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How to Prepare for Your First Interview as a New Manager

Topics: Career Advice
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At the start of your career, prepping for job interviews is a frequent hurdle. After you figure out how to pull together your resume and learn how to answer tricky interview questions, you land a job — and then hopefully, start to progress and secure a promotion.

Suddenly you’re a new manager, with new responsibilities which now include interviewing candidates for roles on your team. With that shift, the roles are swiftly reversed. For the first time in your career you are the one who will be posing the interview questions and assessing candidates.

If you’re a new manager, prepping for your first candidate interviews can be exciting and daunting. To help you hit the ground running, three talent acquisition leaders at Viacom, Tinder and WORK180 share their advice on how to navigate the interview process.

Getting Ready for the Interview Process

If it’s your first time conducting an interview as a new manager, schedule time with your HR team to review best practices, protocols and policies. It’s important to receive training on the questions you cannot ask by law, which include questions about race, nationality, gender, family status, age, religion and disability. In addition, your state may have specific legislation you need to adhere to — for example, in some states it’s illegal to ask about salary history.

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When you have been fully briefed on your firm’s recruitment protocols, you will be ready to schedule the required steps of the interview process. As you work through this, it’s important to take necessary steps to minimize unconscious bias.

Sarah Cooper is the Head of People and Culture at WORK180, a global jobs network that features the best workplaces for women. One of the key strategies implemented at WORK180 includes evaluating each resume the same way. “We ask the same interview questions to each candidate while ensuring we have a diverse interview panel throughout the process,” Cooper explains.

Kacey Short, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager at Tinder agrees. “There are several things that you can do to design practices to interrupt the role of unconscious bias,” Short advises. “These include making the processes more objective, using structured interviews and predetermining evaluation criteria.”

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Debbie Douglas, a Senior Recruiting Manager on the Talent Acquisition team at Viacom Media Networks advocates using the job description and required qualifications as a foundation for your interview questions.

“Craft open-ended questions which help you to assess skills specific to the needs of the job and also elicit the most out of the question,” recommends Douglas. “Behavioral based questions also help to see how a candidate would respond to situations on the job, as they usually have to provide examples on how they responded in past situations or future scenarios. It helps you to understand how they may approach future job tasks and duties.”

Consistency is key. Assess all candidates in the same manner and ensure all prospects are going through the same recruitment process, questions, assignments and interview panel. If you are part of an interview panel, make sure to schedule time with the interview team in advance so everyone is prepared and ready to go. You will also need to schedule time at appropriate intervals to gather feedback and plan next steps.

Setting Up Your Candidates for Success

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In addition to solidifying your interview process and questions, you should make sure your candidates have the information they need to be successful. This includes confirming who the candidate will be interviewing with, who they should ask for on arrival and providing directions and parking information to expedite their arrival. Devoting time to making sure their experience is a positive one from start to finish will make your company stand out.

It’s also important to remember interviewing is a two-way process and candidates will be assessing their experience just as closely. Ensure you curate the best environment for your interview meetings. If it’s an in-person interview, the space you choose for interviewing candidates should be private, well-lit, comfortable and conducive to conversation. If you will be on the phone or on video, make sure you’re in a private meeting space with good audio, connectivity and minimal distractions.

One of the basic rules for candidates also applies to interviewers. Be on time. Running late gives the impression that the applicant’s time is not important to you. When you show up, don’t be rushed, get in the zone and be prepared.

Always block out 30 minutes in your diary before the candidate arrives,” recommends Sarah Cooper at WORK180. “This gives you time to read perhaps previous interview notes, their resume and the interview questions that you’ll be asking. There’s nothing worse for the candidate if you arrive late or are running from another meeting with no time to prepare, as it can unsettle the candidate even further.”

As the interviewer, your demeanor and body language will set the tone for your interaction. The candidate will likely take cues from you to get a sense of how they are doing. Make your candidate feel comfortable from the outset. Greet them with a smile. Make eye contact. Shake hands.

During the interview, continue to pay close attention to your candidate’s responses and use your body language to communicate your interest in the conversation. Avoiding eye contact, fidgeting, crossing your arms or slouching can send negative signals loudly and clearly.

Kacey Short at Tinder encourages new managers who are interviewing candidates for the first time to use empathy. “Think back on your experiences as a candidate interviewing for a role, especially at the beginning of your career,” Short suggests. “This environment is stressful at its baseline so the more you go out of your way to make the interviewee feel welcome and comfortable, the more you’re setting them up for success.”

Sarah Cooper at WORK180 says that making the candidate feel at ease will also benefit new managers who may be nervous about interviewing for the first time. “It can be a nerve-wracking experience for both parties, Cooper acknowledges. “Relax and enjoy the interview as you’ll get to meet some amazing candidates.”

To give you the opportunity to focus, it’s best practice to prevent any potential distractions during the interview. Don’t check your phone or computer. Your focus should be on the candidate and nothing else. Regardless of how the interview goes, treat all your candidates with respect and close the interview in a positive manner. Allow time for them to ask questions and explain next steps. Don’t forget to thank the person for their time.

Your end goal is for candidates to leave feeling excited about your company and the opportunity to work with you. If you’re professional, prepared, enthusiastic and authentic, you will make a good impression on your next employee from the outset.

Closing Out Your Interview Process

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We all know what it feels like to have completed an intense round of interviews, and then being required to wait patiently for the outcome, which can feel like eternity.

“It’s very important to prepare a timeline and communicate that to the candidate during the interview,” Sarah Cooper at WORK180 advises. “This will manage the candidate’s expectations. This will also commit you as a manager to respond and provide an update or outcome.”

We all get busy and it can be overwhelming to get back to everyone. However, candidate experience is critical,” Debbie Douglas at Viacom Media Networks states. “At the very least, ensure the candidate receives a response to their follow-up emails, notes or calls with a status of their candidacy. Managing expectations of the prospective candidates can make a difference on whether they speak positively or negatively about their experience with your company.”

Timing is also critical to help ensure you secure the strongest candidate for your role. It’s important to debrief with the hiring team within 48 hours of the onsite interview to ensure everyone’s voice is heard and there is transparency in decision making,” Kacey Short at Tinder proposes. “Once the team makes their decision, I suggest getting on the phone with the candidate as soon as possible. Speed will give you a leg up on your competition and it shows you respect the candidate’s time.”

As a new manager, filling your position will be an important achievement, but Debbie Douglas at Viacom Media Networks says don’t forget about the candidates who didn’t receive an offer this time.

“When closing out the position, ensure the other candidates are made aware that they are no longer in consideration and thank them for their interest,” Douglas concludes. “If they were viable candidates encourage them to apply for future roles that fit their skills and experience level. Keeping the lines of communication open for high-caliber past candidates can result in future hires of these pipeline prospects.”

Completing your first round of candidate interviews as a new manager is an important milestone in your career. It’s important to be prepared and be professional throughout the process. But you should also remember it’s a valuable opportunity to have conversations, build connections and cultivate relationships with people in your industry. The recruitment process, for companies and candidates, is often perceived as time-consuming, stressful and exhausting, but in addition to connecting you to the right person for your team, it’s a great way to enhance your professional development.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you a new manager? We want to hear from you. Share your biggest challenges in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Octavia Goredema is a career coach and the founder of Twenty Ten Talent. Find her on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @OctaviaGoredema.

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