Hiring the best employees doesn’t happen by chance. When done right, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. When done poorly or inconsistently, the wrong hire can become a curse that keeps you up at night. HR leaders who properly train hiring managers to follow a process AND provide practice have the best chance for consistently hiring great employees.

We know the hiring workflow is important! But simply providing question or giving people an interview kit with self-guided instructions isn’t enough. While it might seem like a flexible solution, it can easily miss the mark. When each interviewer uses their own approach and interpretation, quality suffers.

This guide recommends equipping interviewers with structured questions for identifying strong candidates. Structured interviews are more effective than unstructured ones in part because HR leaders, hiring managers, and recruiters can be trained to evaluate candidates consistently, leading to better hiring decisions. Interviewing is a team sport that turns knowledge into power through successful practice.

The 7 Essential Steps for Interview Training

  1. Adjust the interviewer mindset

Since effective hiring is more than a task, encourage interviewers to think about their own experiences working with excellent people. Help them reflect on how top performers consistently think and act in their work together. Getting in the right mental and emotional zone helps interviewers tune their listening skills and expectations as leaders, beyond the managing process.

  1. Define what you want

As Covey states, “Begin with the end in mind.” With ears and expectations properly tuned, describe the qualities of high performing employees for a specific role. This will help interviewers recognize the standard being used to guide your hiring decisions. It should include personal qualities and competencies essential for success. Since we hire people for what they know, and often fire them for who they are, help interviewers learn about the person beyond their knowledge, skills, and performance.

  1. Apply your standard to a set of questions

A well-designed structured interview creates guard rails for HR leaders and hiring managers to keep out of trouble and stay on topic. Save the personal, less formal interaction for a finalist interview of your top candidates. Help your interviewers connect your defined standard to a common set of job-related interview questions, criteria, and a way to score responses. This will add reliability to the quality of your interview in discerning candidate responses. Test the questions and criteria to show they can separate awesome candidates from average.

  1. Model real examples and guided discovery

Be careful not to assume your interviewers fully understand the nuances of your questions and criteria. To ensure everyone is on the same page, demonstrate an example of what strong candidate responses sound like.

Encourage the interviewers to discuss and seek agreement on how to interpret responses. Building mutual agreement is vital to your goal of consistently hiring great employees. Study several examples together from actual candidates so they can practice their interviewing skills and use criteria to interpret responses.

Train your interviewers to ask each question, stop, and really listen to the candidate. Using your criteria and scoring guide, help them document what was heard so they can defend their views about the candidate with other decision-makers.

Openly comparing candidates with a structured approach should help the team reach consensus on who to recommend or not, and how to share that information with others involved in the process.

Warn them to save the personal dialog for after the interview or a separate meeting. It’s difficult to compare candidates if you have been redirecting them or probing a detail differently with each candidate. The opportunity to get a feel for the person and confirm their ability to do the job will be better accomplished during an on-site interview as a final step.

  1. Clarify expectations

Discuss the logistics and proper practice when conducting interviews. This includes the legal do’s and don’ts, how to follow the HR workflow, interview checklists, roles, and responsibilities. This should include preparing for and conducting the interview and how to handle candidate questions about the job.

It is also important to address ways to avoid common interviewing mistakes and potential bias toward candidates. From the candidate’s view, include strategies to put them at ease and make them feel welcomed, regardless of how well they are doing on the interview.

  1. Practice in a real-world context

After modeling the interview and practicing with several live example interviews, assign the interviewers some homework. Have them use the same set of questions and criteria with a real person who is in the same role or applying for the role. If possible, have them record the interview so they can practice conducting the interview separate from scoring responses.

As interviewers become more confident in their skills, show them how to connect this information to the next step in the hiring process, onboarding, and coaching.

  1. Provide feedback on progress

Bring the interview team back together to review their practice work and provide feedback on their progress. Clear and meaningful feedback helps guide additional practice or individual coaching until everyone is consistent with the standard and the team. Preferably, re-study a few of the practice interviews or a few previous candidates to solidify their skills.

The goal is to have as few differences as possible between interviewers on their scoring and overall views of the candidates. At this point, confirm each interviewer’s readiness to effectively conduct interviewers for the team. If possible, monitor performance results of new hires to show that interviewers and the overall process are meeting your expectations.

If the purpose of interviewing is to learn about the person’s qualities and what they know that adds value, then training should include practicing with questions to decide if a candidate is someone you want to hire. People are your biggest expense and your greatest asset. Your interview training should reflect the value you place on hiring talented people.