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Interview Preparation

How to Prepare for and Conduct an Interview

To ensure you hire the right person for your recruitment requirements, we have prepared the following preparation guide.

Through years of experience within Staffing and Recruitment, Heat Recruitment has accumulated data from several sources to produce this document to aid Interviewers on how best to prepare for Interviews, and how to extract the most relevant information from their Interviewees.

The key to hiring the correct employee that can help you as a manager achieve your personal and Company objective is to ensure that you get the most relevant information from the Interviews conducted.

Preparing properly for the Interview will allow you to gain all the key information required to make the most accurate decision on each Interviewee, ensuring that you hire the best talent to meet your recruitment requirements.

As with many tasks within business, good planning and preparation are vital to ensure the optimum outcome. When recruiting, once at the Interview stage you should have effectively pre-screened your applicants to ensure that you are only meeting candidates with the relevant/transferable skills to succeed within the specific role.


Create a Detailed Job Description

Ensure that you know exactly what the position entails by developing a detailed job description, to include the following:

  • An overview of the position and the primary objective of the role
  • The key responsibilities of the job holder
  • The specific skills, experience or knowledge applicants require to conduct the role
  • The relevant behaviours candidates must demonstrate in order to be successful in the role
  • Why has the role become available? Has the role been signed off? What date are you looking for someone to start?

If possible, the Interviewer should spend some time with the existing incumbent of the role to get a much greater understanding of the vacancy offered, its duties and responsibilities.

Having developed a detailed understanding of the job role, you will now be able to create a list of key questions that are pertinent to the job role, and revealing the knowledge of each candidate will prove vital when making that all-important final decision.

In addition to the key questions being asked during the interview, you should thoroughly review the interviewees:

Education – Ask about the Interviewees educational choices

Career History – Ensure all dates are aligned and match up, any gaps in employment are explained – don’t hold back from asking difficult questions


Tailor the Questions to the Applicant

A thorough review of each Curriculum Vitae will enable the Interviewer to tailor additional questions which are specific to the applicant, and which will reveal more information about the applicant’s personality, experience or history.

This process will allow the Interviewer to build a rapport with the candidate and find common ground, ensuring that the process runs smoothly and without any awkward pauses, utilising, to the best effectiveness, the time set aside for Interviewing.


The Role of the Interviewer During the Interview

A Welcome Explanation

Firstly, Welcome the Applicant warmly to the Interview with a firm handshake and ask them how their journey was or their day so far. The majority of candidates arriving for a job Interview will be nervous, and so a friendly welcome will assist them in relaxing. Encouraging your candidate to relax will make them feel more comfortable, resulting in Applicants answering questions with increased honesty, consistency and quality, providing you with a greater insight into the candidate’s capabilities.

Explain how the Interview process will be conducted outlining/signposting each stage. This will allow you to control the Interview and will prepare the applicant for what to expect during the Interview. This will also provide the opportunity for the applicant to ask any initial questions about the Interview.


Remember, the Interview is a Two Way Process 

It is important for the Interviewer to understand that whilst they are leading the Interview, an Interview is still very much a two-way process. The way the Interviewer presents themselves will have a direct influence on the way the candidate perceives them as a potential employer.

The Interview is as much about the Company selling themselves to the applicant as it is the applicant demonstrating their suitability to the Company and the applied for position. As part of selling your Company to the Applicant, use your previous experiences and highlight any achievements and awards the team or Company has received, explain the Company’s vision and goals.

Provide an in-depth timeline of where the business has come from and what the business/team is looking to achieve in the near and distant future.

Remember: Candidates with plenty of experience and relevant qualifications will be highly sought after within the industry, you may not be the only person / Company interested in this Applicant.

To encourage Interviewee’s to speak openly about their experiences, make sure you Ask Open-Ended Questions. Asking closed questions that have a simple “yes” or “no” answer will reveal very little to the Interviewer about the applicant.


Asking the Right Questions

Asking open questions that prompt the candidate to give more expansive answers provides the Interviewer with more valuable information. It is possible for Interviewers to analyse and formulate these answers into a scoring system to compare candidates.

Examples of Good Interview Questions to ask Potential Employees

  • What aspects of your previous role did/didn’t you enjoy? Why?
  • How did you interact with your previous Boss?
  • How far do you commute?
  • What are your thoughts on the Job being offered?
  • Typically, open-ended questions will begin with the following:
    What, Why, When, Where, Which, How…?


Examples of Poor Interview Questions

  • Did you enjoy your last position?
  • Did you get along with your last/current Boss?
  • Do you commute far for work?
  • Do you want the job?

Typically, try to avoid using questions that start with the following as they will encourage a yes/no answer.


Exploratory Questions

The Interviewer has an unenviable task to assess the suitability of a candidate within a relatively short time frame and with limited information. It is the role of a good Interviewer to establish as much as they can about the applicant with the use of well-structured and insightful questions, whilst promoting the Company itself to the potential employee.

Ask Specific Questions to Establish Credentials – The Interviewer should attempt to reveal how the applicant would react in situations which may arise within the job role. Questions that begin “Give me an example when you…” or “How did you resolve your last conflict within a business?” will provide vital information as to the applicant’s suitability for the role.

Seek to Uncover the Real Applicant – Many – if not all – applicants will endeavour to give a good impression, which may belie their true nature and character. The Interviewer should ask incisive questions to attempt to reveal the true personality of the Interviewee.

Establish Personal Skills – An applicant may be perfectly qualified and have much experience, but if they are likely to clash with their colleagues, then suitability for the vacancy must be questioned. The Interviewer must ensure that the skills of the applicant cover all requirements for the job role being offered.

Interview Preparation Overview

1. Ensure that as the Interviewer you have a list of pre-prepared questions to take into the Interview with you.

2. Decide on the essential things you need to learn from the Interviewee and prepare questions to probe them thoroughly

3. Plan the environment – ensure privacy and no interruptions. It is also very important to make sure the Interviewee is looked after whilst they wait as first impressions will have a big impact on the candidates final decision

4. Remember that candidates talk – As part of your recruitment process it is imperative that candidates are provided with feedback, whether they are right for the position or not. Even if candidates aren’t right for the position, if they feel they haven’t been treated correctly they are likely to tell their peers and consequently could reduce your future talent pool.

5. Clear your desk, apart from what you need for the Interview, so it shows you’ve prepared and are organised, which shows you respect the situation and the Interviewee.

6. Put the Interviewee at ease – it’s stressful for them, so don’t make it any worse.

7. Begin by advising the Interviewee of the process of the Interview, signposting the stages. Explaining clearly and concisely the general details of the organisation and the role

8. Ask open-ended questions – how…? why…? what…? where…? when…? which…? Questions that start in this fashion are far more likely to get the Interviewee talking

9. Make sure the Interviewee does 90% of the talking

10. Use ‘How?’ and ‘What?’ questions to prompt examples and get to the real motives and feelings. ‘Why?’ questions place more pressure on people because they suggest that justification or defence is required. ‘Why?’ questions asked in succession will probe and drill down to root causes and feelings, but use with care as this is a high-pressure form of questioning and will not allow sensitive or nervous people to show you how good they are. Think about how your questions will make the Interviewee feel. Your aim and responsibility as an Interviewer is to understand the other person – not to intimidate, which does not facilitate understanding.

11. High-pressure situations can cause people to clam up and rarely exposes hidden issues – calm, relaxed, gentle, clever questions are far more revealing

12. Probe the CV/Resume/Application form to clarify any unclear points

13. If possible, and particularly for any position above first-line jobs, use some form of psychometric test, or graphology, and have the results available for the Interview, so you can discuss them with the Interviewee. Always give people the results of their tests. Position the test as a helpful discussion point, not the deciding factor. Take care when giving the test to explain and reassure. Ensure the test is done on your premises – not sent in the post.

14. Give Interviewees opportunities to ask their own questions. Questions asked by Interviewees are usually very revealing. They assist good candidates to demonstrate their worth, especially if the Interviewer has not asked great questions or there is a feeling that a person has for any reason not had the chance to show their real capability and potential.