How to interview someone the right wayA guide by citrusHR Consulting
Knowing how to interview someone without any prior experience is not that easy, as you’d be surprised how quickly you can land yourself and your business in hot water. But read this article through, and you will have a fairly good idea of how to properly conduct an interview.
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How to interview someone within the law
First off, be aware of what the law says on the subject of fair recruitment at all times. If you don’t know it, you may want to brush up or you could be at risk of being taken to court…
Essentially, the Equality Act 2010 states that you have to treat all individuals fairly in all aspects of work, including recruitment. You can’t discriminate against, or for a certain characteristic of a candidate, however, you may take positive action to better represent a certain group in your workforce – e.g. you might want to promote job opportunities for individuals over a particular age if they aren’t well represented as part of your workforce.
Bear this in mind as you prepare for your interview.
“You can’t discriminate against, or for a certain characteristic of a candidate”
How to prepare for your interview
There are some good steps to take when preparing to interview someone, ensuring that you cover all the necessary points and both parties are clear on the job role that needs to be filled.
- pull together a copy of your job description, person description (what skills they need, education level etc.), and the candidate’s CV
- write down all the points that you want to clarify, and anything else you may want to discuss
- don’t rush into the interview on the day – take a few minutes before heading into the meeting to refresh yourself on the candidate and what areas you wanted to clarify
Once you have these areas, do you know what sort of questions you should ask? Thinking about these will help you identify the candidate that is right for the job.
How to interview with the right questions
You’ll need to know if:
- They have the right set of skills for the job – This is pretty straightforward, as you can cross reference what they tell you with your job specification.
- They have the right attitude – This can be more tricky, but you can try to detect someone’s attitude from their general demeanour. Are they enthusiastic, open, or positive about the role? Also asking about anything they did at work in the past that was not necessarily part of their job role can be helpful, as well as how they felt about it. You can also use these questions to determine their general personality, helping you to find whether they are a good fit with your team.
- They are in the right place to take the job – This is to determine whether they are practically able to do the job at this moment. What is their availability, how far would they need to commute etc.? You can also confirm the working hours at this point, to determine whether the candidate is comfortable with this. However, do not ask about family or personal circumstances unless the candidate offers up this information first.
What else though? There are some other questions that you should, and can, reasonably cover during the course of an interview to help round-out the above areas:
- Their CV – This is your opportunity to learn a little more about what the candidate has done in the past, and to put the candidate at ease talking to you too. Ask what they have done, expanding on what they’ve put on their CV where relevant to your role. The best method is to ask them about their career so far, and then ask questions on any aspects you’re interested in.
- Some standard questions – These can help you to identify their attitude, asking questions like:
- “What attracted you to the role?“
- “What are your strengths?“
- “How do you feel you are most effectively managed?“
- “What has been your greatest success so far?“
- “If you could change one thing about your career so far, what would it be?“
- Scenario questions – This will help you to explore the candidate’s ability. Make sure to ask for real examples of how they’ve dealt with specific situations. E.g. if they were in sales and described themselves as a good closer, then ask for an example of when they closed a particularly difficult sale and how. You may see something in their career history which you can prompt them with if needs be – some people can suffer memory loss in stressful interview situations, so be patient!
- There are also a number of specific job-related questions that prospective employers can ask to learn more about candidates during interview. A few of which include:
- “What aspects of your current job did you enjoy most?“
- “What three words would your friends use to describe you?“
- “Have you taken a look at our website? If so, what do you think of our business?“
- “What would you say are your main weaknesses?“
- “What do you think makes a good manager?“
These questions should give you an idea of the direction to take in your questioning, to get a more rounded view of your candidate’s performance and attitude towards their job, as well as their personality.
When asking the questions, it’s important to ensure that they’re ‘behaviour-based’. Don’t let them lead into yes or no answers, rather allow the candidate room to expand on their answers. And don’t ask them anything that will make them squirm! If you’ve spotted a hole in their CV, raise it in a professional way rather than being confrontational e.g. I notice a gap in your employment history between March 2014 and December 2014, do you mind me asking why you took a break from work at that point in your career?
How to interview in a structured way
So you have your questions for when you interview someone, now to structure your interview. When conducting your interviews, it is worth keeping the questions for all candidates similar, as that way it is easier to compare them afterwards. Maybe attribute a score to each question, to make it even easier for you to be objective later on. However, you don’t want to just read off questions, so it’s best to have a loose structure which allows you to casually converse with your candidate. After all, they’re evaluating you as a potential employer just as much as you are evaluating them. Here’s a typical and easy to replicate structure:
How to structure an interview
1. First, thank them for attending, and try to make them talk about your company a bit
2. Ask them to talk about themselves, then ease into some of the more standard question
3. Move into scenarios, so as to explore their suitability and experience
4. At the end of the interview, don’t forget to ask about their salary expectation, earliest start date and take copies of ID, or qualifications if you’ve already asked them to bring these to the interview
5. Give the candidate a chance to ask questions of you
6. Conclude the meeting, and thank them again for coming, letting them know when they may expect to be contacted and whether you have many more candidates lined up
7. Make any additional notes you may need whilst the interview is still fairly fresh in your mind
There’s no set time for a job interview, some may last as little as 20 minutes depending on the nature of the job. However, we would recommend that you keep the first interview to no more than an hour, and you can always get more detail on a second round if needs be.
“There’s no set time for a job interview, some may last as little as 20 minutes depending on the nature of the job.”
If you do decide on a second interview, this is your opportunity to get more information on the candidate – after all it would seem odd to ask the same questions all over again! You will have had chance to think about how they might fit into your team, and this will raise some questions; also further colleagues should be brought in to ask their own specific questions.
You may wish to set a task for the second round. The amount of effort they put in will give you an idea of their attitude towards the job, as well as the quality and knowledge shown in the work itself.
Some final things to remember…
Before we leave you, we thought we’d just give you a quick rundown of some dos and don’ts. First off, the dos:
- Dress appropriately for the interview; the way you present yourself is a reflection on your company.
- Start slowly and safely; ease the candidate into the interview and make sure they’re comfortable.
- Take the candidate on a brief tour of the site/ workbase if you have time, it can help them feel a bit more relaxed and give them an idea of the environment they could work in.
- Make your decision – whatever it may be – promptly, and inform the candidate of the outcome. That includes those that are unsuccessful, giving them feedback that could help them next time.
So those are the dos, now for the don’ts:
- Don’t keep them waiting – You wouldn’t be impressed if they were late, so don’t give them the same bad impression!
- Don’t interview from behind a table – It may seem the best way to do it, but try to remove any barriers and make the interview more relaxed.
- Don’t talk too much – Allow the candidate to answer questions as fully as they can; you’re there to hear about them, not the other way around.
- Don’t finish the interview early – It may become clear the candidate is not the right fit quite quickly, but you should still continue; they may be a good fit elsewhere in your business. It can also be really demoralising for them, and looks unprofessional.
- Don’t be too informal – Stick to your questions and try not to get drawn into small-talk. You may end up prejudiced towards a candidate you really like, rather than someone who would be a good fit for the role.
- Never ask questions that could be perceived as discriminatory – For example, asking “are you married?“, “do you have a family, or are you planning one?” will get you into serious hot water. As mentioned earlier, avoid any questions like this unless they offer information on it first.
“asking “are you married?“, “do you have a family, or are you planning one?” will get you into serious hot water.”
The very last thing to remember when considering how to interview someone is to treat them well – after all, you never know if they are a potential future customer!
For more tips on recruitment in general, the REC have a number of great resources for employers. However, if you feel you need direct help with your recruitment and interview processes, why not get in touch with us today?