There are thousands of articles that detail in great length how to deal with a job interview. The vast majority of them are aimed at the interviewee, but what about the interviewer? If you are the founder of a startup, getting the right staff onboard is critical. They can make or break a startup.

Knowing the right techniques for interviewing is just as critical for the interviewer as it is for the interviewee, if not even more so! The founder of a startup needs to be a jack-of-all-trades, and that includes being their own HR department. Chances are, if you are an entrepreneur just launching your first startup then this is not where your skill base lies.

This article is full of essential dos and don’ts that all startup founders should use to ensure their business sets out on the right foot, with the right staff to see it through that frantic startup period.

1) Preparation is everything

Entrepreneur tying tie in preparation for interview
Entrepreneur tying tie in preparation for interview

You wouldn’t expect the interviewee to come to an interview unprepared and the same rule should always apply to the interviewer. Don’t squeeze interviews in a cramped time slot between two important meetings, make sure you have plenty of time set aside and you are free from distractions such as phone calls for the duration.

It is also essential that the job description is accurate and honest, if you expect the employee to tackle other tasks other than their main job, as most startups do, let them know this in the job description.

Preparation also means learning as much about the potential employee as you can before the interview, read their resume thoroughly beforehand and note any points that you would like more information about.

Remember, you are selling your firm to them as much as they are selling themselves to you, appearing unprepared and flustered during an interview is not good practice.

2) Don’t talk too much

It is understandable that you want to wax lyrical about your startup, it is your baby after all, but it is easy to get carried away. This isn’t a sales pitch, the person you are interviewing should already be sold on your company mission. Obviously, you want to let them know about what your company is, and what your vision of the future of the business is. But you need to get the right people onboard and that is the true purpose of the interview.

Keep your own pitch brief and to the point, the bulk of the interview should always consist of listening to what the interviewee has to say, not the other way round.

3) Ask tough questions

It is essential that you know the candidate cannot just survive in the high-octane, high-pressure environment of the startup, but can thrive in those conditions. One sure way to see how they react under pressure is to throw some tough questions at them during the interview. Judging how people react to pressure situations is a crucial takeaway from any interview.

Interviewees should be well prepared for any interview and will likely have answers rehearsed and ready for most common interview questions, throw in a curve ball and check how they react to it.

4) Involve other staff members

It may be tempting to perform interviews on a one-to-one basis. However, involving existing staff members in the process is always a good idea, particularly as they could end up as work colleagues. Having that extra person or persons involved in the process lets you get a better and more rounded feel for the applicant, they might notice aspects of the interview that you didn’t, and it also gives them a feel as to whether they could work with the applicant or not. In small scale startup enterprises this is crucial.

5) Observe as well as listen

Entrepreneur conducting interview via video call
Entrepreneur conducting interview via video call

You can tell a lot from the body language of the applicant, someone who is hand wringing and constantly foot tapping, could mean a lack of confidence. Lack of eye contact is another warning sign, this could be a sign of shyness or an unwillingness to make a connection.

Often, you can tell a lot from an applicant by watching how they behave during the course of an interview, and in some instances it can be this judgement that separates otherwise similar candidates.

6) Ask open questions

Many interviewers prepare a list of questions that aren’t going to tell you anything but stats. Questions like “Do you have such and such a qualification?” are fine for establishing the paper credentials of a candidate, but don’t tell you much else. Ask open questions that demand more than simple yes or no answers. Questions such as “Tell me what you enjoyed about your last job?” forces the interviewee to expand on an answer and allows you to gauge their personality more accurately.

A good mixture of questions that glean the right information and allow you to make a better character assessment is vitally important in an interview.

7) Give the candidate a chance to ask questions

This mistake happens more often than you’d think, but allowing the candidate to ask questions during or at the end of an interview is useful, not just for the candidate but for the interviewer.

Candidates who don’t ask questions or have some pre-prepared formulaic questions to ask are likely not that interested. Those who are enthusiastic and keen are likely to have specific and relevant questions to ask.

8) Put some real-world scenarios in front of them

This is often overlooked during an interview, but employees often have to deal with difficult situations in times of real stress. It doesn’t get more stressful than an interview, challenge the candidate by giving them a scenario and ask how they would deal with the situation.

The whole point of the interview is to get the right person for your startup’s needs. Missing this step can leave you with a large hole in your knowledge of the candidate.

The interview is your one chance to grab that perfect employee. A half-hearted, ill-thought-out interview is unlikely to give you the right information you need to make a properly informed decision. Plan your interview, research the candidates, ask the right questions, listen and observe and you will go a long way to securing the staff team you need to propel your startup upwards.

What questions do you usually ask in an interview? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.