The first interview is a funny thing. It’s a bit like a first date but in many ways, has more riding on it.
This makes the opening questions really important. The wrong question can end up using way too much of the allotted time while adding very little value.
To be effective, an interview has to have some structure. I am not saying you need to run it with an hourglass, but thinking about how much time you want to devote to each question can provide a strong foundation for a good exchange of information.
It’s nice to start with a bit of an ice breaker. You can comment on the weather, ask if they found the office easily or if there was a lot of traffic, something innocuous and universal. It’s really just to warm up their voice and help you, the interviewer, shift gears from what you were doing before.
It’s tempting to launch into their career history with something like “tell me about yourself” or “how did you get here”. There is no doubt you will learn a lot about the candidate but it may not be the stuff that is relevant to the position you think (and hope) they can fill. You are also opening the door for a very long answer.
Think about a question with a more contained answer.
• Why are you interested in this role?
• What do you know about this role?
• Tell me about your current position.
This will give you more of a “here and now” starting point. You can then use that answer to tease out their skills profile and motivation and easily loop in things like how their education has contributed to their success and development.
You will still get all the information you need but you are less likely to lose a bunch of time at the front end hearing about their formative years as a server or fitness instructor.
Keep it moving and interesting – it will better for you and the candidate.