Arguably the most important stage of the recruitment and selection process is the interview.  So it always amazes me how little time recruiting managers spend in preparing for the actual interview, so much so that I once conducted an interview where the manager had not even read the applicants CV!

Recruitment is a costly exercise and we need to ensure that every stage is managed carefully so that we end up making the correct decision when we select the individual that we want to join our organisation.

The following hints and tips help those of us who are experienced in recruiting and provide some valuable steps to follow for those who have never interviewed before.

The best interviews are those were the interviewer and the interviewee are both relaxed and able to get clear questions and answers across, this just doesn’t happen, it’s a skill that take time for the interviewer to learn but here are some key ways that you start to learn the tools of the interviewers trade!

  • Preparation

    • Set yourself a clear timetable of who you are going to interview and allow yourself sometime between interviews for notes and the possibility of over running.
    • Ensure that there is someone to meet with the candidates and welcome them to your organisation. There is nothing worse for the candidate to get a bad impression by waiting in a reception area with nobody acknowledging them!
    • Make sure you have booked a room for the interviews and make sure there are no access issues or interruptions
    • Provide good information to the candidate to allow them to prepare. Send them the job description, person specification and some background information on the company.
    • Take time to ensure that you have prepared fully, read the job description so you understand the tasks that they will be required to complete.
    • Look at the selection criteria that you will be using, is it just standard questions or will you be looking core and/or functional competencies, will you be using scenario based questions or a mixture of all. Think about how your questions relate back to the job, if they don’t do you need to ask them?
    • Ensure that if you are interviewing with another person that they have all the information that they need, CV’s, application forms, questions, interview forms etc.
  • Set the scene

    • You may remember what is was like when you had an interview, nerves tend to take over! So set the scene, follow some easy settling in questions for both you and the candidate. This will allow you both to find your feet and get comfortable with each other.  Although a recruitment interview is a formal process it should be relaxed, this way you will gather more information from your candidate for you to base your decision upon.
    • These are the sorts of things you can cover quite quickly which will start to put you at ease: A brief welcome to the company, how they found you/got parked, introductions, who you are and your role, the length of the interview and what it will cover, advise them that you will be taking notes finally that there will be the chance for them to ask their questions at the end.
  • Questioning technique

    • Anyone can ask interview questions, the skill is in getting the information that you are looking for, or confirmation that they don’t have the skills to do the job.
    • Use lots of open questions, these are question that will require your candidate to respond with a statement rather than a yes or no response. These types of questions often begin with – Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?  You can also ask your candidate to “tell me about a time when...”  Or if you are not sure whether they have a skill or competence focus in on your questions using this technique.
    • To gather a more in depth response or to follow up on a point that the candidate has revealed you can use probing questions. You can look to use, “tell me more about that” or “what happened next” or “so what did you do in that situation”.
    • If you are looking to confirm your understanding or want a simple response to a question then use a closed question, questions which just require a yes or no response.
    • Don’t be afraid to use silence in an interview, it can be a powerful tool! It often allows the candidate to collect their thoughts to a question that you have just posed, but it can also encourage people to reveal more detail on them than they perhaps would have normally.  We all love to fill the silence!
    • Above all steer away from leading questions, you gain nothing from prompting the candidate as to your preferred response. Also multiple questions just confuse the candidate and often lead to a poor response.

The key to interviewing is being clear about what you are looking for, always compare candidates against the job description not each other.  If you don’t find the person you are looking for then re advertise, don’t be tempted to take on a person who isn’t what you are looking for, you will only end up dealing with a problem later on!

Most of all relax, try and enjoy the interview you will get more from the applicant and be able to ‘sell’ the job and company to them much more easily, making you that most important “employer of choice”.