Interviewing people isn’t a skill that always comes naturally to managers. While the person being interviewed has often prepared in advance to help calm their nerves, the same isn’t always true of the person asking the questions.

A little preparation can go a long way towards uncovering the answers most helpful to the interviewer and to the company. One of the most important things for the interviewer to keep in mind is that he or she is having a conversation with a purpose.

Prepare Notes, But Don’t Rely on Them During the Interview

Researching the person coming in for an interview is important, but this should be done in advance. A staff person other than the interviewer can be responsible for investigating this person’s background and then providing details to the hiring manager. However, many experts in the field of human resources feel it’s better not to use the notes while the actual interview takes place.

Forgoing written notes allows both parties to have a conversation that flows naturally. Top-notch interviewers have mastered the art of making the other person feel comfortable enough to show some vulnerability. Asking insightful questions and then truly listening to the answers is the best way to achieve this. This type of connection simply doesn’t happen when following a script.

Consider Past Behavior as a Predictor of Future Job Performance

Even when a person interviews for a job completely different than anything he or she has done in the past, looking at behavior, attitude, and contributions in earlier roles can be highly beneficial. The key is to look for patterns in the way the job candidate answers questions. A keen interviewer will pick up on things like treatment of co-workers, decision-making process, and goal orientation. By the end of the interview, the hiring manager should have a good idea of where the job candidate’s passions lie.

Critical incident interviewing is another useful tool for determining if a candidate is a good fit for the organization. This describes the process of asking the interviewee an initial question and then structuring subsequent questions to identify his or her true contributions to a project. This type of questioning shows the candidate’s approach to evaluating and solving problems.

Many companies today seek interview training for managers, recognizing that creating consistency for interviewers helps to prioritize what the organization is looking for in candidates.

Talk Less and Listen More

An interviewer can’t discover whether the candidate is right for the job if he or she is the one doing all the talking. One human resources expert recommends talking no more than 30 percent of the time. It’s important to practice active listening skills and ask clarifying questions to get to the most satisfactory answer. Interviewers also need to make their words count. For every general question, he or she should immediately follow-up with a probing one. The surface-level answers rarely provide enough depth about someone to know whether he or she would be a good fit for the company and the job.

With practice, interviewers will have a string of successful hires to their credit and very few regretful hiring decisions.