How to Conduct an Effective, Objective Interview

By Michael Matalone

In order for a business to achieve its growth objectives, you need to ensure you have the right people in the right roles. Particular in those critical roles where you can’t afford the learning curve of someone who has never done what you need accomplished. With that in mind, keep these 3 objectives in mind when preparing and conducting your interviews:


The 7 P’s: Prior Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. This means you must prepare for your interviews. Stop winging it and never use the “gut” feel approach in the first interview.


There’s a time and place for that, but this isn’t it! Why: because behavioral science has proven that when you use this approach, you are simply comparing the candidate to yourself. And even if you are good at this gut feel approach, the person in the first interview is typically not even the real person. It’s their representative that they sent to get the job! The real person typically doesn’t show up until the 3rd interview or after you hire them. So remember this:



And that means they are trying their best to tell us everything they think we want to hear and some people are much better at this than you are at making a snap judgement and critical hiring decision. To that end, it’s also important to keep in mind that if you ask the right question, and the candidate knows the answer, they will tell you what they know.



The first interview has nothing to do with whether you like the person, nor should you take short cuts because they were highly recommended by a trusted advisor. Everyone must go through the same structured, objective process to determine if they possess the required knowledge to be successful in the role and if they are a good fit with their immediate supervisor and the company culture. And there is an appropriate time and place to determine each of these.

INTERVIEW #1 CAN THEY DO THE JOB: This interview is about determining if they possess the required knowledge to be successful in the role and if they qualify to come back for a 2nd interview where you will involve more hiring managers. Limit this interview to just 2 of your hiring managers and about 90 minutes with each person so you don’t waste you or anyone else’s time.

INTERVIEW #2 PART ONE- CAN THEY DO THE JOB: This interview is first about digging much deeper to confirm that they truly have the required knowledge to be successful in the role and how they compare to other candidates. Invest as much time as possible and involve as many other hiring managers as possible.

INTERVIEW #2 PART TWO – DO THEY WANT TO DO THE JOB: The 2nd interview is also the time to help them make as good of a decision as you are trying to make.  This means explaining precisely what resources they will or will not have, who the people are that they will be working with, what the company culture is and if this is a good fit for them.

INTERVIEW #3: ARE THEY A FIT WITH YOUR COMPANY CULTURE: The 3rd interview is mostly about finding out who they really are and if they will be a fit with their immediate supervisor, and the company’s culture. By the time they come back for a 3rd interview, they are now feeling confident and somewhat comfortable and will typically show up as themselves Vs the representative they sent to get the job. This can be VERY enlightening as they will often show their true colors which can help you make the right decision. I also suggest taking them for lunch or for a drink after work so you are in a neutral safe environment where you can observe the real them.


The best predictor of future success is past success. That being said, that does not automatically mean that because they were successful in the past, they will be successful again. Here are a few tips on exploring the probability of future success:

  1. Resources: you must ask what resources people had that helped them achieve their prior success. This may include people to delegate to, equipment/tools that were available to help them, budgets to purchase what was needed, etc. Ask them what resources they need to be successful. Then ask yourself if you are able to provide those things. If not, then they may not be able to reproduce their success.
  2. Motivation: Nothing happens unless the person is motivated to make things happen. They may possess all the knowledge, skills and behaviors (the 3 strengths that make someone consistent) to succeed in the role, however, if the person no longer has the motivation to put in the required effort, nothing will get done!  Perhaps they have already made their fortune – no real monetary motivation. Perhaps they have personal issues going on in their life that will distract them (illness, divorce, etc.), perhaps they are close to retirement and just don’t want to work that hard anymore. These are difficult things to determine in an interview which is why I suggest the 3 interviews, taking them out for lunch, dinner, and I have even seen companies bring the spouse in as part of the interview process.



As I stated earlier, candidates want to answer your question as best as they can. So remember the following:

  1. The Quality of the Question Dictates the Quality of the Response. Therefore you must ask great questions to get great responses. This means pre-determining your questions before the interview (don’t wing it). They must be open-ended questions Vs closed – yes or no answers. Please describe how you . . . . Vs have you . . . ? Ask for the specific details you are seeking that identify if they possess the required knowledge and skills to be successful in the role. This isn’t about seeing if the candidate can read your mind. If you ask for the details and they know the details, they will tell you what you want to know. And save your behavioral questions for Interview #2. In these critical roles, if they can’t do the job, their behavior is irrelevant!
  1. Response Guidelines: In addition to developing great interview questions, you also need to develop and agree upon response guidelines. How would any knowledgeable candidate respond to this question? This ensures that all of your hiring managers are in sync and can objectively evaluate candidates.
  1. The Only Way to Compare Candidates: Select 3 or 4 role specific questions that identify if they possess the required knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the role. You can ask as many other questions as necessary, but focus your first interview on these comparative questions. These will determine if they get to come back for a 2nd interview where you will spend as much time asking whatever else you like (as long as it meets EEOC guidelines).
  1. Two Great Questions for the First Interview: One of the top things that differentiates and identifies an “A” player from others is that they are always trying to improve themselves. They are always learning, unlearning, and relearning to be the best they can be. A way to identify this is to ask: What do you do to ensure your knowledge and skills are at the cutting edge of your profession? The response guideline may include: reading books, blogs, etc., continued training, live, webinars, etc., hired a coach, membership in a peer advisory group, etc. Then for each thing they say they have done, ask when it was, and what were some of the key learnings they acquired from it.


Tell me about Your Best Boss and Your Worst Boss and Why for each? If they describe your (immediate supervisor) management style as their worst boss, then I don’t care how much they know, how successful they have been, this is NOT going to work out. People don’t quit jobs, they quit managers!  How they describe their best boss is how they want to be managed. Ask yourself, can you accommodate that to help you decide if this will work out.


To learn more about this, download my e-book The Talent Gap: How to Get the Right Person in the Right Roles and sign up for a demo of the XP3 Talent System.