How to Conduct an Interview Like a Boss

Milo Goodman
Published in
6 min readOct 14, 2019


Quality creative candidates can be hard to find and even harder to recruit. As a hiring manager, it’s up to you to identify and engage the best of the best. Though attracting and retaining top talent poses a challenge for many organizations, you can get ahead by mastering the art of the job interview.


There are two main types of questions that interviewers rely on:

  • Competency-based interview questions, which can be used to assess the candidate’s current skill set.
  • Strength-based interview questions, which help to highlight the candidate’s preferences and natural aptitudes.

In sum, competency-based questions show what the candidate can do while strength-based questions reveal what they want to do. Depending on the position you’re hiring for, one may be a better choice, or you may want to implement both.

Competency-Based Questions

Putting together a list of the abilities that are required for the role can help you come up with competency-based inquiries. For example, if you’re seeking someone with an aptitude for leadership, ask the candidate to describe a project that succeeded under their direction. Be sure to develop and define clear selection criteria to use as a framework for your questions.

Strength-Based Questions

Ask candidates about what comes naturally to them, how their colleagues would describe them, and what they like to do in their spare time. Their answers will give you a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of their personality, what motivates them, and how their values fit into their work.


Read Me First

It may seem obvious, but thoroughly reviewing the candidate’s résumé can help you prepare relevant questions about their experiences and stated skills. If you make the (surprisingly common) mistake of overlooking their résumé, you won’t just have a less productive interview — you’ll appear unprepared and potentially put off the prospective employee.

Search, Surf, and Social

Want to go beyond the résumé? Good idea; they’re rarely an accurate representation of a candidate’s full story. Looking up the candidate’s name on your search engine of choice can provide you with a wealth of information — from their personal website to their LinkedIn headline. Assessing their online presence can give you a better picture of the candidate and whether or not they’d be a good fit in your organization.


Mistake 1: Trusting First Impressions

Many interviewers rely on first impressions when evaluating job applicants. It’s important to remember that interviews can be nerve-wracking, even for the most capable candidates. If they’re visibly anxious, try not to let it influence your judgment. On the flip side, interviewees can appear confident and competent despite a lack of skills and experience. Keep in mind that first impressions can also be influenced by unconscious bias, which can lead to discrimination based on the candidate’s age, gender, race, or other immutable characteristics.

Mistake 2: Lacking Transparency

Other interviewers fail to be transparent about the hiring process, the role’s day-to-day responsibilities, and company practices. It’s crucial to be as clear and honest as possible with the candidate throughout the entire interview process. Setting expectations that align with the realities of the job can promote trust and reduce turnover. Research shows that well-informed candidates are less likely to be dissatisfied with their experience, so transparency can positively shape your company’s reputation and help you attract and retain top talent.

Mistake 3: Ignoring Personality Fit

While experience and skills come first, interviewers need to ensure that candidates will be able to adapt to the workplace and its culture, values, and work patterns. Every company has its own delicate ecosystem, and a bad match could result in a ripple effect of unintended consequences. Consider the organization’s culture and determine the ideal candidate’s characteristics and traits. During the interview, watch for both verbal and non-verbal cues to see if there’s a good fit.


Put the Spotlight on Soft Skills

A well-rounded candidate will have more than just the creative and technical prowess needed for the job; they’ll possess soft skills like diplomacy, time management, and self-motivation. While core competencies like technical expertise and analytical thinking have undeniable value, they usually aren’t enough on their own. In fact, in the LinkedIn Global Talent Trends 2019 survey, 92% of talent professionals said they believe that soft skills are equally or more important than hard skills.

Use Behavioral and Situational Questions

To assess soft skills in an interview, ask behavioral and situational questions that have candidates draw on their past experiences. Behavioral questions such as “Describe a time you worked effectively under pressure,” and “Tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you handled it,” prompt candidates to draw on their past experiences and can help you assess their potential future performance. Situational questions like “How would you handle a conflict on your team?” and “What would you do if you were asked to perform a task you’ve never done before?” reveal how the candidate will react under specific circumstances. Be sure to tailor the questions to the role so you can easily determine whether they’re a good fit. Though soft skills can be hard to quantify, the interviewee’s body language and answers will shed some light on their capabilities.


With the employment market improving and the amount of qualified job-seekers dwindling, competition for good candidates is fiercer than ever. When conducting an interview, it’s critical to keep in mind that it’s a two-way street. There are a number of ways you can set your organization apart from the rest and win over top talent.

Make A Real Connection

Rather than reading questions off a script, try to connect on a personal level with candidates. A recent study says that 80% of candidates would choose one job over another based on the emotional connections formed during the interview process. Even if you have a highly-structured interview process, make time to build rapport through natural conversation. It could make a world of difference: over half of job seekers say that meeting authentic and genuine people during the interview process helps them develop a feeling of positive connection with the company.

Answer Their Questions

Be prepared for candidates to ask about anything and everything — and take the time to provide a comprehensive response. Not only will your answers will help them better understand the role and organization, but it’s a sign of a strong candidate. “Without fail, the best candidates I’ve interviewed have always asked insightful questions,” says Jeremy Osborn, our Academic Director. “I take it as a good thing when someone asks me something surprising; it shows that they’ve done prior research and have critical thinking skills.”

Be Communicative

It’s important to communicate regularly with candidates, whether they get the job or not. More than half of candidates report frustration with the lack of communication from companies during the interview process. Plus, 94% want to receive interview feedback, and they’re 4 times more likely to consider the organization for a future opportunity when it’s provided. Leaving them in limbo can quickly turn a positive experience into a negative one, affecting both the candidate’s perception of your organization and your reputation as a whole.

Highlight Work Perks

You can also sweeten the deal by highlighting your company’s culture. Do you offer unlimited vacation time, opportunities for professional development, fun employee outings, or free lunch on Fridays? Even the option of working from home can be a game-changer; in a 2018 survey by Aquent and Vitamin T, one out of every three employees said flexible working was one of the main reasons they took their current job. Benefits, no matter how small they may seem, have the potential to make the position more appealing and set you apart from your competitors.

Interested in learning more about interviewing creative candidates? Aquent and Vitamin T put together this handy guide to simplify the art of the interview. From using company profiles for recruitment to managing team interviews, it has tips and tricks for all stages of the process.