Interviewers: What to Look for from a Prospective Employee

Peter PanacyStaffing Coordinator

If you have ever owned or held any sort of supervisory position within a company, chances are you’ve had to interview somebody for a position underneath you.

Doing so may, or may not, be a favorite part of your job. But the whole purpose of an interview is to determine which candidate will be the best fit for an open position. And there are a lot of things to consider when meeting a prospective employee in a face-to-face interview for the first time.

There’s no one right way to conduct an interview. Some are formal, consisting of one or more interviewers asking a series of standardized questions in a business-like setting. Others are more relaxed, often giving off more of a “just getting to know you” feel.

Regardless what kind of interview style you use, there are certain traits you’ll want to see from anyone interviewing with you.

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You want to know a prospective employee is respecting your time and taking the interview seriously. So how an interviewee presents him/herself during an interview is a key thing to consider.

Not all interviews necessarily require Class A business-professional attire. If the opening is a high-paying, competitive position, you’d better expect the interviewee to be dressed appropriately. But if the job is more blue-collar, a nice pressed set of slacks and a collared shirt would do well.

Pay attention to the other details too. Is the interviewee wearing too much perfume or cologne? What about facial piercings? Grooming is just as important a part of presentation as attire.

In short, ask yourself the question – “Is this the type of image I’d want representing my company?”

Pay Attention to Body Language

Communication goes much further than just our words. When I interview someone, I’m not only verbally engaging with them, I’m paying attention to the person’s posture, demeanor and eye contact.

Those are just as important as verbal answers to your questions. An ideal interviewee would have a firm handshake and come across as confident, but not cocky. He or she wouldn’t be afraid to look at me in the eye and answer questions with a calm, collected demeanor.  And I’d pay attention to his or her posture too. Is the interviewee sitting upright, feet flat on the ground and not crossing his or her arms and fumbling with his or her hands?

Keep in mind, interviews can be stressful. So don’t rush to judgment here if a prospective employee is coming across as a little nervous. All of us tend to have some sort of bad habit when we’re in uncomfortable situations.

If you notice this, wait and see if it goes away as the interview moves along. Chances are the interviewee will get a little more comfortable with you in a short amount of time.

Try to Engage with the Interviewee beyond the Professional Level


If your company calls for strict, standardized interviews with no variation from to-be-asked questions, you might not be able to follow this route.

But for everyone else, one way to ease into an interview is to act less like an interviewer and more like just another human being.

Consider throwing in some small talk at the beginning of the interview. Maybe the weather has been nice lately. Or maybe you noticed something about the person’s résumé with which you can identify – a similar job to which you had or a school you might have gone to.

Taking this small step can help open up the prospective employee to a point where you can see whether or not he or she would be a good fit!

Ask Meaningful Questions

No interview would be complete without a series of questions you want to ask of the interviewee. But what kind of questions should you ask? Should they all be business related? Or is it a good idea to veer a bit and try to get to know the individual and not just how his or her experience relates to the company?

There isn’t any one correct answer to this. But you probably have a good idea what’s important to your company. And you’ll want to tailor your questions in this direction.

A few good questions might be:

  • Tell me a bit about yourself.

  • Why are you looking for a new job?

  • What career goals do you have?

  • Why do you want to work for Company X?

  • Describe your ideal work environment.

  • Tell me your biggest strength.

  • Tell me your biggest weakness.

  • Tell me about a time where you were confronted with a tough work-based decision. How did you handle it?

  • What do you like to do outside of work?

  • Do you have any questions for me?

Listen to each response and take key notes. Write down trigger words and phrases – like “teamwork,” “fast-paced” and “goals” – the prospective employee might say, and note the context.

But look in between the answers too. How is the interviewee going about answering your questions? Are there any answers that stand out in a good or bad way?

And it’s never a bad idea to review each and every one of your questions to determine whether or not they can be legally asked. When in doubt, leave it out of your interview.

Go with Your Gut


Do this long enough and, chances are, you’ll have the best interview with someone only to find out he or she isn’t a great employee. Or vice versa.

Someone might have a great interview but not be a great employee. And sometimes people who don’t interview well wind up being the best worker on your team. There’s no science behind it.

But, when in doubt, go with your gut. Did you have a good feeling about the person with whom you interviewed? If so, chances are that person would be a solid addition. If not, well, there’s your answer too.

The key is to ask yourself whether or not the interviewee would be an asset to your company and not a burden.

And don’t be afraid to think outside of the box either. Someone with less experience, but who is highly motivated, might be just as good – if not better – than someone with a lengthy, top-notch skill set.