December 19, 2018

Yeses and Noes. Tips for Conducting Interviews

By Tina Huang, Juanjo Cardona

5 min

How-To GuideMulti-IndustryRecruitment

With 2019 just a few days away, you are probably thinking on a list of good intentions for next year. Today we want to share a different type of list. Or most precisely, two: the yeses and noes during an interview.

With 2019 just a few days away, you are probably thinking on a list of good intentions for next year. Lists are always helpful, but few stand the test of time.


Today we want to share a different type of list. Or most precisely, two. Whether you are a seasoned recruiter, one that is just starting on this path, or a hiring manager, you will find the do’s and don’ts, the yeses and noes during an interview.  


It is also an opportunity for you to check how attuned you are with what is usually regarded as best practices. The following is not an exhaustive list and nothing is set on stone: ours is not a dogmatic approach. If you happen to differ or think we are missing a point that should be there, feel free to reach out to us (



Leave enough time for the interview, so you don’t have to rush it to an abrupt end. Take into consideration questions from the candidates when scheduling the meeting. Usually, 60 to 75 minutes is a good rule of thumb.


You are representing your organization. Therefore, you want to be on time and dress according to the explicit or implicit codes that are part of your organization’s culture. It is also a way to convey an accurate image of your organization, so the job applicants get a better understanding of the company. Depending on the set and setting of the interview you could also give the heads up to the interviewees, so they have more information about the context in which the interview will take place: having the candidates over/underdressed for the occasion might put them under unnecessary stress. Note that this is also valid for senior positions: it is not the same setting if the interview is going to take place in an office on a weekday with the GM, or if it is to happen on a Saturday at the lobby of a hotel where the GM is meeting candidates during a business trip. 


Be attentive and supportive. This will help you create a more distended atmosphere, allowing the candidates to talk more openly. Greet them warmly to dissipate nerves that can get the best of them. This warming up process should take somewhere around five to eight minutes since in China the welcoming is perceived as of higher importance due to Chinese culture-specific behavior.


Introduce yourself briefly, in less than one minute: what do you do in the company, how long have you been there, and your background if you consider that is relevant.


Provide a brief overview of what your organization does, why it does it, and some of the most recent milestones. Then introduce the role, the responsibilities it entails, and what a typical working day looks like.


“Be open and transparent if the candidates inquire about the challenges the organization faces or those of the specific role.”


Present the opportunities for growth, development and career possibilities for the role. Although it looks obvious, often this is not appropriately addressed. Bear in mind that the candidates will ultimately have to decide whether the position represents a good career move. 


Focus on the person. You already have the resume. Your goal here is to find out whether the candidates have the necessary proficiency-level for the relevant competencies.


Keep an open-mind: listen actively and engage in the conversation making proper use of follow-up questions when necessary. Find out what is important to the candidates, to see if that is a good match for the role and the company.


Related with the above, keep eye-contact with the candidates. Be mindful of your body language: lean in when they speak, sit up straight, smile.


Keep it professional. You can be friendly but within reason.


Be open and transparent if the candidates inquire about the challenges the organization faces or those of the specific role. You do not want the candidates to leave with a sweetened version of what the current reality is.


Many Chinese candidates are observed to have high expectations, as many see their peers quickly move up the corporate ladder and expect that the same should happen to them. Despite current signs of an economic slowdown in China, Chinese employees’ salary growth expectations rank among the highest in the world. The biggest concerns of candidates are salary, benefits, and career development. Now is a good opportunity to manage candidate expectations.


Inform the candidates about the next steps. Confirm when she will be hearing back from you as well as other time frames: how long the whole process might take, whether there’s a holiday coming soon that might have an impact on the hiring schedule or any foreseeable eventuality that could cause delays on feedback to avoid unnecessary anxiety on the candidates’ side. Offer them to reach out to you if they have further questions.



Perhaps the biggest pitfall for the interviewer when conducting the interview is to believe that the heavy lifting is only on the candidates’ side. Do not be complacent. Remember this is a two-way communication and you must be engaged.


The interview is about the candidates. Avoid talking too much about you, or your organization. Although it is necessary to strike the right tone as a desirable employer, this is not a sales pitch. If the candidates ask you a very specific question keep it to the point and get back to the conversation. If you realize, once the interview is over, that you have talked more than the interviewees then you did not do it right.


“Refrain from the urge to steer the candidates towards an answer by following up your question with examples. Let silence do the work: ask your question and stop”


Avoid sounding like a robot when introducing yourself, the role or your organization. You will strike the candidates as someone that is not interested in them. This will most likely discourage the candidates and jeopardize the interview.


Do not show, verbally or non-verbally, whether you agree or disagree with the candidates’ answers.


Avoid other non-verbal clues that show you are not interested: fidgeting, checking your phone, not keeping eye-contact, not smiling. As with your phone, it is better that you don’t even have it visible: research shows that the mere presence of a smartphone lowers the quality of in-person conversations.


Do not inquire about personal information that is not relevant for the role: marital status, spouse’s occupation, actual or planned children. According to Selma Mo, our Shenzhen Branch Manager, “In China, candidates are less reluctant to facilitate details on marital status or their spouse’s job, but they would not appreciate further enquiring about their children or parents situation”. Remember also that candidates can refuse to answer. If you want to learn more about how to go about collecting personal information in China check our article about background checks


Refrain from the urge to steer the candidates towards an answer by following up your question with examples. This is a natural tendency. However, let silence do the work: ask your question and stop. Silence gives room for the candidates to think.


Avoid discussions on topics such as social, religious, political, or moral values.


Avoid using questions that require a yes or no for an answer.


Avoid using brain-teasers (i.e., how many golf balls could fit in an airplane?). They lack validity: the ability to solve brain teasers does not correlate with job performance. Google popularized these type of questions in recruitment interviews, but they were later on discontinued. In a New York Times interview, senior vice president of people operations at Google at the time defined them as “a complete waste of time”.


Keep the jokes for another occasion. You sure are funny, but this is not the time.


Avoid identifying with the candidates. Again, keep it always professional.


Refrain from being condescending or patronizing.


Do not talk or discuss other applicants.



We hope some of the yeses and noes pointed out in this practical guide prove useful to you.


As mentioned at the beginning, this is not a comprehensive set of guidelines, and it might be that, in your experience, some of the recommendations above have not worked.


However, we would feel satisfied if only one or two of the recommendations highlighted here make it your New Year’s resolutions list.


Tina Huang

Account Manager at Direct HR

L: Chinese, English

T: +86 574 8848 7007



Juanjo Cardona

Editor at

L: English, Spanish

T: +86 21 6010 5000