Steps for one-on-one interviews

How To Effectively Conduct a One-on-One Interview and Tips for Success

Discover our tips and a step-by-step guide for effectively conducting a one-on-one interview to make your next hiring season a breeze.

How To Effectively Conduct a One-on-One Interview and Tips for Success


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So you’ve scanned the submitted resumes, screened applicant profiles, and picked a handful of candidates who could be valuable team members. What’s next?

One-on-one interviews are critical for gaining a deeper understanding of the applicants’ key skills, experience, and fit within your company culture. They allow you to assess their character, problem-solving abilities, and compatibility with your team. 

However, many hiring managers find the interview process difficult, especially with remote hires who cannot attend an in-person meeting. To make this task easier, this article will provide a step-by-step guide to the one-on-one interview process, list its pros and cons, and offer some tips for success. 

What Is a One-on-One Interview?

A one-on-one interview is when the interviewer (usually a hiring manager, HR professional, or direct supervisor) meets individually with a candidate to discuss their qualifications, experience, and fit for a role. 

This type of interview can occur in person, over the phone, or as a virtual interview through a video conferencing platform. It offers an opportunity to gain a deeper, more personal understanding of the candidate beyond what can be discerned from a resume or cover letter.

Unlike group interviews or panel interviews, the one-on-one setting is private and tends to be less intimidating for the applicant, allowing for a more open and honest exchange. It creates a connection between the interviewer and interviewee, giving space to ask and answer questions in a focused environment. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Conducting a One-on-One Interview

Getting one-on-one time with a candidate can give you a great deal of insight. However, like any approach, it has its strengths and weaknesses. 

Advantages of one-on-one interviews

Done properly, one-on-one interviews can provide a host of benefits in the selection process. Here are a few key advantages:

  • Personalized interaction: The one-on-one format facilitates a personalized and tailored conversation. You can more easily build rapport, dive into a candidate’s background details, and analyze their interpersonal skills.
  • Focused discussion: Without the distractions of additional interviewers, the conversation can remain focused on core competencies and job-relevant experiences. 
  • Confidentiality: Sensitive topics such as salary expectations, career goals, or reasons for leaving a previous position can be comfortably discussed. 

Overall, candidates often feel less stress in a one-on-one interview, allowing them to present themselves more authentically. 

Disadvantages of one-on-one interviews

Despite these benefits, there are limitations to the one-on-one interview method:

  • Risk of bias: Since only a single interviewer is involved in the meeting, there’s potential for personal bias to sway a decision, which could impact the objectivity of the hire. 
  • Time-consuming: Conducting thorough one-on-one interviews with several candidates can take considerable time and make scheduling challenging. Although they can vary greatly in length, the average time of individual interviews is 45 minutes long.
  • Limited perspectives: With only one person’s perspective, there is a greater chance of missing a nuance or trait that reveals a candidate’s suitability. 

It also puts a lot of pressure on the interviewer to ask the right questions and make accurate judgments. 

Recruiter and candidate talking on a one on one interview

Steps for Effectively Conducting a One-on-One Interview

So, how do you make sure you’re following an effective one-on-one interview process? Use this step-by-step guide as the starting point for your interviews to make the most of your time with your candidate. 

1. Schedule and prepare

Good preparation sets the stage for a successful interview and shows respect for the candidate’s time and effort in applying for the position.

Going into an interview with a prepared list of questions can ensure a smooth flow of conversation and that you cover all the key areas. Tailor your questions to the specific role, and address the competencies and experiences critical for success in the job.

Also, make sure you:

  • Allocate enough time so that the interview doesn’t feel rushed
  • Thoroughly review the candidate’s resume, cover letter, and any other materials they’ve submitted
  • Ensure the candidate receives any accessibility assistance or accommodations if needed

To get the most out of your interview, create an agenda and share it with the candidates ahead of time so that they can also prepare. 

2. Set the tone and create a comfortable environment

The atmosphere of an interview can significantly impact the quality of the dialogue. A relaxed candidate is more likely to respond with transparency and truth. 

Try to start the conversation with an icebreaker or simple chat to make them feel at ease, and choose a comfortable location away from distractions. 

If you’re holding a virtual or phone interview, ensure both sides have a stable connection or that the video platform works properly. Be mindful of your body language, as non-verbal cues can foster a positive environment. 

3. Ask relevant questions

Craft a combination of situational, behavioral, and skill-based questions. Avoid closed, “yes-or-no” questions, which typically yield little value. Instead, encourage candidates to provide specific examples from their past experiences.

Ensure that you’re not just focusing on their resume but also on how they think, collaborate, handle conflict, and solve problems. Keep questions legal and appropriate, avoiding any discriminatory or irrelevant topics.

4. Talk about the company and role

An interview is a two-way street. Provide genuine insights into your company culture, values, and expectations. Discuss the specifics of the role, including day-to-day responsibilities, who the candidate would be reporting to, and how their work will contribute to the company’s objectives.

This transparency can help candidates visualize themselves in the position and determine if they see a good fit with their career aspirations and work style.

5. Conclude gracefully

End your interview on a positive note, regardless of how well you think the candidate fits the position. 

Thank them for their time and interest in your company. Let them know the following steps of the interview process, and give a clear timeline for when they can expect to hear back from you.

Allow a moment for any final questions they might have. This is not only courteous but gives additional insight into what they consider important. 

Remember, a candidate’s experience during the interview process can impact your company’s reputation, so aim for a professional and respectful conclusion to your one-on-one time.

A happy recruiter showing an 'OK' sign to a candidate

Tips for a Successful Interview

If you want to take your one-on-one interview skills to the next level, here are some additional strategies for success:

Focus on behavioral questions

Behavioral questions help you understand a candidate’s past behavior in specific situations—the best predictor of their future behavior. Ask questions about challenging experiences, how they’ve worked with teams, and how they’ve solved problems.

Listen actively

Listening is just as important as asking the right questions. Give the candidate your full attention, avoid interruptions, and pick up on nuances in their responses. This will help you understand not just what they are saying but also the reasoning behind their words.

Document the discussion

Taking notes during the interview allows you to capture key points, impressions, and anything that needs further consideration. This documentation can be invaluable when comparing candidates later on and trying to recall specifics about their responses and demeanor.


Final Thoughts

Mastering the one-on-one interview process is essential for any hiring manager or HR professional. Always remember that the quality of your interviews can significantly impact your ability to attract and retain the best talent. 

By conducting effective one-on-one interviews, you can not only identify the right candidates but also demonstrate the values and professionalism of your company.

If you’ve found these tips helpful and want to keep improving your interviewing technique, consider diving deeper into our resource library. 

As every industry has nuances, you may be interested in our tailored advice for specific sectors, such as our list of interview questions for remote marketing professionals. Keep learning and adapting to ensure you bring in talented teammates who will thrive within your organization. 

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