How to conduct job interviews

Practical advice on work issues

Gary Miles is always surprised when people ask why he runs training courses on how to conduct job interviews. “There’s a real art to holding interviews, yet friends and colleagues reckon we don’t need training in the subject” says Miles, principal consultant at management institute Roffey Park.

Choosing the right person for a job is tougher than it sounds and many underestimate the process. This could explain why some hirers complain that new recruits don’t meet their expectations. The problem could well be the interviewer choosing the wrong person, after conducting a poor interview.

1 Be prepared
The interviewee isn’t the only one who has to do their homework before the interview. The interviewer needs to have a clear idea of what the job role will be, what skills the person needs to have and how they will fit in with the rest of the team. All this needs to be established before any interviews take place. It should be decided before the job specification is set, although unfortunately, this part of the process is often rushed.  Think about how you are going to get all of this information and whether or not you need to ask interviewees to perform any tasks or bring work with them. If you have key criteria that must be met then have the criteria written down with set questions that need to be answered. And think about this with each individual candidate, identifying what you think are their strengths and weaknesses before the interview starts.

2 Consult
If other people are going to be interviewing the candidates with you it’s important to meet them before the interviews, so everyone is properly briefed and knows what is going to happen. Agree the format the interviews will take and if necessary, what roles the different interviewees will take.

3 Preparing the interviewees
Make sure the interviewee has all the information they need about the interview in advance. They obviously need to know where and when the interview will take place, but also let them know how long it is likely to take and what is expected of them. If five of you will be interviewing, then candidates know. If the interviewee feels comfortable with the situation they are more likely to perform well and give you all the information you need.

4 Questions and answers
Don’t ask closed questions, where the answer could be yes or no. If you feel the candidate hasn’t answered your question fully, don’t be afraid to dig deeper. Miles from management institute Roffey Park recommends asking for specific examples, such as when people have used their skills, overcome any problems or acted in a particular situation. “Probe for precise examples,” he says. “It’s the best test to whether someone will be right for you.” Miles thinks it is also important to know when to keep quiet. “The really good interviewer knows when to shut up. Know the power of silence.”

5 Taking notes
The interviewer needs to take clear, comprehensive notes during the interview. This should assist in the selection process and is particularly useful if the interviews take place over a long period or if there are a lot of candidates. You will need these notes to make a final decision. Some people like to use grading techniques as well to assess how well candidates fit the criteria. It is also necessary to take good notes under employment law so the selection process can be shown to be fair. If an unsuccessful candidate wants to know why they didn’t get the post they can ask to see the notes. This means the interviewee has to take objective notes and be very careful about any comments made.

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