Jul 2019 / Blog

Hiring the perfect candidate for your business isn’t easy, and as part of the recruitment process, an interview provides you with a great opportunity to meet your potential employee and assess their experience, skills and cultural fit. So how do you make the most of this opportunity? Read on for our interviewing top tips to hire the perfect candidate for your business.

Invest time to prepare

Firstly, set up the interview. Allocate time in your diary to see your shortlisted candidates and invite someone from HR or another member of your team to interview alongside you. Having someone else in the room with you is key from a HR perspective, as well as being able to have two opinions.

Book out a quiet space for your interviews to take place, or if you don’t have this space, arrange to meet in a nearby quiet café. Ensure you build in time for breaks in between each interview so you can jot down any notes discuss the candidate with your colleague, and glance over the next candidate’s application before you meet them.

A useful evaluation tool is a ‘scorecard’. Creating a standardised scoring system comes in handy if interviewing numerous candidates for fair comparison. This doesn’t have to be complicated; you could simply allocate a numerical score for each question/area asked about, e.g. 1 = weak answer, 2 = strong answer, 3 = very strong answer.

Next, turn your attention to arguably the most important element of the interview: the questions.

Questions to ask

You only have a short time to ascertain if a potential employee is the best candidate for the job, so it is vitally important to ask the right questions. The goal of the interview is to find out as much information from your candidate as possible, so ensure all your questions are open and require more than a simple yes or no answer. For example, ask ‘why do you want this job?’ rather than ‘do you want this job?’

Firstly, ask your HR department if they have any standard questions to ask. For example:

  • What do you know about the company?
  • What attracted you to this job?
  • Why are you the best person for this role?

Next, refer to the job advert and specification to help you write down relevant questions. To find out more about how they think, behave and tackle challenges, you can ask behavioural questions such as:

  • Tell me about a time where you led a team to success
  • Describe a time when you encountered a problem and how you solved it
  • What motivates you at work?

If the job requires a set skill level in a certain area, test your candidate’s skill-set with experience questions such as:

  • What experience do you have managing a team?
  • Tell me about an achievement that indicates you’ll thrive in this role
  • How familiar are you with using software such as (insert relevant programmes)?

Top tip: test out your questions by trying to answer them yourself.

During the interview itself, don’t be afraid to go off your script if your candidate mentions something you want to find out more about. Just be mindful to bring the conversation back to your prepared questions so you don’t miss any key information.

Questions to avoid

It’s important to make sure you’re clued up about what you can and can’t ask, as some questions are inappropriate or even illegal. Asking questions about an interviewee’s age, religion, race, marital status, children/future family plans, sexuality, disability or criminal record are illegal and can have serious repercussions for your business. Once you’ve compiled your list of questions, ask someone from your HR department to check them for legality.

Practical Tasks

Depending on your industry and the job role, it might be worth asking your potential candidate to complete a task as part of their interview. For example, the best way to recruit a chef is for them to cook you a meal. Even in more office-based roles, setting a task can be a great way of distinguishing between candidates.

Make a good impression

Don’t forget that the interview process is as much about the candidate deciding whether they want to work for you, as it is about you deciding whether you want to hire them. It is essential that you give your potential employee a good impression of your company, so as much as you’re looking for them to be on time, well-presented and polite, make sure you are too.

On the day

Re-read each candidate’s CV before their interview to refresh your memory. This will help avoiding asking questions their CV may already answer and remind you of any specific questions about their experience you wanted to ask.

When the candidate arrives, put them at ease by greeting them warmly and offering them a glass of water or cup of tea or introducing them to company staff. Having a drink to hand can be useful if they are nervous or taking a sip can give them an opportunity to think about what to say next.

Outline the structure of the interview before you get to ask the questions; running through a description of the company and outlining the job role also helps to put the candidate at ease.

Don’t forget to take down a few notes about the candidate, either during the interview or at the end. This is especially useful if you’re interviewing a number of people.

Next Steps

At the end of the interview, don’t forget to ask your candidate if they have any questions for you.

Be prepared for queries such as:

  • Is this role new? How has it evolved?
  • Are there opportunities for career progression?
  • What does a typical day look like?
  • What’s it like to work here from your perspective?
  • What training opportunities are available?

Don’t forget to let them know how you will follow up the interview procedure and when they can expect to hear from you.


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