How Can Leaders Become Better Interviewers of Job Candidates?

Most leaders and hiring managers struggle with interviewing, Brandon Hall Group research shows. There are multiple causes:

  • Lack of training
  • Perceived lack of time to prepare for interviews
  • Lack of standard interview questions and practices
  • Perception by many managers that they know a good candidate when they see one and believe their “gut” will tell them who is a good hire

Top Challenges for Managing Candidate Experience

The challenges with leaders interviewing candidates encompass the entire hiring process. This ranges from the quality and accuracy of the position description regarding the competencies, skills, behaviors and experiences required, to the recruitment process, the assessment (or lack thereof) of candidates, structuring of the interview process and the information that recruiters provide to managers/leaders.

Hiring managers and higher-level leaders do better when there is a consistent, structured interview process.

Hiring managers and leaders struggle to get the information and insights they need to make the best possible hiring decisions, which contributes to too many “bad” hires. The lack of structure and consistency also causes some leaders/hiring managers to distrust the entire process, which reduces their focus and preparation when they must interview candidates.

  • What are the keys to a high-quality candidate interviewing process?
  • How do we enable our leaders/hiring managers to conduct interviews that get to the heart of a candidate’s strengths and suitability for hire?

The key to engaging leaders/hiring managers in the candidate-interview process is to present it as a problem-solving opportunity rather than merely an interview.

Prepare leaders to present candidates with problems they would face on the job. This plays to leaders’ strengths and interests. Leaders should ask candidates how they would resolve an issue. That requires candidates to provide specific answers that draw on their experiences and skills rather than giving vague answers to vague questions, which frequently occurs.

John Sullivan, author of 1,000 Ways to Recruit Top Talent, described the key to interviewing this way: “How do you hire a chef? Have them cook you a meal.” In other words, interviewers need to get to the heart of what they need the job candidate to do.

While cooking a meal works great for a chef, you can’t — for example — have financial analyst candidates build a budget in their interview. But you can ask them to suggest a solution, based on experience, to common or particularly critical problems they would encounter on the job.

Here are other strategies that, according to our research, can make leaders and hiring managers more effective interviewers:

Structure and standardize. Have a prepared set of questions interviewers are required to ask of every candidate for each role. Don’t allow anyone involved in interviewing candidates to eliminate any of the preapproved questions. It needs to be standard for all candidates applying for the same role.

ɤ You should give leaders the ability to ask additional questions, but not to replace the standard ones agreed upon by the organization. Giving all candidates the same amount of time to demonstrate or communicate their specific skill set and experiences is an excellent way to ensure fair hiring practices.

ɤ The required questions also reduce the amount of pre-interview preparation the leader or hiring manager must do while giving them the freedom to drill deeper. They can focus on what is most important to them — and ideally on those questions around solving specific challenges.

Train interviewers. It should go without saying that if you want your interviewers to follow a consistent process, you need to invest in training them and reinforcing that training through performance support, microlearning and other means, especially for leaders who do not interview regularly.

Prepare leaders for interviews. Whenever possible, call a short meeting with leaders/hiring managers before the interview and help them focus on the best ways to approach the interview.

Focus leaders on behavioral and situational questions. As much as possible, nonstandard questions should be behavioral and situational. Leaders deal with challenging scenarios every day, but do not often draw on them in interviews. Training should include how to frame behavioral and situational questions. Pre-interview prep should include helping leaders focus in on a few topics.


Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.