HR · 21 September 2015

How to get your interview process right to make sure you choose the best candidate

Psychological testing helps you to be more scientific about evaluating candidates
Psychological testing helps you to be more scientific about evaluating candidates

The recruitment process can at times seen drawn-out without much success. Once you’ve sifted CVs effectively, the next step is interviews. Recruitment expert Margaret Keane has put together a thorough guide on how to prepare an effective interview process – including what to ask and what to avoid.

When you’ve decided on a shortlist of candidates you’re happy with, the next step is hiring the best people you possibly can. To ensure you achieve this, your interview techniques and methods must be up to scratch.

Critical success factors for effective interviews include:

(1) Understand what you need – experience and qualifications are important, but what does the person actually need to be able to do?

(2) Work out how to find the “perfect person” to meet that need through the selection process. Tailor the interview so that this “perfect person” will emerge through your questioning technique and appropriate testing (details later)

(3) Explain the interview process to candidates – there should be no surprises

(4) Plan the interview and questions thoroughly beforehand

(5) Ask the questions as a conversation, not as an interrogation

(6) Inform candidates of the next steps and get back to all unsuccessful candidates

The importance of preparation when conducting an interview

If possible, arrange interviews at the candidate’s future place of work. This not only cuts down on costs for you, but, importantly, allows the candidates to see their prospective place of work.

Make sure you have no interruptions when interviewing. They are not good for you because you need to focus on hiring the right person, and it creates a very poor impression on the candidate if they don’t get your undivided attention.

Take time to prepare questions – general questions on personality and motivation, and more probing questions on how well they are suited to the role. Use their CV and application form to help frame questions.

The length of the questioning part of the interview is generally 45-60 minutes. However, this may vary with the seniority of the candidate and whether it is a first, second or third interview.

What questions to ask at interview

The interviewer can choose from a range of questions depending on what he or she is trying to assess:

Standard Questions e.g. “Why did you apply for this job?” “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

Behavioural Questions e.g. “Tell me about a time when something went wrong at work and how you handled it?”

These focus on the past and help interviewers attempt to predict future behaviour.

Situational Questions e.g. “You are asked to write a report for a client on a situation. You have access to emails regarding it and you also previously sat in on a meeting regarding the issue. Your boss is away on business and he wants a draft report tomorrow. When writing the report you find that things are not as clear as you thought and you have some outstanding questions, which, if they are not answered, will make it difficult to complete. What do you do?”

These focus on future performance. As an illustration, you might outline a problem and ask the candidate how they would deal with it.

Case Questions e.g. “What could you suggest to a startup to help it reach its profitability targets?”

These are mainly used in the consulting industry and focus on how the candidate would solve a specific business issue.

What questions NOT to ask at interview

It is vital that you do not ask any questions that could be seen as discriminatory. These questions could relate to such areas as gender, disability, race or age. You cannot ask any questions about plans to start a family or about the current situation of the candidate’s family. If a candidate disclosed a disability, you cannot use it as a reason not to employ the candidate unless it is totally justified. For example, a blind person could not be a taxi driver but they potentially could do some other administration type role if small adjustments were made. No questions regarding race, nationality or age can be asked.

Types of interviews

Different types of interviews can be used for different purposes and situations.

One to one: The most straightforward type – one interviewer and one candidate, face-to-face.

Phone: Sometimes used for preliminary interviews to weed out the weaker candidates.

Video or Skype: Great for when travelling to an interview is difficult.

Panel: This may be a group of about five people, each of whom may have a list of questions to ask the candidate. They may all have different styles of interviewing.

Speed: Where the candidate meets with a new interviewer every five minutes.

Presentation: Where the candidate is asked to prepare and then present on a given subject.

Group: The purpose of this is to see how the candidate operates in a team and, in particular, if he or she can demonstrate leadership skills, motivational skills and interpersonal skills.

Technical: Used for technical roles where suitable technical questions are asked to prove competence.

Portfolio: Within the media, fashion and similar industries it is expected that candidates bring their portfolios.

Read on to find out how to conduct an interview.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Margaret Keane is the managing director of Outsourcing HR, an HR consultancy that helps businesses succeed by providing practical, cost-effective human resources management and recruitment services. In addition to being an experienced HR professional, Margaret has a successful track record in general management roles. As a result, Margaret is focused on ensuring that HR contributes to the bottom line.

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