Julie Tucker
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How to conduct the perfect interview

Conducting a personal interview is a chance to delve deeper into your prospective employees’ skills and achievements. You’ve heard about their work and life experience on their resumé and over the telephone. Now it’s time to meet them face-to-face.

The main purpose of an interview is so an employer can get a sense of the applicant’s passion for the job, their initiative, career goals, attitude, company culture fit and communication skills. The question is, how do you conduct the perfect interview to ensure you take on the right candidate?

If you’ve ever conducted an interview when there was awkwardness and you didn’t click with the applicant, you will probably have decided they’re not the right fit for the job. However, this might have as much to do with the questions you’ve asked and your approach, rather than their inadequacies. The meeting might have left the candidate with a negative impression of your company, which is something you don’t want to perpetuate.

Think about any interviews you’ve experienced as an applicant and remember what worked and what didn’t. What made you feel uncomfortable? Did the interviewer put you at your ease, or was there an awkward atmosphere? When you put yourself in the applicant’s position, it can help you to become a better interviewer, with more empathy.

The average job interview lasts between 30 and 45 minutes, so you don’t have much time to form a picture. Read on for advice on the various interviewing techniques you can employ to conduct the perfect interview.

1. Put the interviewee at ease

The interview is one of the most important stages of the recruitment process, as it presents an opportunity for both parties to interact. Putting the interviewee at ease to reduce nerves can remove the biggest obstacle to conducting a successful interview.

Research has shown only 10% of candidates don’t suffer from pre-interview nerves, so the best approach is to make eye contact and establish a rapport from the outset. You should have prepared for the interview by studying their CV at length. Find a shared topic to talk about briefly on a more personal level before starting the official questions.

2. Listen more and talk less

Remember the interview is mainly about the applicant, so listen to what they say, rather than talking a lot yourself. Non-verbal clues such as body language, posture, alertness and their knowledge of the company will give you some clues. It will show whether they have done their homework.

While you can provide an insight into the company and your management style to “sell” the position, don’t talk at them and always leave time at the end for the candidate to ask questions about the job and company.

3. Questions to focus on

Prepare your questions in advance and ask each candidate the same basic things, so you can compare their responses later. However, you should be prepared to improvise, depending on their individual responses. Before the interview, run through some “what if” scenarios and have a plan on how to follow up various responses.

It’s always a good idea to ask the candidate why they left their last job, what their goals are for the next five years, what they need to be successful in a work environment and what role they prefer in the team.

4. Staying professional

Your goal is to make the candidate feel comfortable, so you can benefit from a productive and professional conversation. This means you need to understand what you can’t ask or talk about.

It’s okay to have a brief informal chat about a shared interest to “warm up” at the start, but your official questions should be focused on the job and work-related – do not delve into the applicant’s personal life. Avoid questions about race, gender, age, religion, national origins, disabilities or marital status.

5. Take notes

While no interviewer should sit writing throughout the interview, as this can make you seem disinterested, it’s okay to make brief notes – the interview can help to fill in any information gaps from the CV. You can collect any additional details when you meet in person. However, you can’t be expected to memorise everything and jotting down notes to jog your memory post-interview is completely acceptable.

After the interview, follow a timeline for the recruitment process and stick to it. Let the candidate know when they can expect to hear from you. The average job application and interview process in the UK takes 27 days to complete. Ideally, it should be shorter than this. Never leave someone waiting too long to hear whether they got the job, or you might find they have gone to one of your rivals!


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