A Guide for Recruiters
Exceptional Interviews in 9 Easy Steps
A job interview is a two-way audition - and when almost two-thirds of professionals say they would turn down a job after a poor interview experience,1 your performance is crucial.
Follow these 9 steps to help you make the most of your company’s interview process and ensure excellent interviews turn into excellent hires.
Before the Interview
1. Draw up thoughtful, relevant questions
Make a list of the skills and traits needed for the position. Put together a set of questions that address emotional intelligence (EQ) and cultural fit, along with technical skills if appropriate. Ask employees who already perform similar roles in your company what skills a new hire will need to succeed.
Put together a mix of behavioural and situational questions that ask candidates to demonstrate what they’ve done in the past and what they would do in hypothetical situations.2
Question: What would you do if a member of your team started showing up late every day?
Goal: To test an applicant’s leadership and people management skills.
Question: Tell me about a time you had to deliver bad news to your manager.
Goal: To assess an applicant’s communication skills and self-confidence.
Question: When did you last solve a problem in a creative way?
Goal: To assess an applicant’s creativity.
2. Choose your interviewers with care
To reduce the risk of bias, put together a diverse panel of employees. Ideally, at least one person should be an experienced interviewer or trained in interviewing best practice.
As putting together large interview panels is not always practical for your employees, it’s also worth noting that candidates prefer to be interviewed by two people, as a smaller panel is less daunting and can lead to an improved performance.3 Your interview panel might be made up of some of the following:4
- The person who will be managing the successful candidate
- Their manager’s manager
- Another employee from the department
- A recruitment specialist from the HR department
3. Help your candidates prepare for the interview
Coordinate with the candidates and assist in organising their travel and accommodation arrangements, if necessary. Be sure to send candidates information about your company at least a week in advance.
For example, here’s what you could put in your applicant information pack:
- A detailed job specification
- Information about your company and history
- Instructions on how to find your premises
- A general overview of what they can expect on the day
- A clear brief, if there is a presentation or exam element
During the Interview
4. Stay professional and consistent
At no point should you ask questions that touch on any protected personal characteristics, such as, age, gender, marital status or whether the applicant has children.
When interviewing multiple candidates, try to ask questions in the same order each time. Use checklists and Likert scales where possible, as objective data will help you compare candidates later. During the interview, give candidates a few moments to gather their thoughts after each question.
Examples of interview prompts:
- “Could you tell me more about that?”
- “Could you provide another example?”
- “Would you like to return to the question again later?”
5. Keep notes
Notes help you compare candidates and select the right person for the job. They can also cover you, should a candidate later accuse you of biased hiring.
- Make reference to facts, not feelings
- Never be derogatory
- Be set out as bullet points, not full sentences or quotes
- Be specific
- Never make reference to age, gender, or any other protected characteristics
6. Encourage candidates to clarify answers or ask questions
Interviews are nerve-wracking for candidates and they may draw a blank when trying to answer a question. Give them the chance to clarify and extend their answers at the end of the interview.
You could ask:
- “Would you like to add anything else?”
- “Do you have any questions for us?”
Here are a few questions an engaged applicant might ask you:
- “What do people like most about working for this company?”
- “If I join the company, will there be room for progression?”
If you don’t know the answer, be honest. Tell them you’ll get back to them – and keep your word.
After the Interview
7. Allow enough time to compare notes
Compare notes and scores for the candidates as soon as possible. Even if you kept detailed notes, you’ll soon forget much of what was said during the interview.
Ask yourselves these questions for each applicant:
- Was the candidate specific in their answers?
- Do they appear to be a good fit for the company culture?
- Do they have the right skill profile?
- Did they seem enthusiastic about the role?
- Will they be a good fit for the department?
8. Make your decision quickly
The sooner you can make a decision, the better. Lengthy waiting times will make candidates think twice about working for your company.5 Aim for three to four business days. If you are torn between two candidates, you may decide to invite them back for another round of interviews.6
9. Offer feedback
You don’t have any legal obligation to do so, but it’s good for your reputation and your Glassdoor interview reviews will reflect this. Specify what the candidate did well and make it clear why, if unsuccessful, they didn’t get the job.
Here’s an example of constructive feedback to a candidate who gave great answers to most of the interview questions, but gave a weak presentation:
“We were impressed by your track record in leading difficult projects and we think you would be a good fit for our culture. However, on this occasion, we decided that we needed someone who was confident in presenting complex information and case studies to our stakeholders.”
With the cost of replacing an employee estimated at £12,000 or more,7 suboptimal recruiting practices can be a huge drain on your company’s time and money. When it comes to interviewing, you can’t afford to rely on just your gut or hope for the best when it comes to making crucial decisions. Use these 9 steps to establish an excellent interview process and ensure your next hire is the best yet.
- Robert Walters. How to Manage the Interview Process Effectively.
- Society for Human Resource Management. A Guide to Conducting Behavioural Interviews with Early Career Job Candidates.
- Robert Walters. How to Manage the Interview Process Effectively.
- Knight, R. (2015). How to Conduct an Effective Job Interview. Harvard Business Review.
- Webber, A. (2018). Slow feedback putting off job applicants.
- Davies, A. How to decide between candidates.
- Accounts & Legal. (2019). Average employee costs SMEs £12,000 to replace.