Regardless of whether you work in HR or are hiring for your own department, successfully interviewing candidates for employment takes foresight and groundwork. It also requires the development of agreed strategic recruitment processes so that candidates are treated equally and according to common guidelines, with a view to properly assessing their suitability and making the right hire.

Seeking a consultant to help you establish a framework for interviewing can enhance the recruitment process and help ensure that you recruit staff who are an appropriate ‘fit’ to the role and the organization. This is with the long-term goal of increasing staff retention as well as accelerating profitability and growth.

If you are tasked with interviewing for your organization, you should be fully prepared for each interview. At the very least you should:

  • Know the job specification inside out including the essential skills and criteria for the role.
  • Understand at what stage the candidate is at in the recruitment process and the timeframes between the different stages.
  • Have read the candidate’s CV or application in detail and understand their potential strengths or shortcomings for the role. Frantically flipping through a candidate’s CV in front of them because you haven’t taken time to read it beforehand is both unprofessional and disrespectful.
  • Ensure that any co-interviewers are briefed and have all the relevant paperwork.
  • Treat each candidate in a professional manner and be enthusiastic, confident, and positive.

A well-designed recruitment process should ideally attract a large and diverse number of applicants. It should eliminate those which are unsuitable or unqualified at the early stages, leaving a summary list of contenders with the experience and wherewithal to do the job. To do this rigorously and judiciously a skilled interview needs to understand:

  • Which skills, behaviors/competencies and values are key to the role and the company in general. All applications should be scored against the essential criteria for the role using an application shortlist form. This will allow candidates that don’t meet the grade to be eliminated early on.
  • Which are the appropriate questions to ask to substantiate these key competencies.
  • Which are the available types of question and questioning techniques, and how to use active listening to best assess candidates and record appropriate notes.
  • How to appreciate the merits of different types of candidates and get the best from them at interviews.
  • How to be mindful of equality, diversity, and inclusion during the recruitment process.

To equip hiring managers with the right skills to make effective decisions, the organization’s Leadership team may need to be involved in designing the recruitment process and ensuring that adequate Interviewer training is provided. Communication, questioning, and evidence must be consistently used to interpret the values and competencies required by the organization at all levels. To facilitate this process, some companies will identify and promote specific behavioral competencies or values that they want all their employees to demonstrate, regardless of seniority. These behaviors may underpin the interview process and help predetermine the questions that candidates are asked.

After the initial triage of applications, many organizations will implement a two-part interview process. Importantly, the same questions should be asked of each candidate. The first shorter interview may concentrate on the individual’s experience in the context of the company’s predefined values and how their competencies gel with its culture and vision. General questions around the candidate’s past careers, what they bring to the role, and what they know about the company should be asked. Additional competency-based questions should also be used to understand how candidates have acted in past professional situations and as a determinator of their future compatibility and performance. Competency-based interviewing is about evaluating evidence rather than hypothetical examples.

A longer also competency-based second interview may include additional questions about a candidate’s fit for the organization and should drill down into the specific technical skills, qualifications, and experience needed to succeed at the role. Following both interviews, a summary score sheet of all the candidates should be filled out to see how they compare for the behaviors and values against which they are being measured. Individual score sheets should also be completed to record more in-depth information for each candidate.

Some key indicators to look out for in high-performing candidates are that they can easily reinforce their answers and will answer fluently and in-depth. Their examples will likely be from their professional experience, and they will put emphasis on the action that they personally took at the heart of their example. Less competent or inexperienced candidates may speak hypothetically in the conditional tense or be unable to demonstrate their centrality to an example, even upon further questioning.

Some general tips around making the interview process positive for both interviewer and candidates are:

  • Candidates should be met by at least two interviewers who will pre-agree who will ask which questions.
  • Welcome candidates using their first name, smile, thank them for their time and don’t forget to introduce yourself and the other interviewer(s).
  • Brief the candidate on the format of the interview and the questioning techniques you will use; technical, competency or value-based, for example, and ask them to respond with sufficient detail.
  • Give them the chance to relax with an open introductory question, such as ‘Tell me about your CV’.
  • At the end of the interview explain the likely duration of the recruitment process and when you will be in touch. Know whether they are attending any other interviews and their general availability.
  • Don’t forget to use the scoring sheets in your candidate pack to accurately record your discussion.

An effectively streamlined hiring process should not only be shorter and more efficient but will better identify compatible employees who will remain with the business. Assessing everyone by the same criteria will lead to fundamentally more reliable and egalitarian recruitment decisions with the knock-on benefits of helping to grow and promote the business.