Photo by Bram Naus ( on Unsplash.
Photo by Bram Naus ( on Unsplash.

Over the last few months, I’ve put a few thoughts out there about creating job postings and reviewing the resumes you receive. In this month’s post, I share some thoughts about preparing to conduct interviews. There’s much more said on the internet about conducting interviews versus creating job postings and reviewing resumes, so this is going to be a bunch of notes.

The purpose of an interview is to determine if the candidate is a good fit for the job. Many of the traps we fall into during the interview process come from forgetting that.

Remember, interviews go two ways. You are selling the candidate on the organization just as much as they are selling themselves to you.


The scheduling process is one of the first impressions the candidate gets of your organization. We all are busy, but do everything you can to make it a smooth process. You are not going to get good people if you cannot get them scheduled.

  1. Make sure whoever is doing the scheduling knows your schedule. We use Microsoft Outlook and anyone in my organization can see the open spots on my calendar. I make sure to keep it up to date and block off heads down time when I know I will need it.
  2. Attach the resume or a link to the resume to the invite! Going back through emails or logging into and navigating through your HR system to find the resume wastes too much time.
  3. Even if you are not going to schedule all the interviews for a candidate back-to-back, get as many set up at once as you can. Lately I tend to favor a first interview with the direct manager getting scheduled. If the direct manager is satisfied, then the recruiter will work with the candidate to set up the rest (usually 2). We don’t wait for feedback from one before scheduling the rest.
  4. Once it is scheduled, the interview gets priority over almost anything else. Only a true emergency that well and truly needs action NOW disrupts an interview. Delegate anything else. Make this rule the norm in your organization and it will not be a problem. If you report to me and I ask for an on the spot meeting, “I have to conduct an interview” makes me wait, not the candidate.
  5. If I have a meeting before the interview, I make sure to leave 5 minutes before the interview starts. It takes time to make sure Zoom is running, bring the resume up, and get my notes ready.
  6. If you are not going to be the direct hiring manager, have a back up so that if something unavoidable comes up, you can keep the schedule.
  7. If it is a remote interview via Zoom, Teams, or other video chat, make sure the candidate knows their video camera needs to be on and then has it on. We have had issues up to and including a different person showing up for the interview than who showed up once hired.
  8. Avoid panel interviews. Even with two interviewers, one of them should be the lead and the other mostly observing. A group “meet and greet” is ok if the purpose it to introduce the larger team the candidate will be working with, but make it clear it is not an interview and make it the last step.
  9. More interviews are appropriate for roles with significant seniority. A long battery of interviews for an entry level candidate isn’t appropriate.
  10. Do not send candidates skills tests or projects before their first interview and make sure skills tests are short and relevant. Remember: the interview process is a two way street. You are optimizing your workflow at the cost of telling the candidate you are willing to waste their time by forcing them into a time consuming evaluation before they even get a chance to find out if the job is one they would want. Whatever you think you are accomplishing is coming at the cost of filtering out candidates who are not desperate for your job. The better the candidate, the more likely they feel they are better off looking for a job with an organization that is not going to waste their time. That means these early tests often tend to filter out more good candidates than bad. The test is having the opposite effect of what is intended!
  11. For most positions, do not send candidates tests or projects that take more than 30 minutes to complete unless you are paying them for the time. Again, it is going to filter out too many good candidates. I will save a discussion for the value of such tests for another time.


Now that the interview is scheduled, you need to prepare to meet the candidate.

  1. Read the job description again. Just like when reviewing resumes, make sure you are interviewing for the actual job requirements and not mixing it up.
  2. Read the resume at least three times. When I see the invite for the interview, I read it through once and then read it from the bottom to the top to see if that helps me see anything in a different light. Then I read it about 5 minutes before the interview takes place.
  3. Have your questions ready. Unstructured interviews are not effective. That said, don’t go in planning to ask one question after another. I try to structure my questions so that they will prompt dialog. I try to create a flow in my questions so that a candidate’s answer to one is likely to lead into the next. When a candidate really knows the field, they will often cover part of two or three questions with one answer.
  4. Are you a psychologist? If you are not, leave the psychology questions for someone else. Be alert for signs of a combative personality or someone who is not going to work well with others, but do not take it to a level you are not qualified to assess.
  5. While we’re at it: “Culture fit” is nonsense. It is a cloak for exploitative workplaces along with racism, ageism, sexism, genderism, ethnocentrism, and any other form of otherism you can come up with. The only culture we need is this:
    1. Show up to work.
    2. Do good work that provides value.
    3. Be transparent.
    4. Do not be a jerk.
    5. Be polite. Be respectful. Do not be bashful.
    6. Work well with others.
    7. Practice self-care in all its forms. Help others practice their own self-care.
  6. Know your company.
  7. Know the law and the questions you cannot ask. I’m dedicating a section to this…

Know the law and the questions you cannot ask

I live in the USA and manage a team that is spread across multiple states. So, I write in that context. The US has a complex mishmash of overlapping laws between Federal, State, and even Municipal levels of government. I hear other countries are not quite so confusing, but it still takes a herculean effort to understand their various laws. In the end, questions about the following topics can be illegal depending on where you or the candidate live and probably have little to do with the job anyway, so do not talk about them. Be careful even making small talk about life outside of work because you can end up sounding like you are fishing for information you should not have.

  1. Family - marital status, number of kids, pregnancy or plans for pregnancy are all off the table.
  2. Religion - I am a church going Christian and confidently say that religion does not matter to the workplace for most organizations. There may be scheduling conflicts for some organizations. If this is you, state the requirements of the job rather than ask them what their religious beliefs are. Federal law does require some level of religious accommodation, so work with your HR team and legal team to understand how to navigate this if it is likely to become an issue.
  3. Race/Ethnicity - Out of all the things that do not matter when it comes to being able to do the job, the candidate’s race or ethnicity matters the least (along with the next two). People are people so why should it be that we get along so awfully?1
  4. Sex, gender, sexual orientation - Again, church going Christian here: Respect and courtesy are not optional.
  5. Birthplace/Country of Origin/Citizenship - Leave it to HR. Even for HR, before an offer is extended, leave it at “are you legally allowed to work in the US” and that is it. The only thing I know of that may come up is visa sponsorship. Again, let HR lead that conversation.
  6. Disability/Medical Conditions - Unless you are in HR and know the right time to discuss these, then leave it to HR. The right time is after the interview process. If the candidate needs accommodation but has the actual skills needed for the job, figure it out. Is it really that hard to make sure someone gets assigned a cube they can get a wheelchair in and out of?2.
  7. Age - As a young manager, I was blessed to have two people significantly older than myself reporting to me. One was literally my father’s age. I learned more about leadership from them than almost anyone else over my career and both were a calming presence on chaotic teams.
  8. Status as a Military Veteran or membership in Reserves or National Guard - Leave this to HR. Even then, the only questions to ask here are for Reservists and Guard members and that is limited to “which weekends and which two weeks do you typically need.” We need a military and the Guard is a key component of natural disaster response, so only ask with an eye towards figuring out the logistics instead of vetting the candidate. While I am on the soapbox - the same goes for people who volunteer especially in emergency services. Give them the time because that is your own insurance.3
  9. Salary History - more and more jurisdictions are making this an illegal question. This is worth a post by itself, so I will leave it for another time.

Few of these questions have anything to do with how well the candidate could do the job. Stick to the job and not to their personal life. As a rule, I focus the conversation on the candidate’s professional experience and do not ask anything about them personally. I work with people who do great work while having hobbies that are off the beaten path to say the least. Those hobbies do not come into the office, so why do I care?

The questions you should not answer and be prepared to not answer them

  1. Anything about Salary - You will need to work with the candidate after they are hired. If negotiations get thorny, you do not want that baggage in your working relationship.
  2. Anything about Benefits - You only know how benefits apply to your situation and probably have not thought about the variety of situations that come up. Stay out of the discussion lest you lead the candidate astray.

Leave both of those for the recruiter to manage. Some candidates may press, but firmly say “I would probably share something slightly wrong, so best to stick to talking to HR” and leave it at that.


Unlike most of my posts, this one is all bullet points because it felt like the right format. Over the next couple of posts, I will dive in further to the interview. I am not sure of the order yet, but do know I will look at the content of the interview itself and dive in a little deeper into how I like to structure for various levels of seniority.

These are all “working in public”. I expect to come back and polish all of these hiring related posts once they are all done to make them a little more cohesive and cleaner.

  1. Thanks, Depeche Mode! 

  2. Granted, you may have some issues if you have a legacy building that does not comply with the American with Disabilities Act. 

  3. Full disclosure - Dad was Air Force and I was a volunteer EMT & firefighter in my 20s. Work put a cramp in that volunteering.