Hiring is one of the most important stages in building your business and taking that next step. But it isn’t easy.
Even an extensive series of interviews and tasks don’t offer a lot of opportunity to determine whether or not a candidate is the right person for the job. It is essential, then, that you make sure the interview is as effective as possible.
Meanwhile, if you have never done it before, it can be hard to know how to interview someone fullstop. What you want to avoid is a situation where you’re as nervous as the interviewee!
That is why we have compiled the eight steps you should follow if you want to conduct an effective interview, from what to do beforehand all the way through to making an offer.
How to conduct an interview: a checklist
- Have you defined what you want in a candidate?
- Have you researched the candidate you will be interviewing?
- Have you created an interview structure?
- Have you provided the candidate with all the information they need ahead of time?
- Do you know what tone you want to strike in the interview?
- Are you actively listening to what the candidate is saying?
- Have you got a way to record your interview notes?
- Do you know the next steps in the interview process?
Step 1: Define what you want
Conducting an effective interview starts long before you are face to face with the candidate. If you don’t know what you want, how can you expect the candidate to be what you want?
Before you sit down to write the job description, come up with a list of what you’re looking for from your ideal candidate, and what they absolutely must have. For example:
- Do they need certain qualifications or level of education?
- How much experience in your industry are you looking for?
- What kind of personality would best fit your team?
While candidates may not be able to match every one of your wants, defining your must-haves can help you narrow down the applications you receive.
Even then, it can be a good idea not to be too prescriptive. Leave room to be surprised in the interview, especially for roles where there is room to shape a rough-around-the-edges candidate into the perfect employee.
And what about the elephant in the room: salary? Although there are a number of factors that will contribute to the salary and benefits you end up offering, you need to have an idea of the range you are looking to pay. Not only will this help shape the kind of applicants you approach for an interview, but it will mean you are able to provide an answer if it comes up.
» MORE: Cost of hiring someone in the UK
Step 2: Do your research
Once you have sifted through your stack of applications and found the people you want to interview, it is time to do your research.
You would understandably expect the interviewee to do their research about your company and the position advertised. It is only fair for you to do the same.
This goes beyond skimming their CV. See if you can find examples of the work they mention online. Look into their previous employers. Thoroughly examine any tasks you have asked them to complete.
Not only will this give you context for their answers, it will help you better tailor your interview questions to the situation.
» MORE: Questions to ask in an interview
Step 3: Plan your interview structure
After conducting your research and formulating your questions, you can plan your interview structure.
Part of this is prioritising what questions you want to ask. Time can go quickly in an interview, so you should select those questions that will give you the best chance of gaining the insight you need.
The interview structure doesn’t have to be strict. You may want to leave room for the natural flow of conversation, and new questions that arise that you didn’t or couldn’t plan for.
However, keeping a structure in mind can help avoid dead air, and provide transition points for when a line of questioning naturally comes to a close.
Areas of consideration could include discussing the role and the candidate’s experience and education, before moving on to situational and personality-based questions related to your industry. You should also leave room at the end for the candidate to ask their own questions.
If you are conducting a panel interview, i.e. an interview with more than one person on your side, discuss with your colleagues who will say what, and when.
Step 4: Give the candidate the information they need
Your final bit of prep before the interview is making sure the candidate has all the information they need.
This goes beyond the date and time of the interview (though, of course, that is important too).
If you are conducting the interview in person, make sure they have the address, and directions on how to get there. If it’s online, make it clear which video conferencing service you will be using ahead of time, and make the relevant URL obvious in your correspondence.
Regardless of whether the interview is in person or online, give the candidate some indication as to the dress code. They can’t know what you don’t tell them.
Similarly, it can be useful to inform them ahead of time about what types of questions they may be asked. Interviews can be nerve-racking at the best of times; you will both have a better experience if the candidate has had a real opportunity to prepare.
Finally, be explicit about any tasks you want them to complete ahead of time, and when you expect it to be delivered by.
Step 5: Set the tone of the interview
Now it is time to conduct the interview itself. And it is up to you to set the tone in its early moments. Do you want it to be a formal interview? Or more casual? By making it clear at the outset, you will hopefully help ease the candidate into the right headspace.
Much of this will be informed by the environment and culture at your organisation, and what stage of the interview process you are at.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to tone, but ideally it would reflect the feeling of your workplace.
Step 6: Make sure you listen
This may sound obvious, but it is vital that you are an engaged and active listener throughout the interview.
While you have prepared a structure and a list of questions, try to leave space to respond to what the candidate is saying, rather than just moving on immediately. Give the interviewee time to respond, and don’t rush to fill any silences. You want to try to provoke considered answers, rather than rushed statements.
At the end of the interview, you should then be very clear about what the next steps are in the process, and when the candidate can expect to hear back from you.
Step 7: Write up your interview notes
You may not feel comfortable, or be able, to make notes during the interview. You might find it is a distraction when you are trying to carry out the interview itself. If that is the case, then it is important that you try to make some notes as soon as you can once the interview has ended.
This will help you have a record of the interview, not only for comparing candidates and discussing them with the relevant colleagues, but for providing feedback to the interviewee after the fact.
Bear in mind that, as part of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a candidate can request to see any interview notes that are transferred to a computer or form part of a ‘relevant filing system’. Therefore make sure you keep your notes professional and constructive, which is good advice even if they aren’t to be filed away.
Step 8: Follow up with the candidate
Once the interview has concluded, you will need to follow up with the candidate. This could be to arrange the next stages of the process, such as setting a task or finding a time for another interview. Or it could be to inform someone they have or haven’t got the job.
Informing someone they have got the job
If you are informing someone they have got the job, then you will need to make them an offer, whether that is by email, over the phone or via a video call.
This will need to include the job title, salary, start date and any probationary period, any perks and benefits (such as pension, the length of the contract (if applicable), and contact information for if they have any questions. You may also want to include an explanation of why you want to hire them for the role. It will then be down to the candidate to accept or reject this offer.
If they do accept the offer, you will then need to follow your company’s specific hiring process including, for example, sending them an employment contract.
As an employer, you should also know that the moment you have an employee that is based in the UK and is not a member of your family, you need to take out an employers’ liability insurance policy worth at least £5 million from an authorised insurer. If you are incorporated as a limited company, you will need to take out a policy even if your employees are family.
Explaining why you didn’t hire someone
While not as fun, it is just as important to take the time explaining why you didn’t hire someone.
This can involve thanking the candidate for their time, giving the candidate feedback on the interview (including what went well), the specific reasons why they were not suitable for the role, and if applicable what made the winning candidate secure the position.
If their application was strong, and you may be interested in contacting them in the future, you can let them know. Similarly, if the field was competitive, or you had a high number of candidates, this can also be useful context for the candidate.
Above all, this correspondence should be conducted in a polite and professional manner, regardless of how you felt the interview went.
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