Undertaking Interviews

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Most jobs involve having an interview. Its main purposes are to find out if the candidate is suitable for the job and give the candidate information about the job and the organisation.

Preparing for the interview

  1. It is advisable for the employer and interviewers to plan core questions to probe skills, qualities and values essential for the job. It can help to use the application form, job description and person specification in devising the questions. At the interview itself, interviewers may find they have to probe some areas more with certain candidates.
  2. The questions should be ‘open-ended’ so they cannot be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They usually begin with ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘when’ or ‘how’.
  3. Interviewers should familiarise themselves with the application, job description and person specification in advance of any interview. If the interviewers need to ask candidates to explore or expand on their applications, they should make sure they have read the completed applications beforehand.
  4. The interview should be planned so the candidates do most of the talking, which can be achieved with a handful of questions to be answered at length, or a longer list of shorter questions.
  5. The interviewers should share questions between them to draw on their own skills, knowledge, experience, training and qualifications.
  6. Try to anticipate any questions the candidate might ask and, where possible, have the answers to hand.
  7. It is advisable that all interviewers are trained and aware of all relevant laws.
  8. Off-the-cuff interviews are likely to be different each time and, because they are inconsistent, unlikely to pick the right person and should generally be avoided.


Conducting the interview

  1. Make sure the practicalities are handled to set a candidate at ease before the interview starts – welcome them, show them where the toilets are and ask if they would like a drink. Most importantly, make sure the interview will not be interrupted by visitors or telephone calls.
  2. Interviews should, where possible, be conducted by more than one person to avoid unintended or unconscious bias.
  3. So all candidates are treated fairly and consistently, they should be given the same opportunity to demonstrate they are the best person for the role, and to ask questions of the interviewers.
  4. Understand that it is common for both candidates and interviewers to be nervous.
  5. Listen carefully and make brief notes on key points.
  6. It can be helpful to score candidates’ answers to core questions – for example, out of ten, with the top possible figure being the ideal score.
  7. Avoid asking for personal information or personal views irrelevant to the job, or potentially discriminatory questions such as ‘Are you planning to have children in the next few years?’
  8. How an interview is handled can vary, but can typically involve:
  9. thank the candidate for coming, give them time to sit down and get their application materials in place, then make any introductions
  10. briefly outline information about the role and the organisation, and then move to the first question
  11. keep to the interview’s time frame and ensure there is time to ask all the questions. Allow for some flexibility in the time candidates are given to answer questions – for example, by rephrasing a question if they answered it poorly the first time, or to ask for

Further examples in answer to a question if there’s time at the end of the interview

  • Confirm the last question has been asked, check the candidate is familiar with the terms and conditions of the job and ask if they have any questions
  • tell the candidate what will happen next and when they can expect to hear about the outcome of the interview.

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