Maren at table

Behind the Brand: Maren

Welcome to Behind the Brand - a series that highlights our employees and the topics within talent acquisition and HR that they are passionate about. In this edition, Delivery Lead and Manager, Maren sheds light on how to tactically improve your interview style, regardless of role or seniority.

We’ve always felt that the people are really what makes Amby, Amby.

Which is why we wanted to create our Behind the Brand - a written series that highlights our employees and the topics within talent acquisition and HR that they are passionate about.

In this edition, we're talking to Maren, a Delivery Lead and Manager based out of our Oslo office. She studied at the University of Bergen and hold a Master's in Work and Organizational Psychology. Over the past 5 years, Maren has worked for clients large and small across a variety of industries, role types, and markets. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? 

My name is Maren, and I'm a 31-year-old "Sørlending" based out of Amby's HQ in Oslo._DSC2229 I'm a recruitment manager, which means I lead a wonderful small team of recruiters and work as a delivery lead in client assignments.

My day-to-day varies a lot, but lately, I've been very operational in the recruitment process, identifying and sourcing candidates and advising clients on candidates and the recruitment process. Even though I've been working with recruitment for nearly five years now, I'm learning new things all the time by staying hands-on with clients and candidates.

Right now, I'm working as an embedded recruiter at KPMG, focusing on the technology departments. Outside of work, I spend most of my time with my pack: one two-legged spouse and one four-legged Aussiedoodle.

What part of the recruitment process do people tend to underestimate?

When I think about recruitment, the interview process is the first thing that comes to mind. From a candidate's perspective, this is where it's all decided—it's the time to show your best side or not. For a hiring manager (i.e., the person who is responsible for the hiring), the interview is one of the most valuable times to gather data on the candidate's experience, skills, and motivation.

This information transaction might seem straightforward enough - "you tell me what you know, and I decide if it's good enough" - however, so many factors play into our assessment of the interviewee. Those of you who have studied psychology-related subjects or have been trained in interviewing know all about the subconscious biases - cognitive shortcuts that we make in interactions like an interview. There are many great articles about these, so I won't spend too much time on it here.

Being aware of and fighting these biases serves as an important reminder that humans are not machines or robots. We think, feel, make rational and irrational decisions, impact each other, mirror each other, and interact in a multitude of other ways. This makes the interview a complex interaction in which several things need to go right for it to succeed.

The hiring managers we work with are typically experienced and highly skilled at their jobs; they have vast domain knowledge and strong analytical skills. Many of them have also hired several or even dozens of people throughout their careers. This means that it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "I've done several interviews. I know what to say and how to behave."

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "I've done several interviews. I know what to say and how to behave."


However, there is always room for improvement, no matter how many processes you've been a part of. For some, it could be in adhering to the agenda and overall time management, while for others, it could be about fine-tuning their body language. Regardless of where a hiring manager might need to improve, it's always good to remind them that interviewing is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced, not something that you're automatically good at.

What does "interview coaching" actually consist of? 

Interview coaching is about seeking feedback on the way we perform in interviews to make better hiring decisions and to create a better candidate experience. The format can vary, but it's helpful to think of it like a muscle we need to train; repeated experiences with concrete feedback will help us improve.

Why is this something you're passionate about?

At Amby, we have a lot of focus on being data driven and having a well-planned out recruitment process. Before we ever bring a candidate in for an interview, we decide on which skills we will measure in the process and what the agenda for each interview should be.

Those quite tangible sides of recruitment are a fantastic and necessary basis for a process. But there is more to it that that. There is something about the in-tangible side of the interview that make it hard to predict which way it will go and how the interaction between interviewer and interviewee will shape the meeting.

As interviewers there are small things we can do to help ourselves and the candidates which are important and often underestimated; a reassuring smile when you meet, a pause and “take your time” when the candidate is racing through an answer, giving a clear explanation of the agenda, sharing a personal fact or professional area of improvement, or allowing yourself to show excitement over your project.

When done correctly and with good intention, these small behaviors can set the candidate up for success and moves everyone towards fairer and better hiring decisions. It also makes interviewing more fun and enjoyable for all parties.

It’s rewarding to see hiring managers who might be more comfortable writing code and fixing bugs than interviewing, elevate their interviewing skills only from a few pointers and reflections after an interview. Because to truly succeed in the hiring, we need both the tangible aspects of structure, data and processes, as well as the intangible sides of seeing the person in the candidate.


What can hiring teams do today to improve their interview process?

Firstly, we need to agree on two important things: It takes practice to excel in interviews, and direct and immediate feedback is the best way to improve.

My best and most simple advice is for the hiring teams to ask for feedback on their interviewing skills from their peers after each interview. Asking others, "How did you think I led the interview today?" is a good start. However, if your interview partner is inexperienced or the feedback culture / psychological safety needs to be better, this might give you more feedback. Asking about specific aspects of the interview will help:

  • How did I present the agenda and manage expectations at the start? (was it clear and simple?)
  • How did I manage the agenda and time during the interview?
  • How did my body language affect the candidate?
  • How did I phrase my questions? (open, non-leading, following STAR method)
  • How relevant were my questions? Did we gather pertinent information for the role? (skills)
  • How did I present the company and role? (with energy and enthusiasm? but also realistic)
  • Did I remember to pause and open for questions along the way?
  • Did I wrap up the interview in a good way?

Additionally, it's important to create a clear structure to prepare the hiring teams for interviews.

Creating a good interview guide that is both structured and adapted to the role is an additional and important step in making sure we gather the right data from the interview. I find especially following the STAR method of interviewing useful.

To create a top-notch interview guide, you should also include a scoring guide for your questions, which answers "What does a good answer to this question contain?". For skill-based questions, this will involve noting down the specific behaviors, methods, tools, technologies, or ways of working that we want the candidate to have. For motivational questions, we should have a good sense of what answers might indicate a poor match for the position. For example, if the candidate answers that they prefer to collaborate with others when the role they are interviewing for will be working very independently.


Finally, it's no good if we pat our own back after interviews. After all, the candidate might have had a poor experience, but it might not have been obvious. Gathering feedback from the candidates will help you know where to focus your improvement efforts. Start by asking the candidate about how they have experienced the interviews and the overall process. Even better is systematically gathering data, for example, by sending each candidate a survey when they leave the recruitment process.

If you're worried that rejected candidates will leave skewed negative feedback, think again. While you might occasionally get some input that's tainted by the candidate's disappointment in being rejected, on the whole, it is achievable to leave candidates feeling positive about the recruitment process regardless of the outcome!

Maren's Picks

If you want to go even deeper into interview coaching, here are a few resources that I think are a great place to start!

Author profile Maren Wroldsen Vestøl

Maren is a Manager and Delivery Lead at Amby. She manages a small team of recruiters, leads client deliveries, and spends time with her dog, Smokey.