Recruitment Interviewing Tips


5 May, 2022

When hiring a new employee, you naturally want the best person for the role. The most common recruitment process is when you interview a candidate to determine if they match your role.

In a candidate-poor job market, you need to realise that while you are conducting job interviews with the candidate, they are also interviewing you to see if they want to work for you. You need to be on your game – to make sure you leave candidates with a great impression of your company.

So, let’s start with the basics. Interviews are not an exact science. They are not meant to be. The best you can do is to try and remove as much of the emotion of the process as possible and balance it with logic.

A structured job interview is the best way to assess a candidate. This is where you work out the core questions you will ask each of the candidates so you can compare the answers. Of course, you can probe for more information, but every candidate is asked the same core questions.

Before the interview:

Make time in your diary for the interview. Unless you schedule uninterrupted time, you will rush through the process and make poor choices. You need to show candidates the courtesy of being fully “present” at the interview. If you need to, hire additional staff to cover for you or close your business for an hour.

Consider having more than one person in the interview. Different people see different things in candidates. It can help to balance out viewpoints.

Make sure there will be no interruptions. If you allow yourself to be interrupted during the interview, you give candidates the message that they will be unimportant when working for you and will always be second best. Is that the message you want to give?

Re-read your position description for the role and have a copy handy for the candidate to review. Write down the skills and experience a high performer in the role will need to have and the qualities that you are looking for in a great employee. These become your selection criteria – the things you measure each candidate against to check their match.

Check out your marketing materials and website, as smart candidates will look through them before the interview and are likely to ask questions about what they see.

Work out what’s in it for the candidate. Be clear about why your business and this role are excellent opportunities for candidates. You need to convince people to accept an offer from you, so you need to work out why you stand out from other employers.

Arrange somewhere to wait. Ensure there is somewhere pleasant for the candidate to wait before the interview. Some candidates can arrive up to half an hour early, so be prepared.

Aim to get the best out of each candidate. You want each candidate to show you the best they can be. This is not a competition to see how they perform under pressure – any interview is by itself a stressful situation. Work out ways to make it easy for them, including giving them the main questions you are going to ask a few minutes before they come into the interview.

Prepare questions that are also legal. All questions you ask during an interview must comply with anti-discrimination legislation. This means you can’t ask questions about age, marital status, if they have a disability, if they are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, if they are gay, if they are union members, their childcare arrangements, or their religious beliefs.

Contact the candidates:

  • Send “Confirmation of receipt” letters or emails to all applicants for positions.
  • For candidates you will be interviewing, let them know who will be interviewing them, how long they can expect the interview to last, where to come and where they can park. By showing them courtesy as if they are your top client, you send a powerful message about what it will be like to work with you.

During the interview:

Interviews may be conducted face-to-face, via Zoom or Teams, or over the telephone. Where a phone interview results in the best candidate, you may want to meet face-to-face with the applicant before offering them the role.

Introduce yourself and take some time to build rapport before launching into questions. This helps put the candidate at ease.

Allow the candidate to be nervous. Make sure candidates have a glass of water to drink to steady their nerves if needed.

Phone interviews can be disconcerting as often, all the candidate hears is silence and are not sure if anyone is there or not. If conducting a phone interview, periodically make some noise when they are talking such as “aha” or “mmnn”. Consciously fill the background, and you will get a better interview.

Remember the no interruptions rule. Once you are interviewing, allow no phone calls or people barging in. If someone barges in, apologise first to the person you are interviewing. Tell the person who barged in that you are currently interviewing and will get back to them in half an hour.

Listen more than you speak: You want to listen to the candidate more than you speak when interviewing. Listen to the tone of voice, ease of answering and clarity of answers. Ask questions, and don’t be afraid to probe for more information.

Check out the candidate’s presentation. First impressions are vital and give a strong clue of how the person will present in your workplace.

Take notes. After a long day of interviewing, it is hard to remember exactly who said what. Try and take verbatim notes of answers as it helps when comparing candidates.

Tell the truth about the role. Don’t try and oversell a role or dance around negative parts of the job. You are more likely to get and retain the right candidate if you paint an honest portrait of the role and all it involves.

Ask if they have any questions for you, and be prepared for any curly questions about you, your company, pay and conditions, development opportunities and promotional possibilities. You need to answer confidently, with authority and not fudge around. If you are asked something you are not legally comfortable answering, then respond, “I am not in a position to answer”.

Check the referees are still current. You may want to ask the candidate what they think the referees will say about them, as that can give you some insight into their relationship.

Make your next steps clear. If you are going to conduct referee checks then check the contact details of referees. Explain when you will be making your decision and how you will contact them. Be clear to candidates on the next steps of the process.


Keep your process fast

The best candidates don’t stay on the market long. If your recruitment process drags on, you are likely to lose them.

Aim for a quick yet thorough process that takes no more than 7 days from the close of applications to your decision.

There are a lot of factors that go into a successful recruitment process. If you keep these foundation points in mind, you will be more likely to achieve the results you are looking for in filling your role.

Want even more tips on how to improve your interview techniques? Read more about effective recruitment interview questioning techniques.

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HR Author and Lecturer with over 25 years' experience in human resources and workplace relations in Australia. Lead Author of Instant HR Policies & Procedures, NDIS Direct Employment HR Manual, and Employee Performance Reviews: Tips, Templates and Tactics.

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