the job interview

The interview – perhaps best described as ‘a conversation with a purpose’ – still forms one of the most important tools in the selection process. Ideally an employer finds out if a candidate is right for the role, and the candidate discovers if the job and organisation is right for him or her. Randstad calls this “job fit, boss fit, company fit”.

strength-based interviews

So-called strength-based interviews seek to determine not only what a candidate has achieved and can do, but to reveal innate behavioural traits that could help determine whether a candidate is suited to the organisation. Strength-based interviews can involve questions on candidates’ interests, focusing on what they like/dislike (in effect, who they are rather than what they can do), and can be particularly useful when recruiting graduates or others who do not have a significant amount of work experience.

At its best, the interview is a two-way process, although there is a move away from single or two-people panels to a team of interviewers that might include someone from HR, the line manager, and one or more future colleagues. This enables interviewers to share their impressions of a candidate’s performance. On the downside, interview teams may find it harder to establish a ‘rapport’ with the interviewee.

Start the interview by introducing yourself, explaining what you do, how you are involved in the recruitment process, how long you expect the interview to be, how questions from the candidate will be handled, what other steps there are in the process, and the timeframe of the next stage. You could also talk about reimbursement of interview expenses if appropriate.

An interview will often begin with the interviewer talking about the company and the role to be filled. But from this point, the balance of conversation should shift, with the candidate doing most of the talking: the greater balance of time (70/30) should be spent with the interviewer(s) listening rather than talking. Interviewers should be prepared to be put on the spot themselves too: allowing candidates to ask questions or ‘take the reins’ for a while can give valuable insights into what they are looking for from the role and your organisation, and how well they use their own initiative.

It is good practice for the interviewer to take notes (candidates will often do the same), which should be kept for 12 months as candidates may have a right to ask for a copy of interviewers’ notes. 

the structured interview

The advantage that a directive or structured interview brings is consistency. Interviews that are structured can minimise bias and enable accurate comparisons between candidates. This style of interview supports the less experienced interviewer and can make the process shorter if you keep to a prescribed number of questions.  

Structured or directive interview characteristics: 

exchanges are standardised

questions and ratings are derived from the job and person specifications or competency frameworks

all candidates are asked broadly the same series of questions and interviewers rate the candidates’ answers on pre-set scales. 

interview planning

Good preparations are crucial to make the interviewing process efficient and will leave a positive impression on candidates. These are the main points to include in your planning: 

define clear selection criteria

if there is more than one interviewer, make sure everyone is clear about their roles as part of a co-ordinated approach, and who is chair or in charge of the panel

create an appropriate environment for two-way dialogue: the interview should feel like a business meeting, not an interrogation

interviewers are ambassadors for your organisation and should behave appropriately

treat all candidates in the same way – ask them broadly the same set of questions

if using competency-based interviews, make sure all interviewers know how they work

make sure the room is clean, tidy and free from interruptions, turn off mobile phones

meet the needs of any candidates who require adjustments, such as access by wheelchair

avoid psychological power games such as interviewing across your desk or forcing the candidate to look into the sun.

video interviewing

There are several ways that video is now being used as part of the interviewing stage:

a Skype or similar ‘face-to-face’ interview, where both parties can see and react to each other, which tends to rule out panel interviews, though multiple Skype participants can be organised

asynchronous interviews where a candidate is video-recorded online, answering a set series of recruiter-provided questions

a video recording (with the candidate’s knowledge and permission) of a live, face-to-face interview.

The advantage of both asynchronous and recorded ‘real’ interviews is that recruiters can view, as many times as they wish, each candidate’s answer to the same question to gauge responses more accurately, rather than rely on memory and their overall impressions of each candidate. While Skype-type and asynchronous interviews tend to be used early in the recruitment process – perhaps as an alternative to telephone interviews – for quick insights and highlighting soft skills, the use of recorded physical face-to-face interviews tends to come later, perhaps at final interview stage.

Some candidates – perhaps those who have not applied for a new job for a while, and who could be less prepared to encounter new techniques – may be concerned that they are disadvantaged by video interviews. Employers should make sure their recruiters receive proper interview training (see ‘preparing to interview candidates’ in chapter 4) to ensure that all interviews follow a consistent standard. 

Asynchronous interviews are, by their nature, very structured. It could be argued that some pre-interview biases, based on information such as a candidate’s name or photograph, are removed when using video in this way.

Expect to see some new HR technologies making an entrance that will help recruiters analyse and select candidates more efficiently and without bias. Randstad’s Innovation Fund supports a number of HR technology startups, including Wade & Wendy, chatbots that interact with candidates using AI, and Pymetrics that matches candidates through gamified psychometrics. Checkster, automated reference checking software, is already in use by recruiters.

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