How to Start an Oral Interview

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A job candidate might look really great on paper, but at some point you're going to have to talk to her to make sure she's the best possible person to fill your open position. Whether conducted by a panel of hiring managers or in a one-on-one setting, or in a room with a dozen other candidates waiting nearby, the oral interview involves getting the candidate to talk about herself and to share the experiences that demonstrate she's a great fit. How you start the interview will set the tone for the rest of the interview, so take those first few moments seriously.

A quiet setting is essential to the success of your interview

Choose a quiet place that is as free of distractions as possible. Even if you work in a bustling office, find a corner where you'll be less likely to encounter noises or activity that can make it difficult for you and the job candidate to concentrate.

Welcome the candidate to the room -- or area -- and ask her to sit down. Smile and maintain an open, friendly posture while giving the candidate a few moments to get comfortable.

Start off with an "ice breaker," also called small talk. Ask the candidate if she is enjoying the weather or whether she had problems finding the office -- anything to lighten the mood a bit before you move into the challenging portion of the interview.

Explain any details about the interview that the candidate needs to know, such as skills assessments she may have to take or how long the interview is expected to last.

If you're recording the interview for other people to listen to later on, ask the candidate to say and spell her name. This allows you to have a record of the person's identity, should you lose your notes and need to recall certain information by listening to the recording. Depending on the nature of the interview, you may also want to state the date and the location of the interview, so it's saved on the recording.

Start your line of questioning with a relatively easy question, such as "tell me what you know about our company" or "tell me why you want to work here." This gets the candidate talking without having to dive in too deeply at the start of the interview.


  • If you're the job candidate, allow the hiring manager with whom you're interviewing to take the lead throughout the process. Be friendly and cordial and thank the manager for the opportunity to be there, but allow the manager to be the first person to start asking questions and making small talk.