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updated 3/9/2013 11:16:12 AM ET 2013-03-09T16:16:12

Once you've narrowed your stack of resumes down to 10 or so top candidates, it's time to start setting up interviews. If you dread this portion of the process, you're not alone.

Fortunately, there are some ways to put both yourself and the candidates at ease -- and make sure you get all of the information you need to make a smart decision.

Start by preparing a list of basic interview questions in advance. While you won't read off this list like a robot, having it in front of you will ensure you cover all the bases and also make sure you ask all the candidates the same questions.

The initial few moments of an interview are the most crucial. As you meet the candidate and shake his or her hand, you will gain a strong impression of his or her poise, confidence and enthusiasm (or lack thereof).

Qualities to look for include good communication skills, a neat and clean appearance, and a friendly and enthusiastic manner.

Put the interviewee at ease with a bit of small talk on neutral topics. A good way to break the ice is by explaining the job and describing the company -- its business, history and future plans.

Then move on to the heart of the interview. You will want to ask about several general areas, such as related experience, skills, educational training and background, and unrelated jobs.

Open each area with a general open-ended question, such as "Tell me about your last job." Avoid questions that can be answered with a 'yes' or 'no' or that prompt obvious responses, such as "Are you detail-oriented?" Instead, ask questions that force the candidate to go into detail.

The best questions are follow-up questions, such as "How did that situation come about?" or "Why did you do that?" These queries force applicants to abandon preplanned responses and dig deeper.

Here are some interview questions to get you started:

  1. If you could design the perfect job for yourself, what would you do? Why?
  2. What kind of supervisor gets the best work out of you?
  3. How would you describe your current supervisor?
  4. How do you structure your time?
  5. What are three things you like about your current job?
  6. What were your three biggest accomplishments in you last jobs? In your career?
  7. What can you do for our company that no one else can?
  8. What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  9. How far do you think you can go in this company? Why?
  10. What do you expect to be doing in five years?
  11. What interests you most about this company? This position?
  12. Describe three situations where your work was criticized.
  13. Have you hired people before? If so, what did you look for?

Your candidate's responses will give you a window in his or her knowledge, attitude and sense of humor. Watch for signs of "sour grapes" about former employers. Also be alert for areas people seem reluctant to talk about. Probe a little deeper without sounding judgmental.

Pay attention to the candidate's nonverbal cues, too. Does she seem alert and interested, or does she slouch and yawn? Are his clothes wrinkled and stained or clean and neat? A person who can't make an effort for the interview certainly won't make one on the job if hired.

Finally, leave time at the end of the interview for the applicant to ask questions -- and pay attention to what he or she asks. This is the time when applicants can really show they have done their homework and researched your company or, that all they care about is what they can get out of the job.

End the interview by letting the candidate know what to expect next. How much longer will you be interviewing? When can they expect to hear from you? You are dealing with other people's livelihoods, so the week that you take to finish your interviews can seem like an eternity to them. Show some consideration by keeping them informed.

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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