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So – you are recruiting and your agency have sent through details of candidates you want to see. A good agency will have already pre-screened the applicants and provided some background before putting them forward so a lot of work will have been done for you by this stage. However more often than not mistakes are made before invitations are even sent out so it’s important to make certain you are organised.

Set a date within reason.

Give the applicants sufficient time between the invitation and the actual interview. For example it’s no good asking someone to come in the following day and expecting them to be fully prepared for a competency style interview with all research in place.

Give the applicant time to review the information and confirm their attendance depending on the style of interview.

Book a suitable space.

Ensure space is booked in a conference room/office where you will not be disturbed and make certain you allow sufficient time on either side of the interview schedule to prepare.

Set the space up ahead of time.

Before the interviews, check the room is correctly laid out. The idea of an interview is to ensure the applicant is at ease. Gone are the days when interviews were held behind a desk, face to face in an attempt to intimidate.

One of the deciding factors in determining which applicant is successful will be their personality (especially in Customer/Client Services and/or Sales Roles). This is much easier to gauge if the applicant is allowed to be themselves. As a result you should try and position yourself at a 90 degree angle to the applicant. If there is a conference table, try to position yourself adjacent to the table, rather than across from the applicant.

Review applicants before they arrive.

Ensure you have reviewed each applicant again on the day before the interviews. Highlight any areas you wish to discuss on their CV or list any questions you wish to ask, for example:

a)  I notice you were only with your last employer for 10 months, why was that?

b)  I see you have listed Customer Service as one of your key attributes. Can you give me examples?

c)  Your experience is predominantly face to face Customer Services, how do you think this will differ from contact over the phone?

d)  As I have mentioned this role is very high pressure, how do you feel you will cope with this? Can you give me some examples of when you have felt this type of pressure in your previous roles?

Your process may involve Psychometric testing. If so, ensure you have these ready on a clipboard with a pen for each applicant on arrival. Make certain the restriction is stuck to. This will give you a good idea of how quickly the applicant can think on their feet based on how much of the test is completed.

Conducting The Interview


Greet the applicant yourself.

Welcome the applicant in to the room yourself rather than have an employee bring them in for you. This relaxes the individual and shows them the process and company are not old fashioned and intimidating.

Break the ice by asking if they found you okay, mention the weather, offer some water and so on.

Be clear about the interview format.

Explain the format the interview is going to take, for instance:

“Ok what I would like to do today is explain a little bit more about the company and the role itself, then we can have a chat about you and your previous roles etc. Is that ok?”

By giving the individual structure from the outset, you can help them relax more and ‘settle in’ to the interview.

Provide some background.

You should start by telling the applicant a little bit more about the company (not an extensive history – the candidate should have researched) just a few lines about how long the company has been established, what type of business the company conducts, its clientele and its mission statement.

Explain the role in detail.

Move on to the role of the team and its importance to the company profile, then outline the job role ensuring you give details about the day to day operations and its challenges, for example:

“The role we are recruiting for is very high pressure. Excellent time management and multitasking skills are vital.”

Describe a typical day and the potential pitfalls as well as the positives. Finish on a positive note. It is vital that you are open about the job role at interview stage. If not you risk hiring someone who does not have a clear picture about what is involved and they may leave almost as quickly as they started. In this instance you are back to square one and mourning the loss of such a great deal of time.

Give the applicant an opportunity to ask questions.

When you are finished you should allow the applicant to ask any questions about what you have just told them. Finish your segment by confirming the basics such as Wage Rate, Pay Dates, Hours Of Work/Shift Patterns, Holiday/Staff Benefits, Dress code and so on. These things are vital and don’t be fooled into thinking a good applicant would not care about these things.

Ultimately everyone works for one purpose and this is to pay their bills. Additional benefits however such as pension scheme, travel passes, holiday pay, sick pay and so on are a good indication of a company’s ethics and an applicant will consider this when an offer is made.

Discuss the applicant’s suitability.

By starting the interview you have allowed the applicant time to settle down into the interview and to ‘get used to’ your demeanour. So when the conversation switches to their previous experience and reason for their application, the individual is likely to be more forthcoming. Go through their previous employment and ask questions like:

a)  I see you worked for/at (employer) – what attracted you to that role?

b)  Did you enjoy it?

c)  What made you leave?

Once you have covered their previous employment, you can ask what attracted them to this position and what they are looking for long term from the company. Be sure to include their flexibility and what hours they are really seeking. It is pointless offering a part-time job to someone who really wants full time.

What’s next?

Once you are satisfied you have all the information you need – you should inform the applicant what happens next. How many days of interviewing do you have left to complete? Will there be a second interview stage? When do you think you will have a decision by?

It is always wise to check when the applicant is available to start. Most applicants in their eagerness will say tomorrow but you need to make certain this is actually the case. Are they currently working? Will they need to give notice? If so how much? Make a note.

Any last questions.

Finally, allow for any last questions the applicant may have but be cautious of the time and ensure you complete the interview on time. Each applicant should have an equal amount of time with you for their interview.

By following a good structure you should be able to close the interview with a clear picture of whether the candidate will be the right fit for your company.

Lisa Emsley-Jones

Executive & Commercial Recruitment Consultant at Advantage Group