview is a two-way street. The interviewer has put themselves out there by applying for a role at your organisation, you owe them that much respect. With an interview preparation checklist, doing that becomes much smoother.
See for yourself how a checklist can improve your interview process and try Charlie for free today.