Gone are the days when interviews were about putting people under pressure. Interviews are now as much an opportunity for you to sell your company and attract the right employees as they are a way of screening candidates.

The interview process varies widely from company to company. Some organisations opt to leave the primary selection to a recruitment agency to speed up the process  whereas some only to do a telephone or online interview before making an offer, whilst others opt for a multistage process involving a series of face to face interviews, presentations or assessments.

Each have their merits and much will depend on your resources be that in terms of time and/or finances.  However the sad statistic is that however you do it, it isn’t guaranteed to find you the right candidate, but at present it is the best we have.

In any case, however you decide to proceed, you need to tread carefully.  You must ensure you conduct a fair process and keep records because if challenged, a potential candidate could ask for copies of your analysis of their application and an explanation as to why they weren’t successful.  Any failure in demonstrating a fair process could lead to a discrimination claim in tribunal!

When hiring on mass it can be useful to screen potential employees online and perhaps also put them through an assessment, such as a competency based or psychometric test. This allows decisions to be made quickly and saves significant time and resources.

When recruiting people who will only be indirectly customer facing (e.g. engaging with customers and colleagues over the phone, email or internet), telephone and written assessment is very important, as it allows you to evaluate the skills that will actually be used.

For strategic hires and those where direct customer facing, managerial or supervisory skills are required, face to face interviews are vital to find the right interpersonal fit.

Designing an interview process requires significant thought and planning. Too protracted or demanding and you risk losing the candidate to another party, yet at the same time you need to be thorough. Properly setting expectations and ensuring that diaries are free and not allowing interruptions helps to keep the momentum going, as does using tools such as video conferencing and virtual meetings where location is an issue. Follow our tips for an efficient and effective process.

Stage One – Initial Assessment

– Have an accurate and up to date job description and if possible also create a job spec and decide which skills and experiences are absolutely critical, and which are desirable but not essential.

– Retain documentary evidence of your shortlisting process and ensure that who you select to interview meets all of the ‘essential criteria’ – take subjectivity out of the process if possible.

-Share with colleagues who will be affected by the hire and ask for their input.

– Create a list of standard questions to help you evaluate the candidate’s suitability (see below).

– Review the candidate’s job application, psychometric tests and/or CV against the job spec before initiating contact.

– Add additional questions to your list based on their specific background or to discuss results from tests.

– Agree a suitable time and place for the interview to take place. Remember that many interviews need to be conducted outside of normal working hours when the candidate can speak freely.

Stage Two – Engage

Irrespective of whether the interview is taking place online, via telephone or in person, it is essential to create a level of rapport. This allows the candidate to behave more naturally, and will give you a better view of how they are likely to perform day to day. Small talk helps to break the ice, as does the offer of some refreshment if appropriate.

As the interviewer, the onus is on you to lead the interview, perhaps by giving an overview of the company and/or job or your own background. This is your opportunity to really sell the job.

Stage Three – Evaluate

There are a range of things you need to evaluate, from the candidate’s skills and ability, through to their behaviour, personality and attitude. Asking open questions is important as this reveals more about the candidate than a simple yes/no answer. Competency based questions that pose a problem and ask the candidate to solve it are very useful at determining the level of a skill, as are role plays that approximate a typical scenario they might face, and observing how they deal with it. Always ask what the candidate wants to achieve so you can understand their motivations.

Avoid any questions which are really not relevant to the job, unless part of building the rapport, or any questions that could imply discrimination ie asking a female her intentions with regards to having children, or asking age or medical questions, unless there is a genuine occupational reason for doing so.  Speak to Alcumus to clarify this.

Give yourself a simple grading system to rate each candidate (e.g. 1-10 for skill, personality, attitude, competence, appearance etc.); this is helpful when assessing multiple candidates as it helps you to shortlist and categorise objectively.