Though a recent survey of PrimePay clients indicated that most small business owners don’t plan to do any additional hiring for the summer months, finding and retaining quality employees remains a consistent challenge we hear about.

As one of PrimePay’s Talent Acquisition Managers, I’ve used my experiences to put together some top tips for a successful interview to help you fill your team with amazing people.


Just as job seekers prepare for an interview, so should you as the interviewer. It is important for you to make sure to have a clear understanding of the job at hand, the team/company culture, and how the employee will be measured for success. 

It is also beneficial to have effective interview questions prepared in advance and to ensure that the interview environment (whether that be your office or a conference room) is organized and tidy. I always suggest that employers dress business professional and refrain from using any electronic devices during the interview.  First impressions are very important to the candidate as well.

General interview order

If you’re just hiring your first employee (yay!) or if you don’t have much experience with the process, here’s a good overview of how to structure the conversation:

  • What prompted the candidate to apply to your position?
  • Overview of resume/work experience/metrics/any gaps in employment.
  • Incorporate behavioral event questions (see examples below).
  • Review the job description and structure of team.          
  • Answer questions prepared by the candidate. 
  • Close the interview.

Behavioral questions

Adding behavioral event questions into an interview process is a proven way to get to know a candidate’s true problem-solving, decision-making and communication skills.  Below are a few examples of behavioral event questions that I use during an interview:

  • Give me an example of a time when you had to be quick in coming to a decision. What obstacles did you face?
  • What is the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make at work? How did you arrive at your decision? What was the result?
  • Talk about a time when you had to work closely with someone whose personality was very different from yours.
  • Tell me about a time you were under a lot of pressure. What was going on, and how did you get through it?
  • Tell me about a time you needed to get information from someone who wasn’t very responsive. What did you do?

Questions NOT to ask

When you’re getting to know your candidate and the conversation is flowing, it can be easy to accidentally slip in some questions that might actually be illegal.

Before asking any question during an interview, ask yourself:  Is this information really needed in order to judge a candidate’s competence or qualifications for the job at hand? 

Avoid these topics: Age, gender, citizenship, disabilities, marital status/family, military background (unless experience is job-related), sexual orientation, arrest record, religion, political affiliation or nationality. Also included in this list would be irrelevant questions (ex. If you could describe yourself as any animal, what would it be?).

Tips to remember

Attitude is everything. You look for excitement and positivity in a candidate, so you should radiate the same vibes during the conversation. Smile and be positive.

Don’t forget about the importance of small talk.This will help the candidate feel more comfortable with you and hopefully help dissipate any nerves he or she had coming in.

Keep an eye out for the candidate’s non-verbal communication. Body language is often just as important as the answers coming out of the job seeker’s mouth.

Actively listen and take notes.

Remember that silence is okay and instead of trying to fill in gaps of awkward silence, it may be beneficial for the candidate to pause for a few seconds and collect their thoughts.

Always keep an eye out for two things: A thank you note (via email or handwritten card) and an effective close at the end of the interview, where the candidate reiterates their interest in the position.  You want to ensure that the candidate is genuinely excited in YOUR job, not just any job.

After the interview – Now what?

Once you’ve finished your conversation, always be sure to thank the candidate for their time. Provide them with an expectation of the next steps in your hiring process and give them your business card.

If you do have an HR department or manager on staff, it’s a good idea to follow up with them within 24 hours of the interview so you’re all on the same page.  It is also proper etiquette to get back to the candidate within 24 – 48 hours regarding any feedback and/or next steps in the process.

It is my hope that these tips will help you make the process as smooth as possible, regardless of the type of interview you are conducting.

What would be your top piece of interview advice for other small business owners?