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Tips to Help Candidates Relax in Job Interviews

29 Nov 19 by Jason Bishop

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Your IT recruitment search involves many essential facets, from crafting the right recruitment materials, to ensuring you have an expert interview panel that will help you make that all-important candidate choice. But have you given much thought to how vital it is to put candidates at ease during interviews?


There are a host of reasons why it’s imperative to understand how to make someone feel comfortable during an interview. The most obvious is that a comfortable candidate is more likely to open up and show you their true self, allowing you to accurately evaluate their personality, experience and skillset for your role.


Learning how to give a relaxed interview also presents you with an opportunity to keep your employer brand and reputation intact. Candidates will be assessing you just as much as you’re assessing them, so it’s in your best interest to ensure your recruitment experience stands out above others. This way, when it’s time for top tech talent to pick between job offers, you will likely be the employer of choice. 


Here are five essential interview tips to place your interviewees at ease and allow you to make an informed decision about the right one for your role.

1. ‘Pre-Prep’ Candidates

Nerves are natural. But they can sometimes stop a great candidate from conveying their true personality and potential. One way to alleviate this is to provide interviewees with a short rundown of what your interview process involves.

Aside from the basics (date, time and location), consider telling them:

  • Who will be on your interview panel and their role within your company
  • The types of questions they can expect
  • Whether they need to complete any tests or assessments
  • Any extra tips you can offer in relation to logistics, such as parking (after all, finding an easy parking spot can go a long way towards reducing excess nerves!)

2. Ensure Your Interview Room is Comfortable

IT recruitment interviews may take an hour or more, so it’s important to consider the space you’ll be using. Do you have comfortable chairs? Is the lighting right (i.e. no flickering bulbs or blinding sunlight)? Is it overly hot or cold? Will staff be able to interrupt you?


It’s also a good idea to think about your interview seating configuration. Setting up interviewers in panel formation with the candidate facing you can be quite intimidating for them. Instead, think about using a setting that’s similar to how IT teams actually work. Mirroring this set-up may help put the candidate at ease. Perhaps you’ll all be seated at a round or rectangular table, or you might opt to do away with the table entirely and set up chairs next to each other in a semi-circle.


It’s also essential that interviewees have your undivided attention, as this clearly illustrates the respect you have for their time. It’s very easy to get distracted by a text message or email notification, so switch your phone to silent, and shut down your email and messaging systems on your computer. If you need to keep in contact with colleagues, aim to do so between interviews.

3. Nurture Their Nerves on the Day

When greeting candidates for an interview, try not to keep them waiting for an excessive period. This only allows those dreaded nerves to build up. If you are running late, arrange for a staff member to let them know.


If you can see the candidate is visibly nervous, you can say something along the lines of ‘We understand you might be nervous, but that’s perfectly fine. Just take a steadying breath and we’ll get to it.’ Then set about establishing a rapport with some small talk about their journey in, or the classic, ‘Tell me what you like to do in your spare time’. As they speak about something relatively low stakes, their nerves should abate somewhat, so you can then move onto the meatier questions.

4. Practise Active Listening

Active listening is a fantastic way to show the interviewee you’re 100% engaged in what they have to say. This gives them a wonderful confidence boost. This is done non-verbally and with positive body language such as natural eye contact, smiling, nodding and angling your body in their direction.


But it is also done verbally by utilising these communication mechanisms:

Refrain from over-talking – It can be very easy to over-talk about your role. But the more you talk, the less you learn (which is the main point of a recruitment interview).


Activate your listening time – When the candidate is talking, listen and absorb. It can be hard not to get distracted by what you want to say next but doing this may mean you miss golden opportunities to ask follow-up questions, or crucial information imparted by the candidate.


Use open-ended questions – For example, the question “Do you enjoy programming in Python or Java?” will likely elicit a shorter reply. But “What is your favourite programming language and why?” should get the candidate talking in more - and often animated - detail, allowing you to remain quiet and actively listen.


Avoid interrupting or ‘sentence-stealing’ – When an interviewee is responding to a question, try not to jump in, or finish off their sentence so you can ask the next one.


Ask clarifying questions – If the candidate says something particularly interesting or unexpected, ask them to elaborate on their answer to ensure you’re clear. For example, “Can we go back to what you said about your time working with the large Scrum team? Can you tell me more about that?”


Another technique is to paraphrase their answer by saying “So I think this is what you’re saying …. Am I correct?” This gives them ample opportunity to restate to ensure their meaning gets across.

5. End on a Positive Note

While the formal interview may be over, the impression you and your company leave on the candidate endures. Therefore, it’s important that you advise them of the next steps, including when they should expect to hear back from you or your recruitment agency, and stick to it. Dragging the process out may spoil all the great work you’ve done during recruitment to form a stellar impression of your company.

Need More Help?

We hope you enjoyed these five interview tips about how to make someone feel comfortable during an interview. By following these steps and putting candidates at ease, you clearly show top IT talent you’re invested in who they are and what they offer your company, exponentially increasing the chances they’ll want to come on board.


Should you need further advice about interviewing tech candidates, please let us know as we’d love to help. You might also like to review our articles about how to spot interview fraudsters, and assessing candidates for cultural fit to ensure you’re making the most of your recruitment interviews.