The Human Element
I believe we get a better read on people when they are relaxed, and that’s what this call is all about. So try to put the person at ease. Keep things conversational. Look for opportunities to go off script and learn more about the person. Chatting is part of the evaluation.
The Business Obligation
This initial assessment is important to get right. If we’re too lax, it wastes other interviewers’ time. If we’re too strict, we miss good hires.
Despite our best efforts, we will make mistakes. So it’s helpful to consciously decide whether we’re going to err on the side of being overly strict or lax. Differing situations can justify either approach.
There is an advantage to erring on the side of being lax. If you make an error from being too strict, how will you know? That masking of errors makes it harder to improve. However, if the rest of the interview panel feels empowered to flag a problem candidate, you’ll quickly learn when you were too lax. You can then cut the process short to avoid further waste and review your notes to see how a similar error could be avoided in the future.
A Humane Approach
We realize interviewing can be stressful. Is there anything we can do to help make this process more comfortable for you?
If they do ask for an accommodation, take note of it and be sure to share with the rest of those on the interview panel.
To make sure we didn’t make a mistake on our side, the role you are applying for is (job title and location, if applicable). Does that sound right?
Tell me a little bit about what you do professionally.
This is intentionally open-ended and where you can easily spend the bulk of your time. If the person says something you find interesting, ask them about it.
What experience would you like to get out of this job move?
Do their desires align with what the role is likely to offer? If a match doesn’t seem obvious, follow up questions are better than assumptions.
I find this a good point to pause and ask myself, How are things going?
If the person is obviously not a fit for the role, politely thank them for their time and bring the call to a close.
Otherwise, based on what you’ve learned thus far, take a few moments to share with the candidate why you think they might be excited about the role and the company.
What made you decide to look for a new job now?
Are they still employed? Were they laid off? If they were let go with cause (a.k.a. fired), don’t write them off. We probably all know of some good people who were fired for reasons that shouldn’t prevent them from being considered. Are they willing to share why they were let go? The rest of the interview process along with reference checks should seek to identify whether there is reason for concern.
Are you in late stage conversations with any other companies that will require us to finish our interview process before a certain date?
The salary band for this role is [minimum] to [maximum]. So that we don’t waste your time, are your expectations within that range?
Salary should be discussed from the outset. Everyone’s time is wasted if a process moves to an offer only to find that expectations are vastly out of alignment. In some cases this topic will be handled by a person in Human Resources/People Operations. In other cases the hiring manager will discuss. The purpose of this discussion is not to negotiate salary. It’s far too early for either party to commit to a specific number.
Explain next steps
Naturally people are going to want to know what to expect next. A good practice is to conclude the conversation with an explanation of what the rest of the interview process will look like, who will be contacting them, and when they should expect to hear from them.
Concerns about discussing salary
Isn’t discussing salary uncomfortable?
It doesn’t have to be. People know salary is going to come up. If you’re comfortable with the topic and approach it in a conversational way, the candidate will likely be put at ease. Much of that comes with practice.
Does providing an upper range risk disappointment if they don’t get a top of band offer?
Potentially, yes. However, reality is people talk. Even if it’s against company policies, they’ll eventually find out what peers are being paid. Starting the relationship with transparency is better than finding out it’s a problem later.
A good way to proactively avoid problems is to clearly communicate how you position people within your salary bands. Yes, this means you need to have that well defined and follow it.