This article, “Interviewing: The Mutual Selection Process,” was originally released by Money Inc. and is reproduced with permission here.

Today, the hiring process can feel a lot like dating; extending and accepting an offer is the start of a new relationship. While part of the interviewing process is the organization evaluating the candidate, an equally important part is the candidate evaluating the organization. The best relationships stem from a mutual excitement for what each other are doing, as well as shared values, work ethics and goals. Here are some tips to evaluating talent as well as assessing whether or not a company/organization may be a right fit for your career path.

For the interviewer

Prepare your questions

Before meeting with candidates, prepare a list of questions to cover. Remember to not only ask questions related to the role you’re interviewing for, but also specific questions to uncover if this is the type of candidate you’re looking for. To do so, begin with a list of required attributes. For inspiration, look to top performers and/or employees at your company. What qualities do they possess? What do they do well and how do they do it? Creating this set of attributes will assist you in drafting relevant questions to ask during the interview process.

Time to access potential

It takes time to evaluate a candidate. Don’t rush the interview process. You’re not going to get a complete picture of someone’s work ethic in 10 minutes. Set aside at least one hour for the first interview. This amount of time will allow you to sit down with the person and dive into questions that will assist you in learning more about his/her potential and competency. Ask questions that will push the candidate to reveal their curiosity, insight and engagement with the subject matter and the role he or she is interviewing for. Inquire about current trends they’re seeing, past challenges or struggles at their current role, and examples of successful initiatives they’ve driven to completion. Go beyond the “what are your strengths and weaknesses” questions. Discerning how a candidate would handle real situations is a great way to get them thinking quickly and to see how they would approach a potential challenge.

Second half is for selling the job

It’s always good to start the interview learning more about the candidate. The second half of the interview, if you feel the candidate is worth continuing the conversation with, is to spend the time selling the role and your company. Be bold if you’re really interested in the candidate and share why he or she would be a good fit for the position. Give an honest picture of what the organization is like and share how they’d be a cultural fit. Share some of the perks they’d experience as well as the growth path they’d be on, if they got the position.

For the interviewee

Understand what you want

When job hunting, it can feel as though you don’t have any power. You get chosen to be interviewed, you get chosen to come back or not, you don’t get to decide if you deserve an offer, etc. But know that as the interviewee, you do hold power in the job search. You decide whether or not you agree with the company’s mission, future plans or current client roster. If you get invited back for a second interview, make sure you felt that the company was good fit based on the first interview. It’s a waste of everyone’s time if you know it’s not going to be a position you would seriously consider. And at the end of the day, if you receive an offer, you get to decide to accept or politely decline.

An engaging conversation

The most rewarding interviews are a give and take. Prepare as much as you can to discuss the company, the role, your background, trends, the reason you’re interested in the role and more. Companies are looking to hire engaged employees; those who have taken the time to understand and go a bit beyond for the role they are applying for will appear most engaged and capable.. Without this preparation, interviews can feel like a one-sided exchange. To have a fluid conversation will not only set you apart, but demonstrate your commitment to your career, the opportunity, and more.

Beware of common pitfalls

You’ve prepared your questions, done your research, and are ready for your interview. But it’s not just the information you’ve prepared that will seal the deal. There are a few areas where people may fall and limit their success in the interview process:

  1. Body language: It’s something so very simple, but negative body language can completely sabotage your interview. You want to make sure you are poised, engaged and relaxed (no slouching!)
  2. Subjects to avoid: You may know the points you want to discuss, but what about those you should avoid? It’s best to never be negative about a current employer. There’s always a way to spin your experience to note you want more opportunities to grow, or that you’re looking for a more collaborative environment. This is a more positive impression to leave on your interviewer than if you are directly negative about your current or former workplace. You never know who your interviewer may know. Also, financial issues, resumé buzzwords (e.g. “outside the box”) and revealing too much personal information (yes, your trip to the Jersey Shore last summer might not be relevant!) are topics you should save for drinks with your friends.
  3. Don’t be late: A very simple concept, yet one that people tend to often forget: don’t be late! According to the “Five Minute Rule,” you should be in the office where your interview is taking place at least 5 minutes prior to your interview. This doesn’t mean you’re in the parking lot 5 minutes before the interview. You should be ready and waiting in the reception area. Your timeliness is something you can control and has an significant impact on your first impression.

About the Author