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How to be a good interviewer: A guide for hiring managers

First impressions matter, so to secure the highest quality candidate for your vacancy, it is essential that any hiring manager presents a professional, warm and welcoming persona. This will help candidates to feel at ease and confident about their decision to apply for a role within your organisation.

The life sciences industry undoubtedly offers fast-paced and exciting career prospects for talented candidates but has, over recent years, been plagued by vacancies [1]. The failure to fill those vacancies stifles progress and innovation. One significant reason as to why vacancies remain unfilled is that of candidate dropouts during the recruitment process.

As a hiring manager, it is your job to ensure that your candidates don’t end up among the circa 70% of recruitment process dropouts who blame the interview process or interviewer for their withdrawal [2].

Why are candidates withdrawing applications?

The principal reasons cited by candidates for withdrawing their applications after an interview are:

1. Dissatisfaction with the interview or assessment process. This includes questions deemed inappropriate for the level or type of role, repetitive questioning, interviewers adhering too rigidly to a script or asking candidates to disclose competitor information.

2. Recruiter’s behaviour or attitude. This includes a personality clash or simply feeling comfortable in the hiring manager’s presence, often resulting from behaviour that strikes the candidate as rude, aggressive or arrogant.

Understanding the potential reasons as to why a candidate may wish to withdraw will enable you to tailor your behaviour and questioning accordingly, minimising the attendant risks.

Planning for an interview

Just as a candidate needs to prepare for an interview, so too do you as an interviewer. Do take the time to review the applications and CVs of the candidates. You will need to fully familiarise yourself with the role to be filled and prepare specific and appropriate questions.

It is essential that you ensure your interviewing and diversity training is entirely up to date and that you understand the parameters and boundaries for questions that are appropriate for the role under consideration. If a second interviewer or independent HR or functional expert is to join you in the interviews, meeting prior to the interview is beneficial. Agree upon the questions, who will ask them, what notes will be taken and by whom and the criteria against which candidates will be assessed. This will ensure a fair and level playing field for all candidates.

If your organisation is a startup or scaleup biotech firm with a heavy dependence on venture capital funding, an investor may wish to sit in on the interviews. Where this is deemed not to disadvantage any particular candidate, and their role is clearly defined, the investor’s experience and insights can often be a beneficial addition to the interview process.

During the interview

It is perfectly normal to feel nervous upon entering an interview. After all, you are ultimately responsible for choosing the right person for the role, and getting this wrong can have far-reaching ramifications.

However, it is crucial that you project a relaxed and confident persona. Candidates will consciously or subconsciously pick up on any nerves which may adversely affect their own performance, compounding the sense of stress which is routinely present at interview. It may also lead them to question the culture of the firm, perhaps conveying a sense of undue pressure from your leadership team.

As the interview starts, you will need to welcome each candidate and introduce yourself and anyone else that is present in the room, explaining each person’s role, both in the organisation and in the context of the interview. You should explain how the interview will be structured and let the candidate know when they will be able to ask questions. Ideally, offer the candidate water or a hot drink as this can help to put them at their ease.

During the interview, it is crucial to be aware of the candidate’s body language at all times, together with your own and that of any fellow interviewers. It is very easy for the mind to wander, albeit briefly, but this may occur at a crucial point and sends a disinterested signal which may trigger the candidate to disengage. Referring to the earlier comments on maintaining a level playing field, it is crucial that you ask the same questions of all candidates. That being said, you should be willing to go off script and pursue any particularly interesting or relevant lines of questioning that arise as part of a natural conversation with each candidate.

At the conclusion of the interview, you should thank the candidate for attending and explain the timeline and process that will follow to appoint a successful candidate, and to provide unsuccessful candidates with feedback.

After the interview

Your role as an interviewer is by no means over when the last candidate leaves the room. You will need to take the time to meet with any additional interviewers or independent assessors after the interviews have concluded. As part of this process, you must ensure that you review the interview notes for each candidate and assess the extent to which each candidate compares against the pre-agreed hard and soft assessment criteria for the role.

It really is vital that you adhere to the timeline and process communicated to candidates, advising each applicant of the outcome of the interview and providing any feedback that may help them to improve their performance for future interviews. Depending upon your own organisational and HR processes, you should contact your preferred candidate by telephone to offer them the position, before following up in writing with further details.

Help is available

If your interview panel needs further training or support from one of our recruitment experts in order to present a confident and polished performance, please contact ScaleX Consulting today to discuss the services that we can offer to help your business to improve its recruiting process. Book a Consultation

If you found this insight interesting, we recommend reading 5 Reasons to Hire a Non-Executive Director (NED)



ScaleX Consulting offer trusted business consulting and recruitment services to life sciences and biotech companies, ready to take the next step in their journey, particularly with life science recruitment, sales and marketing.