Job interviews

Interviews are the method of choice for the majority of employers

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Friday, Jul 02, 2021

A fact highlighted by recruitment service Hays in their 2015 national research study. The findings showed private sector organisations conducted interviews for 89% of their assessment and selection purposes.

People often find interviews to be a nerve-wracking experience, turning the bravest of us into quivering wrecks; so how do we ensure the interview process goes as smoothly as possible, for both employer and candidate?

Prepare yourself

The first step is to decide who will be on the interview panel. It is good practice to include a recruitment manager and a HR professional in the discussion as they will most likely have plenty of experience with hiring decisions and can offer insight as to whether a candidate will a make a good fit with your company’s culture.

The chosen panel should then consider their approach to the interview questions. There are two standard routes to go with this:

  • Interview questions based on job description and person specification. For example, ‘Can you tell me your experience of making widgets?’
  • Competency based questions. These questions aim to identify a rough level of ability by taking into consideration a person’s behaviour and experience with problem-solving. For example, ‘Can you tell me about a time when you have exceeded a customer’s expectations?’

Experienced interviewers will ask a combination of both types of questions, more or less evenly split between person specification for the role and general competency. As a useful rule of thumb, anywhere between nine and 12 prepared interview questions will give you plenty to discuss.

Structuring your approach

Differences of opinion can easily arise during the interview, which is why it’s important to develop a robust scoring system which will measure the quality of each candidate’s answers against set criteria.

Structuring the interview properly beforehand will help improve your ability to predict performance in the job. A structured interview means that:

  • Questions are planned carefully before the interview
  • All candidates are asked the same interview questions
  • Answers are scored using a rating system

Inviting candidates to interview

Within the written invitation you send to each candidate, you need to provide the following information:

  • Time, date and venue of the interview
  • Type of interview — formal or informal? Is this the first of a series of interviews?
  • The names of all interviewees and their job roles
  • How long will the interview last?
  • Whether any prior preparation is required

Upon their arrival

It is important to make the candidate feel as relaxed as possible when they walk through the front door. Inform all staff in the office exactly what time the candidate is expected. Make sure to offer them a drink when they arrive. This could well be their future place of work, so it’s equally important for the employer to make a good first impression.

Before any interview questions, make sure to introduce each member of the panel, and recap the process of the interview. Explain your reasons for inviting them in for the interview — it’s likely because you have already been impressed by a particular or relevant aspect of their CV.

When the questions start, it’s important to encourage detailed answers. For each response, ask follow-up questions to form a fuller understanding of the person you are talking to. There is a useful technique for this called ‘funnelling’, which allows you to probe for further information on the back of each question:

  • Level 1 — Ask candidate the question.
  • Level 2 — Ask what actions were taken or how situation was handled
  • Level 3 — Ask about the results or outcome, what happened as a result of their actions.
  • Level 4 — If relevant ask how the results compared to other initiatives
  • Level 5 — Ask candidate to describe what they learned from the experience

Source: CIPD Best Practice (2015)

End on a positive note

Finish the interview by asking the candidate if they have any questions they would like to ask, thank them for their time and advise them of any next steps in the process.

The most pressing question for any interviewee is when they will hear back from the employer, so make sure you have a clear idea of when that is likely to be.

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