Interview basics

Interview basics

Interviews can be daunting for both candidate and recruiter; but if the recruiter doesn’t conduct it properly it can lead to the breakdown of the entire process.

We’ve broken the interview down and into three stages “pre-interview, during-interview and post-interview” and provided a series of crucial tips to help recruiters ensure they get the best deal for both sides.

Stage 1 Pre-interview

The pre-interview stage is possibly the most important for any interviewer as this is where the preparation is done to ensure the interview itself is as smooth-running as possible. If you’re working with a CV-based application, this is where you need to really drill down and get to know more about your applicants and spot any potential problem areas or weaknesses. This takes time, effort and planning and is often where recruiters fall down.

Andre Field, managing director of specialist legal executive search consultancy Kingsley Blair has some simple advice. “In preparation read the applicant’s CV carefully to identify any issues that you can question in the interview. Don’t rely on your ability to ‘wing it’ and read the CV while you’re in conversation with the candidate.”

Rosa Von Furstenburg of recruitment specialist Victoria Wall Associates, believes this is a real opportunity to check out the candidates for yourself. “You need to look for evidence and ignore claims on a candidate’s CV. Anyone can write prose about what they can do, but real time spent doing something or working somewhere can be verified and experience makes a candidate’s skill set more valuable than confidence.”

She also explains the importance of reading between the lines. “Look for honesty in the candidate’s CV: are there unexplained gaps; exaggerated claims; unlikely circumstances?” she says. While lying on a CV is a cardinal sin it does happen, and it’s the recruiter’s job to iron out these issues.

A lot can be revealed about a person by their CV: the choice of words; attention to detail and layout all reflect the type of person you are interviewing. So check that what you have on paper matches the person you are talking to.

Don’t be afraid to plan questions that delve into the interviewee’s plans. For example, a candidate’s location seems easy enough to determine. However, the details often lie hidden. Don’t just ask where they live, ask where they see themselves in six months. Do they anticipate moving? Do they have a rough commute? Look for patterns in their work history specific to location.


Stage 2 – During the interview

“An interview has to be seen as a process of give and take,” says Field. “You are going to ask the candidate some difficult and testing questions in order to ascertain if they are a good fit for the role. Some of these questions may make the candidate uncomfortable if they aren’t asked properly.”

As part of this process of give and take it is best to offer something to the candidate first including a description of the organisation and the role. It gives you a chance to see how well the candidate can match his/her experience to the role and to the culture of the organisation. If you are open with the candidate it will encourage the candidate to be open with you.

One of the first things any interviewer should do is introduce the company. This will help the candidate relax and will also spur their interest. It’s often a good idea to ask the candidate what they know about your company first. This not only saves you from repeating what they already know but also allows you to see if they’ve done their homework.

“Introduce yourself as you would like the candidate to introduce themselves to you,” says Von Furstenburg. “This will set the scene for the interview. Good candidates will appreciate this hugely, after all, they are also interviewing you as a potential boss! You are your company’s walking PR.”

There are a number of key elements that recruiters need to bear in mind throughout the actual interview process, such as, “Don’t rely on first impressions.” We often form an impression of someone in the first 30 seconds of meeting someone. While your first impression of a candidate may not be positive, remember that under stress and anxiety a job interview can cause some people to hide behind a facade of what they believe the interviewer wants to see.

Recruiters also need to listen. Don’t talk more than is required; the standard 20/80 rule is a good guideline. Remember you are getting to know the candidate not they you, this also means not interrupting people as well.

Ask open-ended questions. The point of a job interview is to get the candidate to converse as much as possible not simply check boxes. Finally, take notes. During an interview it is important that the recruiter takes notes and jots down important points that each candidate makes.


Stage 3 – Post-interview

Post-interview follow up is mostly just a case of common courtesy, the best candidates will have spent time and effort preparing for the meeting.

“It is important to remember the candidate has given up considerable time and may have taken holiday from work to be with you,” says Field. “Giving prompt feedback even if it will take time for a decision to be made is essential. If the candidate is to be rejected let them know. There is no disgrace in not being suitable for a job. If you still have to see other candidates let them know the timeframe and keep them in the loop. If you ultimately decide to take matters forwards with them you need to ensure you manage their expectations in order to keep them enthusiastic.”

Giving feedback can also be a powerful part of the process. “Upon receiving feedback from the candidate, give feedback about the actual interview, levels of knowledge, skills and job fit, confidence and personality as well as the candidate’s relative position amongst applicants,” says Von Furstenburg. It is vital to give feedback to keep the candidate hopeful and interested. Lack of feedback is like a slap in the face. Well, nearly.

Here are three other things you may want to consider in the post-interview follow-up period:

1. Connect with the person on LinkedIn, it’s a great way of networking.

2. Send a follow up thank you either by email or by post.

3. Remember to stick to your commitments. If you said you’d get back to them next week, do it!

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