Interviewing 101: Best Practice Interview Techniques

In the words of renowned recruiting expert John Vlastelica: “how we hire impacts who we hire.” And one of the fundamental stages in this process is the interview. It’s no secret that talent wields the lion’s share of influence now, so it’s become non-negotiable to ensure that both the process and structure of your interview is optimized – and this goes double for the people involved.

Interviewing is rarely regarded as a skill, so when hiring managers and panelists enter into the foray they’re often unprepared and lack the knowledge needed to make a good hire. Interviewing requires a level of understanding, an openness to prepare, and a collaborative mindset that cannot just be ‘winged.’ Learning how to interview well takes effort. What candidates want and expect is constantly changing and if organizations seek to stay ahead of this curve and land top talent, it might be wise to investigate how you are interviewing!

This is exactly where SocialTalent can help. Throughout this guide we’ll give you all the interviewing best practices, strategic tips, and expert insights to ensure that every person involved in the interview process is aligned, feels confident in their ability, and can provide a consistent and quality experience.

What will you learn?
Understanding the interview process and the different types.
Perfecting the hiring criteria.
The importance of screening candidates.
How to build an interview process that is both inclusive and equitable.
The role of candidate experience in interviews.
How to interview for soft-skills and culture-add.
What is required to make great hiring decisions after interviews.

Understanding the Interview Process

Effective interviewing is the linchpin of successful talent acquisition. To build a high-performing team, it’s crucial to have a well-defined and thoughtfully crafted interview structure. According to PwC, 49% of job seekers have turned down an offer because of a bad experience during the hiring process. So it’s worthwhile investing the time and energy needed to ensure your interviews hit the right mark. Interviews set the tone; they are an opportunity to sell the organization and its culture, while simultaneously allowing the interviewer to discover the full potential of the candidates.

Why are interviews so important in the recruiting process?

Interviews are a critical component in the recruitment process for several key reasons:

Assessing Skills and Competencies: 

While resumes and cover letters provide a snapshot of a candidate’s qualifications, interviews delve deeper. They allow employers to assess not only technical skills but also crucial soft-skills such as communication, problem-solving, and adaptability.

Cultural Fit / Add: 

Finding a candidate who aligns with the company’s values and culture is vital for long-term success. Interviews provide a platform for both the employer and the candidate to gauge this. A Glassdoor study found that 91% of U.S. employees believe their job is more fulfilling when they fit well within the company culture.

Enhancing Employer Brand: 

Interviews are a two-way street. They not only allow employers to evaluate candidates but also serve as an opportunity for candidates to assess the company. A positive interview experience can enhance an organization’s reputation.

Types of interviews

Understanding the various types of interviews can help tailor the recruitment process to find the best fit for each role. Here are some common formats:

Traditional Face-to-Face Interviews:

The most common type of interviews. Candidates meet with one or more interviewers in person. This format is ideal for assessing communication skills and building a personal connection.
Panel Interviews:

Involving multiple interviewers, panel interviews offer diverse perspectives on a candidate’s suitability. This can reduce individual biases and provide a more rounded view of the candidate.
Behavioral Interviews:

Focused on understanding how a candidate acted in specific past situations, behavioral interviews are based on the idea that past performance is the best predictor of future behavior.
Competency-Based Interviews:

These interviews assess whether a candidate has the specific skills and competencies required for the role. They often involve practical tasks or problem-solving exercises.
Virtual Interviews:

These offer flexibility and have opened up a global talent pool. Gartner reports that 86% of organizations conducted virtual interviews during the pandemic and will continue due to its convenience and efficiency.
Group Interviews:

In this format, multiple candidates are interviewed simultaneously. This is an efficient way to observe interaction and leadership skills among candidates.

Understanding the interview process is key to successful hiring. Each interview type serves a specific purpose and choosing the right format can significantly impact the quality of your hiring decisions. With the evolving nature of the workforce, adapting and updating interview strategies is essential to attract and retain top talent. 

The Pros and Cons of Different Interview Styles

There are so many different styles of interviewing – but choosing the right one is paramount for success. This article deep dives some of the most common forms and gives guidance on how they best operate.

Hiring Criteria

Hiring criteria refers to the set of qualifications, skills, attributes, and characteristics that employers use to evaluate and select candidates during the hiring process. These criteria are typically based on the specific requirements of the job, hiring manager needs, and the organization’s values and goals. Hiring criteria help employers make informed decisions about which candidates are the best fit for a particular role.

Hiring criteria are the backbone of any successful recruitment process. They serve as the guiding principles and benchmarks against which potential candidates are evaluated. A hiring manager’s primary responsibility is to clearly define and articulate these criteria. However, the initial job descriptions which form the base often fall short, being cluttered with ambiguous or unrealistic requirements. The challenge lies in translating vague qualifications, such as “5 years of related experience,” into tangible and interview-ready requirements.

Why are hiring criteria important?

  1. Enhanced Quality of Hire: Precise criteria lead to better candidate-job alignment. A study by the National Business Research Institute found that 66% of companies experienced negative effects on their business due to a bad hire, including reduced productivity and increased training costs.
  2. Reduction of Bias and Improved Diversity: Clear criteria help minimize unconscious biases, promoting diversity in hiring. This approach reduces reliance on subjective judgments and gut feelings, ensuring a consistent and fair evaluation for all applicants. 
  3. Increased Efficiency and Reduced Costs: Vague criteria can lead to extended hiring times and increased costs. Getting alignment on ‘what good looks like’ from day one ensures a speedier process and a stickier hire.

Transforming qualifications into objective criteria

The effectiveness of hiring criteria hinges on their specificity and relevance to the job at hand. Generic terms like “culture fit” or “good personality” are subjective and do not provide a clear measure of a candidate’s suitability. Instead, these should be translated into specific competencies and achievements. Similarly, attributes such as “motivation” or “passion” need to be broken down into more tangible, intrinsic components that can be assessed.

Four Key Areas of the Hiring Criteria Framework

Skills and Knowledge: 

Identify critical skills and knowledge, differentiating between what can be trained and what is essential. This focus ensures candidates meet the non-negotiable requirements of the role.

Competencies or Behaviors: 

Soft skills such as adaptability, collaboration, and learning agility are pivotal when hiring top talent. According to LinkedIn, 92% of talent professionals and hiring managers said that soft skills matter as much or more in recruitment than hard skills. Note the behaviors which are critical to the role in hand. 

Intrinsic Motivation: 

Determine if candidates are naturally motivated to excel in the specific responsibilities of the role. Move beyond bland descriptors like “potential” and instead, dig into the ‘why’ and look for accurate motivational representations that signal commitment.

Achievements and Results: 

Prioritize past achievements over educational background or years of experience. Look for concrete examples of what candidates have built, scaled, led, designed, sold, or developed. These are much clearer indicators of success.

Establishing effective hiring criteria

When creating hiring criteria, it’s also important to remember the difference between ‘must-haves’ and ‘nice-to-haves,’ particularly when it comes to the hiring managers themselves. Recognize that some skills and experiences can be acquired on the job and overly stringent demands can ultimately narrow your talent pool. Instead, focus on a balanced mix of essential and desirable components.

Equally, we need to move away from this concept of an ‘ideal candidate.’ It can suffocate a hiring process and create unrealistic expectations. It’s important to embrace diversity in all its meaning – in terms of background, experience, skills, etc. This can lead to more dynamic and successful teams. And doing this through the aperture of an agreed hiring criteria widens the overall search without compromising on standards.

How a hiring criteria can inform interview questions

The cornerstone of a successful interview process is the ability to translate well-defined hiring criteria into insightful interview questions. Investing time in meticulously outlining your hiring criteria not only streamlines the recruitment process but also equips you with the tools to develop questions that truly delve into a candidate’s suitability for the role.

Turning achievements into questions

Start by considering key achievements or skills required for the position. 

Example: if a critical achievement for the role is having played a primary role in turning market-generated leads into customers, frame your question to elicit detailed responses about this experience. Ask: 

  • Can you describe a time when you successfully converted market-generated leads into loyal customers? What strategies did you employ, and what were the outcomes?

Similarly, if the role necessitates experience in selling enterprise software to high-level executives, formulate a question like: 

  • Tell me about a significant enterprise software deal you closed with a C-level executive. How did you approach the sale, and what challenges did you overcome?

Probing skills and competencies

When it comes to assessing must-have skills, tailor your questions to the specific abilities the job demands. 

Example: If the role requires expertise in building mobile applications, ask:

  •  “Could you walk me through a complex app development project you’ve handled, particularly focusing on the frontend and backend challenges you faced and how you addressed them?

For evaluating soft skills or competencies like adaptability or problem-solving, opt for situational questions that reveal these traits in action. Pose scenarios or past experiences that align with the job’s demands and observe how the candidate tackled them. We’ll be digging into soft-skills in greater detail later on as well!

Assessing intrinsic motivators

Understanding a candidate’s intrinsic motivators is crucial. Instead of making assumptions based on their demeanor or initial reactions, focus on alignment with the job’s core responsibilities. 

Example: Ask questions that uncover whether the candidate finds the nature of the work enjoyable and motivating. For instance:

  • Reflecting on your previous role, what aspects of the job did you find most fulfilling? How do these align with what this position entails?

Going beyond surface-level responses

Encourage candidates to provide detailed examples and narratives. This approach not only offers insight into their past achievements and skills but also reveals their thought processes, problem-solving abilities, and how they might fit within your team and organization.

The art of crafting great interview questions lies in the careful interpretation of your hiring criteria. By transforming this into specific, targeted questions, you can gain a deeper understanding of each candidate’s capabilities, how they align with the role’s requirements, and their potential to contribute to your organization’s success.

Screening Candidates

Sometimes called pre-interviewing, candidate screening is the process of reviewing and evaluating job applicants to determine their suitability for a particular position within an organization. The primary goal of screening is to identify candidates who meet the minimum hiring criteria for a job, allowing the team to focus their efforts on those individuals who are most likely to succeed in the role and proceed to interview. 

Why is candidate screening important?

Even with the sea of automations and tech advancements, screening candidates before an interview is still an integral step. According to Glassdoor, on average, every corporate job opening receives an incredible 250 resumes. After scanning CVs, screening is the only viable next step. And while they take a bit of effort to complete, the benefits of scheduling these calls far outweigh any inconvenience. They give a recruiter the opportunity to ensure that the candidate is qualified, interested, available, and affordable – four key concerns that sometimes can’t be captured in an application.

Candidate screenings also:

  • Improve the interview : offer ratio.
  • Are a perfect opportunity to sell the role.
  • Are faster and easier than interviews.
  • Reduce some elements of bias.

Even in a tight talent market, it should still be considered mandatory to conduct some form of screening with candidates. The screen is the first contact a person has with your company and it’s never been more important to leave a good impression and keep them excited about the prospect of working with you.

Remember, a screening call is mutualistic – it’s there to benefit both parties. While, of course, you’re looking to vet certain high-stake requirements from potential candidates before the interview, they’re also assessing you!

Effective screening enhances the quality of interviews by ensuring that panelists are meeting with candidates who have already demonstrated a certain level of suitability for the role. This allows interviewers to delve deeper into specific aspects, such as cultural add, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving abilities.

Tips for creating the perfect screening experience

  1. Alignment: Ensure you meet with your hiring manager so you can understand what ‘good looks like.’
  2. Preparation: Have all relevant details to hand and be sure to send candidates a prep sheet ahead of the call.
  3. Structure: Our foolproof structure for screening calls follows this list of question areas –
    1. Introduction
    2. Achievements
    3. Deal breaker skills
    4. Motivations
    5. Interest level
    6. Q & A session
    7. Sell the role
  4. Personal: AI and chatbots can automate a lot of admin, but providing personal feedback and communication can be a real difference-maker.

Not only does screening enable you to consistently make good hires, it can also speed up the process – as paradoxical as this sounds! Aligning with the hiring manager’s wants and understanding the core needs of the role ensures that the prospects you send through to interview are already earmarked for success. And not to mention the positive impact it has on candidate experience!

Learn more: Why Candidate Screening is More Important than Ever

Inclusive Interviewing

Inclusive interviewing is about evening the playing field. It’s about creating a hiring experience that makes EVERYONE feel comfortable and respected, no matter their background or identity. The goal is to create a fair and welcoming environment for all candidates, eliminating bias and ensuring that every person has an equal opportunity to showcase their skills and qualifications.

Promoting equality in interviews seems like an obvious thing. Surely an inclusive approach should be the default? In reality however, the traditional hiring process in itself can be both an enormous barrier to entry and also a deterrent for top talent.

In terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion, interviews can be a minefield to navigate. From the proliferation of unconscious biases, lack of accommodations, and the use of discriminatory language to legal issues over questions asked and homogenous panels – interviews can be a source of much consternation for both applicants and organizations alike.

But it’s worth investing the time and energy to get this process right. An inclusive interview is a positive interview, right!? So let’s go through a few of the key ways you can ensure everyone feels confident and respected.

Mitigating bias in interviews

Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said that “unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at.” It can be so difficult to identify and turn our backs on ingrained (and sometimes unknown!) thought patterns, but when it comes to interviewing, we have an obligation to try our best. The interview must be a safe, fair, blank slate – we can’t let anything else color our decision-making. Easier said than done, however. 

Research has even shown that many hiring decisions are made on a complete whim or feeling, with over 25% of interviewers admitting to making their selection in the first 5 minutes! From a DEI standpoint, it’s outrageous not to give a candidate a fair and equitable shot, but it can also be detrimental from a quality perspective also. The cost of a bad hire is enormous, and basing recruiting decisions on very little evidence and quantifiable data only increases the odds of this happening.

So, how do we counter our unconscious biases?

Step one: Identification and understanding

As with most things, education will always provide a keen spark for positive change. Recognizing the different kinds of biases that can appear in an interview setting creates a solid foundation in the step towards more equity. Take a look at some of the most common forms of bias and ask yourself if you’ve ever been guilty of operating in this manner.


  • Making assumptions about a candidate based on preconceived notions related to their gender, race, age, or other characteristics.

Affinity Bias: 

  • Preferring candidates who share similar backgrounds, experiences, or interests as the interviewer.

Confirmation Bias: 

  • Focusing on information that confirms existing beliefs or stereotypes about a candidate.

Halo/Horn Effect: 

  • Allowing a positive or negative impression of one aspect of a candidate to influence the evaluation of their overall suitability for the role.

Leniency/Strictness Bias: 

  • Consistently rating candidates too high or too low across various criteria.

First Impression Bias: 

  • Allowing initial impressions to disproportionately influence the overall evaluation of a candidate.

Cultural Bias: 

  • Evaluating candidates based on cultural preferences or norms that may not be relevant to the job. 
Types of Bias and the Ways They Affect Your Recruiting Efforts

The first step in overcoming unconscious biases is understanding them. This blog takes you through some of the most common forms and gives guidance on how best to tackle each.

Step two: Actively mitigating against bias

In his SocialTalent training, recruiting expert John Vlastelica says that hiring managers and recruiters need to be “accountable and sure that they’re making decisions based on the hiring criteria and not based on biases.” And this requires action. You need a well-defined, objective hiring criteria, focus areas, and to push back on on-the-fly hiring decisions. Let’s dig into this a little more by looking at our framework:

Always use a well-defined hiring criteria as your barometer.Build a diverse and balanced interviewing team.Be open – don’t let one shining moment or one mistake sway your opinion.
Be courageous and speak up when you see or hear bias or discrimination.Try to screen people in rather than screen them out.Don’t make assumptions. Clarify and find evidence.
Listen well and give candidates your full attention.Don’t look for culture fit! Look for a culture add.Leverage a fair and consistent process and include an interview guide.

By keeping these guidelines to the forefront during the entire process you can better ensure that the interview will be fair, equitable, and inclusive. Actively addressing our unconscious biases requires us to continually question and clarify our decision-making. 

Learn more: 10 DEI Interview Questions you Should be Asking

Reasonable accommodations

We mentioned above about how important it is to screen candidates in rather than screen them out. But classic interviews have always been a huge barrier, particularly for people with disabilities. They aren’t designed to let people who haven’t had a traditional career path flourish. And given how many organizations are struggling to find talent right now, can you afford to shut the door on potential?

According to one of SocialTalent’s DEI experts, Yasmin Sheikh, “disability is not a minority issue.” She says that when we think about disability inclusion, we must look beyond the visible. In fact, as much as 97% of disabilities are non-visible. Conditions like dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism, diabetes, chronic fatigue, neurodiversity, and depression can all fall under this umbrella. And statistics show that 1 in 5 of us will acquire a disability in our lifetime, so it’s vital that organizations become proactive on this front – particularly in interviews.

Learn more: Attracting and enabling employees with disabilities.

Yasmin Sheikh - We're not all the same

What are reasonable accommodations?

Reasonable accommodations in the context of a job interview are adjustments or modifications made to the standard interview process to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate. These accommodations are intended to level the playing field and allow candidates to showcase their skills and qualifications without being hindered by their disabilities. The specific accommodations may vary depending on the nature of the disability and the individual’s needs.

Reasonable accommodations are all about equity, and as Aubrey Blanche (our resident equity expert!) says: “If you focus in a laser-like way on equity, it makes the other letters of DEI much more achievable. But if you forget equity, none of it matters.

Learn more: Why Equity Matters More than Diversity or Inclusion.

How to provide accommodations during the interview

According to a recent report, only 33% of disabled people received support with reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process leading up to employment. And when we consider the shockingly high unemployment rate for those with a disability, it’s never been more imperative to ensure that the interview can be seen as a safe and flexible environment to allow all candidates to shine.

Ask EVERYONE about adjustments:

  • This is all about normalization. No matter who the candidate is, find out if they need any particular accommodations or adjustments at the appraisal stage. Remove the stigma associated with working in a different way.

Provide a direct point of contact:

  • Sharing information can be sensitive, so be sure to have a personal email or telephone number on applications rather than a generic link or form. Candidates will be more likely to share this way.

Talk openly: 

  • If you’re committed to finding and securing talent who may have disabilities, ingrain this into your messaging and practices. Walk the talk.

Clear Communication: 

  • Ensure that instructions and communication during the interview are clear and straightforward, considering potential language or cognitive barriers.

Quiet Space: 

  • Provide a quiet and distraction-free environment for candidates with sensory sensitivities or mental health conditions.

Known for inducing anxiety and stress, interviews can often feel like a game designed to trip candidates up rather than allowing them to show their best. When firm handshakes, confident answers and gut feelings plague the decision-making process, it can put those who struggle to thrive in these conditions at a disadvantage. Offering help or accommodations that increase candidate comfort is only going to be an advantage when you’re looking for the right hire.

The Importance of Candidate Experience

Candidate experience runs the full gamut of the hiring process. From job descriptions to onboarding, each stage can positively or negatively impact how an applicant feels. However, the interview is often regarded as the linchpin within this cycle – so much of what a candidate interprets comes from these interactions, therefore it’s important to strike the right note!

Understanding what a candidate wants is the first step in creating a great experience. If you are unaware of the expectations and nuances that top talent expects, you’re already limiting your capacity to build an interview that not only finds a strong prospect, but actually encourages them to want to work for your organization.

The data is very clear on this! Take a look:

  • According to LinkedIn, 65% of candidates say that a bad interview experience would make them lose interest in a position.
  • Talent is 4x more likely to consider your company for future employment if you give constructive feedback. (Lever)
  • Almost 80% of candidates believe that the experience they receive in an interview is an indicator of how a company values its people. (Career Builder)
  • Candidates who have a negative interview experience are 185% less likely to refer other job seekers to your company.
  • One of the top reasons why candidates withdraw from an interview process is: “my time was disrespected during the interview process.”

What do candidates want?

According to SocialTalent’s interviewing expert, John Vlastelica

Our interviewing approach is part of our attraction and closing strategy – it’s one of the ways we can differentiate ourselves from competitors. But a great experience doesn’t happen by accident.

Interviews must be intentional if you are going to garner a positive response – and this starts by catering to the candidates needs. There are four main components to this.

A fast, organized, and well-prepared process.Smart, nice people that are aligned and have high standards, as well as diverse teams.
A realistic preview into culture, the work, and how decisions are made.Time for Q&A and an honest conversation.

When you really boil it down, it’s not that mind-blowing! Candidates seek speed, quality, diversity, and transparency. But you only need to glance at Glassdoor to see the litany of negative feedback that gets uploaded for the interview process. From unprepared, time-poor hiring managers and inappropriate and irrelevant questions, to the lack of insight given and poor communication, it’s a graveyard of poor sentiment.

Gone is the traditional sense of an interview as something to inspire fear and anxiety. Instead, view interviews as an opportunity to see talent shine. Make your candidates comfortable, prepare your interviewers well, and nurture a process that brings the best out of both sides.

So, we understand why candidate experience is important, let’s now deal with the how. And the answer lies in training!

Learn more: Listen to candidate experience expert Andrew MacAskill chat with SocialTalent CEO Johnny Campbell about what candidates really want:

Interviewer training

We mentioned this before, but interviewing is a skill. It’s not something that can just be innately known – not if you want to ensure a great candidate experience anyway! In an article, published by HBR in 1964, the author writes about the nature of interviews, admonishing the “appalling lack of effort given to systematic attempts at building improvements into this age-old process.” And it begs the question – have we really moved the needle much since then?

Often unstructured, rushed, misaligned, and inaccurate, the interview has seen little in the way of transformation. And given how important having the right talent is for business success, it’s vital that organizations pay greater attention to this process. One of the most effective approaches? Providing comprehensive interviewer training for both recruiters and hiring managers.

Why is interviewer training important for candidate experience?

When we think about how many people in an organization can be involved in the interviewing process, it’s not difficult to imagine how splintered it could become. Different approaches and techniques, different levels of commitment and understanding – without clear, consistent, and quality training, the likelihood of conducting a stellar interview plummets.

Interviewer training ensures that:

  • Everyone in the process is unified in their approach.
  • Questions can be standardized and elevated across the board.
  • Candidates can be assessed quickly and objectively.
  • Pools of qualified interviewers increase.
  • Best practice techniques are used throughout the process.
  • Candidate engagement rises.

Learn more: Read our complete article on the Benefits of Interviewer Training.

Skilled interviewers create a positive impression of the organization, leaving candidates with a favorable view, regardless of outcome.

Interviewer training can can significantly improve candidate experience in a number of different ways:

  • Consistency: Well-trained interviewers learn how to conduct interviews in a professional manner, ensuring all candidates are treated with respect and understand the process as they move through it.
  • Effective communication: Interviewer training teaches panelists techniques to ask clear, relevant questions and follow-ups. This improves the overall flow and helps candidates to settle.
  • Structure: Rather than free-for-all Q&As, seasoned interviewers understand how to structure an interview so candidates are well placed to be their best selves.
  • Constructive feedback: Trained interviewers are better equipped to deliver positive and constructive feedback to candidates, focusing on actionable areas for improvement. According to the Talent Board, 81% of candidates who received feedback said they would share their positive experience with friends/families.
SocialTalent Case Study: Avanade

Download our FREE case study to learn how Avanade used the SocialTalent platform and the ‘License to Hire’ learning path to improve hiring results and increase their pool of interviewers by an incredible 400%! 

Interviewee training

In a world where key talent is sparse, organizations need to focus on pulling out all the stops when it comes to candidate experience. Ask yourself: 

  • Is the process smooth?
  • Is communication clear and concise? 
  • Are hiring managers and interviewers aligned?
  • Do you build a culture of inclusion
  • Are the candidates prepared for the interview?

This last question is often hugely overlooked, but can be of paramount importance. Ensuring your candidates understand what to expect from the hiring process and what ‘good looks like’ in terms of an interview can elevate the experience massively. It creates an even playing field, allowing applicants to present the best version of themselves and demonstrate their capabilities without fear of the unknown.

It all ties together. In the same way your interviewers perform better when they’re trained and prepared, the same is true for interviewees as well. 

SocialTalent has created content for this very purpose – we call it our “Interview Prep Program.” Take a look below at one of the courses, delivered by renowned career coach Aimee Bateman. In this learning item Aimee details the four areas that hiring managers will be assessing during the interview: 

How does interview prep benefit candidate experience?

Tailor-made to help candidates, this content can be sent to applicants prior to their interviews and provides a number of key benefits for organizations:

  • Positive candidate feedback: Implementing pre-interview training programs shows how much you value and care about the people coming through the process. You’re invested in their success. And this can feed into your employer brand, encouraging even more applications.
  • Improved interview performance: Candidates who have access to training materials and resources are generally more likely to perform better in interviews. When candidates are well-prepared, they can provide more thoughtful and relevant responses, resulting in a positive impression on the interviewer.
  • Reduced anxiety and stress: Interviews can be stressful for candidates, especially if they are unsure about what to expect. Providing training materials helps alleviate anxiety by giving candidates a better understanding of the interview process, the company’s expectations, and the types of questions they may face. This is a huge tick for creating a positive candidate experience!
  • Increased fairness and equal opportunity: Offering interview prep levels the playing field by ensuring that all candidates have access to the same resources. This promotes fairness and equal opportunity, allowing candidates to showcase their skills and competencies on an even basis.

Learn more: See how interview prep can also help with internal mobility.

Interviewing for Soft-Skills and Culture-Add

We all know about the skills shortage right? KornFerry’s research that there’s to be a talent deficit of 85.2 million workers by 2030 rings like a klaxon! Organizations are struggling and one of the perceived solutions lies in how we are interviewing. While there are some specific, critical skills that need to be trained, the majority of talent is out there, but traditional interview and hiring strategies simply cannot cut through the noise. 

The solution? Skills-first hiring – or, focusing on soft skills as a signal for success. But while there is a general agreement about how positive this methodology is, practical application has been rather stilted. 

Why should we adopt a skills-first approach?

It almost feels like an oxymoron to say it, but the current, mainstream interviewing process is not particularly well-designed to find talent. 

The way we source, assess, and shortlist candidates is so hugely focused on elements that act as a proxy to the skills needed for a role. Think about it – we scan a CV or quiz an applicant and make inferences about ability from other sources. We essentially assume that this person will have the specific skills we’re on the lookout for because they worked at X company, went to X university, and held this particular role.

And this often works! There are definite threads of success with this approach. However, it also discounts huge pools of potential talent. Why? Because the actual skills that the role may require could be found in countless other people, but having conditions like years of experience or particular job titles, act as an unnecessary barrier to entry.

Skills-first hiring subverts this process and tailors recruiting efforts to identify and assess the skills in a candidate that will lead to success. 

Learn more: Skills vs. Experience – Which Matters More? 

How to interview for soft-skills

Assessing soft skills during interviews is crucial as these often determine how well a candidate will fit into the team and adapt to the company culture. Here are some effective strategies to assess soft skills in interviews:

Behavioral Interview Questions: 

These are specific questions designed to understand how a candidate has handled situations in the past. For example, asking about a time when they had to work under pressure or resolve a conflict in the team can provide insights into their problem-solving, teamwork, and stress management skills. 

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) emphasizes that behavioral-based interview questions are more effective than traditional questions because they focus on specific examples of an applicant’s past work performance, serving as predictors of how they will perform in your work environment​​.

Situational Questions: 

Pose hypothetical situations to the candidate and ask how they would respond. This can reveal how they might behave in future scenarios. For instance, asking how they would handle a tight deadline when the team is behind schedule can reveal their decision-making and adaptability skills. 

According to HR University, situational interview questions are particularly tricky but essential for understanding a candidate’s ability to handle day-to-day challenges and assess their management and communication skills​​.

Role-playing Scenarios: 

In certain cases, especially for customer-facing or leadership roles, role-playing in the interview can be an effective and practical way to gauge a candidate’s interpersonal, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills. Seeing someone in action can give a lot more detail than any question posed.

Personality or Psychometric Tests: 

These tests are increasingly being used in the hiring process to help make decisions. For example, the Piedmont Family YMCA used personality assessments for their finance director role to ensure the candidate had the right balance of enthusiasm and collaboration needed to be successful in the role. SHRM’s survey found that nearly one-third of respondents used personality and behavioral assessments for executive-level roles, highlighting the growing trend of using these tools in the hiring process​​.

While soft skills can be hard to quantify, and the necessary ones vary across roles and industries, they can be a huge marker for future success. According to LinkedIn, 75% of recruiting professionals believe skills-first hiring will be a priority for their company over the next 18 months. Interviews have to become more about opting in than opting out if this is to be facilitated.

Learn more: The Hard Truth About Soft Skills

What about culture-add?

The concept of hiring for culture add, rather than merely culture fit, is gaining momentum. This shift represents an evolution in thinking about how new hires can contribute to a company’s culture, values, and overall dynamics.

Culture-add moves beyond the traditional notion of culture fit. While culture fit focuses on assimilating individuals into the existing company culture, culture-add emphasizes the unique contributions a candidate can bring. It’s about valuing diversity in thoughts, experiences, and perspectives, and how these can positively shape and evolve the company’s culture.

Embracing culture-add can lead to a more dynamic, innovative, and inclusive work environment. It encourages diversity of thought, which is key to problem-solving and creativity. Moreover, a culture that welcomes differences is often more resilient and adaptable to change.

Assessing culture-add in interviews

1. Preparing for the Interview:

First, you must understand your company culture. Clearly define what it embodies. Know your core values, work ethics, and the kind of environment you cultivate. And ask yourself two very important questions:

  • What makes someone successful in your company?
  • What makes someone unsuccessful in your company? Red flags are important too.

Next, identify some desired traits and qualities that can complement and enhance your existing culture. This might include adaptability, creativity, unique perspectives, or specific experiences. Is it something you’re lacking or need more of?

2. Crafting Interview Questions:

The questions you ask should encourage candidates to share their experiences and perspectives. Situational and behavioral styles generally help to elicit answers which can reveal the qualities you’re on the look-out for.

Let’s workshop a few together here!

  • One of your challenges at the moment is around hegemony of thought and practice. You need people on your team to think outside the box and bring innovation. In an interview you may ask:

“Describe a time when you challenged the status quo at work. What was the situation and the outcome?”

  • Collaboration is key in your company. You need people on your team who can seamlessly get work done without attrition. However, you also want diverse thinking and styles. In an interview you may ask:

“How do you approach collaboration in a team setting, especially with team members who have different working styles?”

  • Your organization is going through a time of transition and you need to find employees who can adapt and thrive. In an interview you may ask: 

“Tell us about a time when you had to adapt to a significant change at work. How did you manage it?”

20 Essential ChatGPT Prompts for Recruiters

Struggling to come up with culture-add interview questions? Use AI to help! Download our FREE eBook to learn more about how to create the most effective prompts using ChatGPT.

3. Evaluating Responses:

Acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once wrote that: “Culture does not make people. People make culture.” Finding potential employees who can easily integrate and adopt the core values of a company, while also bringing a fresh perspective or experience, is the gold standard. But you have to be open in interviews to find this.

Culture fit is dangerously easy to happen upon, but discovering someone who will be able to shake up the status quo in a positive way takes effort. Intentionality, as with so much of the interviewing process, becomes essential. Know what you’re looking for, understand what is missing, and assess these qualities accordingly. Deloitte has found that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important for business success – and the best cultures are melting pots. 

Learn more: Download our free eBook – How to Interview for Culture Add.

How to Make Great Hiring Decisions

Making great hiring decisions after an interview is crucial. It is the culmination of all your hard work. But balancing the intuition born of experience with the precision of evidence-based practices can be tough. For recruiters and hiring managers, the ultimate goal is clear: to identify and secure the ideal candidate who not only fills the current role but also contributes positively to the organization’s future. 

Debriefing after interviews

Debriefing post-interview is an art in itself. It’s not just about gathering opinions; it’s about synthesizing diverse perspectives into a coherent narrative about each candidate.

An effective debrief involves:

  • Initial Voting: Each interviewer votes based on their focus areas.
  • Discussion: Those who voted positively should speak first to set a constructive tone.
  • Final Recommendation: After discussion, interviewers may adjust their initial recommendations based on new insights.
  • Decision Making: The hiring manager makes the final decision, ideally not requiring but rather aiming for consensus.

A structured, evidence-focused debriefing process is crucial. It’s not just about saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’; it’s about understanding ‘why’ and ensuring that the decision is defensible and fair. Avoid a stream of consciousness discussion and instead bring everything back to hiring criteria. And remember to actively check for contrast bias –  or, the tendency to judge one candidate differently based on the performance of the previous interviewee. 

Cost of a bad hire

When looking to make a great hire it’s also important to understand the ramifications of a poor hire. Remember: bad hires are not just a financial burden; they resonate through various other facets of the organization. Everything this guide covers will help you avoid this outcome, however, it’s important to consider what could happen if you’re not vigilant in your manner:

  • Cultural Misalignment: Understand how a misfit can disrupt team dynamics and affect overall workplace morale.
  • Opportunity Cost: Consider the lost opportunities when a role is filled by an unsuitable candidate instead of an ideal one.
  • Brand Impact: Assess how a bad hire can impact your employer brand, affecting future recruitment efforts.

Recognizing and mitigating the costs of a bad hire is a multifaceted endeavor. It requires a strategic approach to hiring that looks beyond immediate skill fit to consider long-term impact on the organization.

Learn more: What is the Cost of a Bad Hire?

Avoiding hiring mistakes: False positives and negatives

False Positives: 

These occur when a candidate seems suitable but turns out to be a poor fit. Common causes include urgency, poorly defined hiring criteria, bad interviewing techniques, and biases. To counter this, hiring managers should define, align, and assign roles clearly, resist short-term pressures, and ensure a skilled interviewing team is in place.

False Negatives: 

These happen when a good candidate is overlooked. Root causes often include fear of risk, pedigree bias, unrealistic hiring criteria, and misalignment of expectations. Addressing this requires a clear definition of what constitutes a good versus bad risk and an understanding of culture addition versus mere fit.

The importance of feedback

Feedback should not be an afterthought; it’s a strategic tool that can transform the entire recruitment process into a learning and growth experience for all involved.

Actionable Feedback Techniques

  • Two-Way Street: Encourage candidates to provide feedback on their interview experience. This can yield valuable insights to improve your hiring process.
  • Specificity is Key: Offer specific, actionable feedback to candidates. Generic comments are of little value; detailed insights demonstrate respect and consideration.
  • Internal Learning Loop: Create an internal feedback loop where hiring teams can continuously learn from each recruitment cycle, fine-tuning their approach for future hires.

Effective feedback mechanisms enrich the hiring process. They not only aid in the professional development of candidates but also elevate your hiring practices, positioning your organization as an employer of choice.

The journey to making great hiring decisions is ongoing and ever-evolving. It demands a keen understanding of human behavior, a robust grasp of data and evidence, and an unwavering commitment to fairness and continuous improvement. By mastering these elements, recruiters and hiring managers can not only fill roles with competence but also build teams that drive organizational success. 


Effective interviewing is a pivotal element in successful talent acquisition. This comprehensive guide underscores the criticality of a well-structured interview process, tailored to meet the evolving demands of the modern workforce. 

In essence, interviewing is more than a mere selection mechanism; it is a strategic tool that shapes the workforce, influences organizational culture, and impacts business outcomes. By embracing the principles outlined above, organizations can not only fill roles effectively but also build robust, diverse teams that are primed for success in a dynamic, ever-changing business landscape.

Looking to improve your approach to interviewing? SocialTalent’s dedicated Interviewer Training will give your recruiters, hiring managers, and panelists all of the tools, techniques, and insights needed to make great hiring decisions. 

Talk to our team today.