Ten tips on interviewing staff

First, the preparation. Make sure you’re clear on what you are looking for before your start to interview ? you can do this by pulling together a job description and a person specification. You need to know what criteria that you are matching your candidates against, otherwise it is a waste of time for everyone involved.

Then, there are ten cruical steps:

1. Pre-screen all candidates: If you don?t have a HR department, dedicate someone from your admin team to pre-screen all candidate applications to establish suitability for the role. Make sure this is effective by preparing a detailed brief for your team: this should include what type of experience you?re looking for; length of time in the industry; and a list of preferred previous employers. I recommend calling in at least two previous employer references at this stage ? it will help confirm a candidate?s suitability and save valuable time later on. If carried out properly, pre-screening will guarantee your senior team never interviews an unqualified candidate.

2. Preparation is key: It sounds obvious, but make sure you?re familiar with a candidate?s details before the interview. It?s essential you have a detailed understanding of their career history so you know the right questions to ask, potential strengths and weak areas. Pre-prepare a list of set questions to ask every candidate (eg. why are you looking for a new role? Where do you see yourself in five years?). This will ensure you can easily compare candidate motivation and ambition.

3. Build a good rapport: It?s essential to build a good rapport with every candidate to get the best out of an interview. Use “ice breaker” questions to relax the candidate, a simple “how was your journey?” will help put a candidate at ease to make sure you get honest answers and a real feel for their personality type. Lastly, relax the situation by using their first name throughout the interview.

4. Questioning style: The aim of an interview is to build trust and commitment. It is therefore important to maintain a balanced approach wherever possible. It is very easy to treat an interview situation as an opportunity to try and test or catch a candidate out. Some interviewers will deliberately put an applicant under pressure to measure their response ? most people become defensive and then reluctant to give information when put in that situation. Always be courteous and smile. Ask open questions that will encourage the candidate to open up and speak. But don?t be afraid to ask difficult questions where appropriate. Sometimes it?s important to challenge people to avoid making assumptions or misunderstanding them.

5. Experience counts: Seek out anecdotal evidence wherever possible, nothing demonstrates a candidate?s experience or capability better than their past experience.

6. What?s their motive? Every candidate is driven by a different set of motives. It?s essential to understand every candidate?s motivation. A successful hire depends on how well these motivations are understood. You need to know what makes your potential hire tick and what will excite and motivate them about your business. The age-old favourites of “Why are you leaving your existing job?”and “What is your biggest career achievement to date?” will provide you with insight into what makes each candidate tick.

7. Control within the interview: People are generally very happy to talk about themselves for long periods. Asking questions such as ?Tell me about yourself? can be lethal. It is essential to control the interview by leading the questioning. You must be able to politely interrupt the candidate if they are straining for the point and re-direct the conversation to areas that you would like to probe.

8. Promote employer brand: An interview provides you with an opportunity to sell the company to a candidate. Pre-plan what you?re going to say, but don?t treat this as a pitch ? you want to showcase the good work and opportunities within the company. Don?t forget to talk about company benefits, including holiday, bonus schemes, salary and development reviews. Your dream candidate should leave the interview believing you?re offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Always ask a candidate what they know about the company ? this will help quickly establish their interest in your company and the role.

9. Try to remain unbiased: It is essential that an interviewer remains unbiased and balanced within an interview. You?re only human, so it?s possible to be influenced, but personal prejudices and assumptions have no place in an interview. The “halo and horns effect” can sometimes slip into the interview process. This is where the interviewer favours a candidate who has worked for similar companies or had similar experiences to themselves, likewise these preconceptions can be negative.

10. Think about using a psychometric specialist: It?s worth thinking about hiring a specialist to carry-out psychometric tests. When carried out alongside structured interviews, these tests help provide insight into how people work and what makes them tick, helping you to better predict a person?s future behaviour and success in a new role. Currently experiencing a resurgence in the UK (70 per cent of UK companies with more than 50 employees use psychometric testing, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), psychometrics can cut recruitment costs by 30 to 40 per cent and reduce the time a new recruit takes to become fully effective.

Krishnan Doyle is the founder of COREcruitment which handles recruitment in the hospitality, leisure, FM and service industry markets.


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