Proven Results | High Success 500 + Reviews

It’s Friday afternoon and you get a call from someone in HR asking you to step in at short notice and interview someone called Olga for a role as an advertising buyer “as you know a bit what we’re looking for”. Help!!

Whether you’re an HR professional, line manager or other professional, conducting a job interview and doing it well requires preparation and adherence to some sort of process. Interviewer training can help
you improve the interviewing process.

At a minimum you need to understand:

  • What is the job specification?
  • What stage Olga is at in the recruitment process? First interview?, second interview?, what has she been through up to now?
  • What questions do we need to ask, and how do we score the answers?
  • What happens next and the time frame?

And of course you need to have read Olga’s CV and application letter. Nothing creates a worse impression than an interviewer who is obviously flicking through your CV for the first time, while not listening to you answering the “why do you want to work for us?” question.

Try to think of the selection process as a funnel, drawing in (hopefully) lots of potential candidates, quickly screening out those obviously unqualified or otherwise unsuitable, and then delivering a shortlist of great people any one of which would perform the role well.

Many companies follow a two-stage interview process, after the initial screening.

Typically the first interview will focus on the “fit” of the individual with that of the organisation. How well do they share the values of the company you work for; how do their behaviours align with your culture, both now and in the future.

Behavioural (Fit) based questions involve gathering evidence to demonstrate how a candidate has behaved in the past. The quality of their evidence is a strong determinant as to how they will behave in similar situations in the future.
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The second interview is normally longer, up to 90 minutes and considers both:

  • The Role: technical and professional skills, qualifications, and experience. Role-based interview questions are about the actual job, the requirements and experience necessary to carry out the role.
  • The Fit: what they believe in, whether the behaviours of the candidate align with your culture, both now and in the future.

Examples of behavioural competencies would be:

Competency Competency Summary
Enthusiasm Lively & positive
Liked & admired
“Can do” upbeat attitude
Organisation Gets things done
“Off the radar”
Integrity Champions the business
Known for their honesty
Inspires trust
Continuous Improvement Embraces change
Seeks out innovation

Hopefully you will be provided with a detailed interviewers guide, with “framing” information for the candidate, standard questions (and follow-ups) time allowed for each question and a scoring framework. There should be a minimum of two people interviewing each candidate; agree beforehand who will ask each question.

It is important to give a positive impression and represent the organisation’s values yourself. To do this you should:

  • Greet the candidate using their first name and let them know you are pleased they have attended for interview. Introduce yourself and any other interviewers – give a warm welcome.
  • Explain the interview structure, and that it will be a mixture of role, technical and behavioural competency questions.
  • Have a positive voice tone and presence, be enthusiastic and confident.
  • Smile.
  • Offer refreshments and allow time for them to have a comfort break if needed.
  • Talk them through the format of the interview. Start with a ‘warm up’ chat, and perhaps an easy question such as ‘Talk me through your CV.’
  • Tell the candidate to take their time and answer with detail.
  • Demonstrate mutual respect and professionalism.

The scoring is against positive indicators for that behaviour and marks are distributed as follows:

  • Zero/Low Evidence (0 – 1 points)
  • Sufficient Evidence (2 points)
  • Strong Evidence (3 points)

In general, high performers:

  • Use more first-person pronouns such as “I”
  • Often talk in the past tense

This is because high performers have great examples they can draw on from the past and can easily recollect them.

In general, low performers:

  • Use more second and third person pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’, ’they’, ’you’, and ‘your.’
  • Often talk in the future or present tense, allowing them to give hypothetical answers.
  • Tend to discuss what other people did or how the actions of someone else stopped their own performance.

Be cautious of candidates who do not answer with substantial evidence, even when prompted.
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At the end of the interview, you should explain that you will be seeing several candidates over the next few days and will be in touch within X days. Ask them if they have any other interviews coming up, and their availability. Review your notes, discuss with the other interviewer(s) and score each candidate using the scoring sheet in the pack, based on the evidence you have heard.

A well-designed recruitment and selection process has the following benefits:

  • Shorter hiring time – defining what the organisation wants and investing time in preparation will eliminate unsuitable candidates quickly.
  • Improved employee retention – a ‘good fit’ candidate is likely to stay longer with the organisation.
  • A standardised process – everyone is using the same criteria, leaving less room for challenge.

It’s also a great opportunity to promote your employer brand. Candidates will on average talk to five people following an interview; their partner, someone in the family and almost certainly a trusted colleague.

So hopefully you’ve survived your baptism of fire, have been friendly and promoted the organisation, elicited the necessary information and have selected candidates that both are a good cultural fit, and will add value. Well done!

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