The do’s and don’ts of interviewing
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For small businesses it’s really important to recruit the right people; not only will the right people excel in the role, but they will also be a great fit for your business and culture. The interview is a key stage of the recruitment process, giving you the best feel and insights into whether the candidate is right for your team. Get this right and you could be high flying… but get it wrong you could be in a tight spot…

In this blog we explore some important areas to be aware of when interviewing, with tips to help you make that next great hire.

Do your prep

The interview is a two-way street, it is as much an opportunity for the candidate to find out about you and your business as it is the other way around. By taking time to prepare for the interview, you will give the candidate a much more engaging, understanding and experience of your business.

There are many common interview questions that you could ask your candidates, such as “Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?” or “What skills and experience will you bring to this role?”. As these questions are quite popular, you may get a well-rehearsed and generic responses. Instead, preparing questions based on the candidate’s CV and showing a real interest in their experience may result in more natural, meaningful answers being given.

Coming across as personable and interested is important when recruiting. A candidate needs to like the business and also like you if they are going to accept a potential job offer. Showing them you have read their CV, and appearing interested in their past roles and experiences, shows a genuine interest in getting to know them as individuals.

The interview itself

Do the little things right

Remember it’s the little things that can help to calm a candidate’s nerves and contribute to their interview performance. If the interview is being held in person, this includes making sure the candidate knows how to access the building, where to head for and who to ask for when they arrive. Asking the candidate if they would like a drink or just having a glass of water ready on the table can also help to calm any pre-interview nerves.

If the interview is being held remotely, make sure they have clear instructions of whether the meeting will be held on Zoom or Teams, with any passwords or other joining instructions emailed over in advance.

Doing these little things gives the candidate a great first impression of your business and will help them feel more comfortable. This will allow you to see the real them and get a better view of whether or not they will be a good fit for your business.

Ask open relevant questions

Asking open questions such as “Why do you think prioritisation is an important skill for this role?” rather than “Do you think prioritisation is an important skill for this role?” allows the candidate to show you their understanding and interest in the role, while better helping you assess their suitability.

You could even go further and ask them to prioritise some relevant work tasks, that they might have to complete if they got the role, as an assessment task, to help expand the question and help you assess how suitable they are. But more on that later.

Asking scenario-based questions can be useful for many roles to see how the candidate would deal with a specific situation. For example, asking “Tell me about a time when you used your influencing skills to resolve a difficult situation and what the outcome was” should give you a good idea of how that candidate is able to use their skills in real-life work situations. These types of questions help you to make an informed decision about whether the candidate has the skills needed for the role.

Avoid personal questions

Avoid asking any questions about a candidate’s personal circumstances.

For example, if you were to ask “Are you considering starting a family?” and then not offer the candidate the job, they could think you made your decision because of their answer and bring a discrimination claim.

It’s unlawful to ask questions related to protected characteristics so, to avoid any issues around discrimination, it’s best to stay away from these types of questions.

Avoiding questions relating to personal circumstances ensures you are focusing on the candidate’s skills; however, you can still use the interview process to get to know your candidates. For example, including some generic small talk or asking the candidate about their interests outside of work helps you to suss out their personality and see how they’d fit in with your team.

Interview tasks

Aside from the interview questions, you may want to ask candidates to complete a specific task for them to showcase their strengths, rather than just talking about them. It’s easy to say you can do something, so asking them to actually do a presentation or a written task can be a very helpful part of the selection process.

For example, if the candidate will have to deliver presentations to the team or to senior management as part of their role, asking them to deliver a presentation as part of the interview process gives you a real-life opportunity to assess their suitability for the role.

Be prepared for the candidate’s questions

As we mentioned, the interview is a two-way street, so it is also an opportunity for the candidate to ask you any questions. Just as you would expect the candidate to do their prep, make sure you are ready for any potential questions about the business, its culture, benefits etc – anything that a potential new starter may be keen to know.

Being open and honest is key when interviewing. Just as you wouldn’t want a candidate to lie or embellish, by doing that yourself and not being open about the business’ culture etc, you could create mistrust and inevitably damage a future employment relationship.

Usually this is the final part of an interview and gives you one last opportunity to understand the candidate further and their interest in working for your business. If a candidate asks well thought out questions, it shows preparation and genuine interest in working for you.

Be clear on next steps

By ending the interview explaining what happens next in the process – i.e. if there are any further stages or letting the candidate know when they will hear from you – gives clarity and helps reduce any anxiety or confusion over next steps. It also gives the candidate confidence that you are following a clear selection process and taking it seriously.

Clearly setting out the next steps gives structure to your hiring process, sets expectations, and shows the candidate that you are organised and professional, all helping to build your brand.

Whether you are interviewing for a junior entry level position or a senior manager role, the interview stage is a crucial part of your recruitment process. Asking relevant questions, engaging the candidate with your business and being clear about the process will all help to ensure you are recruiting the right people who will contribute to the future success of your business.


Making your first hire? Here’s our tips for hiring an employee for the first time and everything you need to know.

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The content of this blog is for general information only. Please don’t rely on it as legal or other professional advice as that is not what we intend. You can find more detail on this in our Terms of Website Use.

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