How to write an interviewer manual

Interviewing candidates is part of a hiring manager’s job and you will do numerous interviews over the course of your career.

In order to not only attract, but hire and retain top talent, your recruitment process must be extremely well-planned and it is recommended that an interviewer manual is created in order to maintain a consistent experience and consistently great hires.

Whilst it may become easier over time, even experienced hiring managers can benefit from following an interviewer manual set out by their company. Preparation and a methodical approach is essential.

Having this type of structure allows room for more objective decision making, helps to overcome interviewing pitfalls, helps select the best person for the role you are hiring for, and also helps to solidify benchmarks and competencies so you can align the candidate to organizational goals.

If you are in charge of creating your company’s interviewer manual or a key stakeholder in the recruitment process, here are some steps your manual should include:

A review of the job description

You’re probably already extremely familiar with the job description after carefully crafting it, posting it, and receiving resumes from it. But review it again to ensure you focus the interview on the requirements of the position, and if you think more emphasis needs to be placed on different areas, incorporate that into your interview strategy. You may also separate the “must-have” versus the “nice-to-have” qualities. Determine what a successful candidate looks like.

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Reviewing your talent database

Do you have any previous applicants or contacts that you think would be a good fit? Reach out to them to see if they are still interested in joining the team.

Reaching out via LinkedIn and other channels for the role

You don’t have to wait for the right person to come to you. Actively search for people with the right titles and skill sets you desire.

Reviewing the applications you’ve received

Look at resumes, cover letters, and any additional materials such as sample projects, webpages, and portfolios. Identify areas for clarification such as gaps in work history, non-descriptive job titles, mandatory qualifications, or things applicants have included that are interesting such as hobbies, volunteering, or education. Create a list of applicants you would like to take to the next round.

Deciding on your interview process and set an ideal timeline

How many steps are required for this particular role? For example, you may begin with a phone interview with a certain number of candidates, narrow it down for an in-person interview, then follow up with your top candidates for a second and final interview. You may want them to conduct behavioural assessments, conduct background checks, or ask them to meet the team they are working with or managing. Depending on the process and number of steps you require, this will impact how long the interview process will take.

Setting a general structure and schedule for your interview

This is critical to ensure you have enough time to cover all of the key areas you would like to address, and to get the answers you want from your potential new hire. Not only will it help you stay efficient and minimize impact away from your regular workload, it is respectful of the candidate’s time.

Creating your interview questions

Have a list of the questions you want every candidate to answer based on the job description, along with any additional or personalized questions for each candidate. You may want to separate technical and competency-based interview questions as part of your process. Read more about competency-based interview questions here.

Carving out available interview times

This helps if you need to book rooms and minimizes impact on your day-to-day work. Ensure the meeting space is clean, comfortable and professional in order to give off a good first impression with your candidates. Remember, you want top talent to think highly of working for your organization too.

Booking candidate interviews

Stick to the interview times you have planned as much as possible. We recommend sending calendar invites with reminders to assist in candidates having all information required ahead of time.

Reviewing and remembering your interview questions in preparation

Feel free to take them in the interview with you to prompt your memory, but remembering them means that you are able to have a more fluid conversation with your potential candidate and appears more professional than reading them off a script. This is also a good time to ensure you have the information to answer questions candidate may ask you. This could be anything from the company’s overall strategy, corporate structure, how the team works, how they “fit” into the overall mission, perks and benefits, and more.

Conducting the interview

The way you open an interview sets the tone for the rest of the meeting. Welcome them and introduce yourself, the company and the role before starting on your interview questions, opening up time for them to ask you questions, and then closing.

Evaluating the interview and compare candidates

Evaluate how well the candidate answered the questions, what gaps you think there are, and provide any notes and feedback. Doing this straight after the interview is conducted is useful in order to ensure the information is fresh in your mind. By having good notes you will be able to compare candidates more effectively.

Preparing for next steps

This includes booking next-stage interviews, conducting background and/or reference checks, completing behavioral assessments, and anything else you may need to follow up on.

Offering and onboarding

Review your interviewer manual to see if you have gone through all necessary steps to ensure that your chosen candidate it the right fit. If so, you can extend a job offer and begin the onboarding process.

As you can see, there are more steps required in the interview process and following an interviewer manual can not only help to create a fair process, but an easier time for you as a hiring manager. Having a structure to follow means that you will have a better indication of future job performance by the candidate and that you are using your recruitment budget and resources effectively.

Here are some helpful hints on creating and using an interviewer manual:

  • Set aside time for yourself before and after the interviews so you can prepare for and review the interviews.
  • Do mock interviews and trials. Not only will this make you more comfortable, it means you’re constantly reviewing your company’s processes and improving it.
  • Regularly check in with yourself and other hiring managers and do training courses on the best interview techniques, overcoming biases, and understanding candidate’s body language.
  • Get professional interviewing help - it can improve the candidate experience, make it easier on your team and it’s resources, and lead to better hires.
  • Don’t forget, the candidate is also looking at you as a representation for the role and company they may join. Work to provide a positive experience for them.
  • Do what works for your company and team. Every company is different.

If you have questions about creating an interviewer manual or would like assistance in your recruitment process, please contact us today.