man and woman shaking hands in a job interview
From preparing questions beforehand to reducing mid-interview stress, there are many steps hiring managers can take to receive optimal results from job interviews. — Getty Images/LumiNola

As the job market improves and finding top talent becomes increasingly competitive, hiring the right person for your small business gets more and more difficult. Along with writing a great job description, the interview is one of the key parts of the hiring process where your small business gets the chance to stand out. A job interview is important both to assess a candidate and to convince the best one to stay.

[Read more: Hiring in a Competitive Market: 5 Ways to Recruit Top Talent]

How can you create an interview experience that helps you screen the best fit for your company while ensuring the right candidate says yes to you? Here are our top tips for conducting a great job interview.

Make it less stressful

At one time or another, we’ve all be on the other side of the table: the interviewee, instead of the hiring manager. Job interviews are the stuff of nightmares for some people. It’s your job as the interviewer to make the entire process less stressful.

This strategy works for two reasons. First, lowering a candidate’s anxiety increases the chances you’ll get to know them better. When a candidate feels more comfortable, the conversation will be more productive, professional and, ultimately, more telling of who they are as a person. Second, the candidate will connect better with you and your team in a low-pressure situation. If that person does end up being someone you want to bring on board, they’re more likely to say yes to you when you’ve made them feel at home.

Reduce stress by telling the candidate the topics you’d like to discuss in advance. The experts at Harvard Business Review suggest that you meet the person at a time that’s convenient to them, and tell them ahead of time about your company dress code. Try to lessen the number of unknowns going into the interview to ease anxiety.

Prepare your questions ahead of time

One mistake some small business owners make is to not think about the questions they want to ask until the interview begins. Refer back to your job description, as well as the candidate’s application, to write down questions ahead of time. The hiring experts at Robert Half suggest that you vary the style of questions you ask: Try using open-ended questions as much as possible that combine both hypothetical and behavioral scenarios. For example, to assess a candidate’s background, ask “Tell me about a time when you…” questions. For behavioral or attitude assessments, ask scenario-based (“A customer calls demanding a refund. How would you…”) questions.

[Read more: 'Why Should We Hire You?': Best Job Interview Questions to Ask Candidates]

Be transparent about what you expect from your employees and what you can offer.

Be forthcoming about the role and expectations

The interview is for the candidate as much as it is for you and your team. Engaged candidates who are sincerely interested in the opportunity will come to the interview with questions of their own. Just as you would expect a candidate to be forthcoming about their experience, you should treat your interviewee with the same courtesy.

It’s important to sell your company, but don’t promise something you can’t deliver. While you may not be able to offer a lucrative salary or benefits that compete with flashy startups, there are perks to joining your team. Be transparent about what you expect from your employees and what you can offer.

Keep your questions legal

Even when an interview is going great and conversation flows easily, remember there are some questions that are off the table. "To ensure you don't expose yourself to legal liability, stick to questions that pertain only to the candidate's job history, experience, education and skills," says one attorney.

Questions regarding age, race, gender, country or nationality, religion, disability and marital status are not allowed. Keep your questions focused on the job, work environment and on-the-job experience to protect yourself and your business from a discrimination lawsuit.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published August 27, 2019