preparing to interview candidates

Preparation is everything. All who will be involved in interviewing candidates should receive some basic training and make sure their interviewing skills are up to speed.

Just as candidates prepare for interview, interviewers need to make sure they are familiar with the role they are interviewing for. Interviews are not additional unavoidable duties, and if you fail to prepare, you could set in motion a chain of potentially expensive consequences from picking the wrong employee. “Many people are poor at interviewing, although most think they are good at it,” writes HR guru, Michael Armstrong, in his Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice. 

Preparations for a good interview include:

ensuring you have a strong understanding of the role and what it requires

choosing an appropriate location – somewhere quiet, well lit and without distractions

providing details of the interview to candidates ahead of time, including directions to the location, details of who will be involved, what (if anything) they need to bring and how long to expect the interview to last 

preparing relevant questions and briefing the panel members on the format

ensuring all interviewers have had access to the candidate’s application or CV

allocating enough time for the interviews, allowing at least 15 minutes between each to write up notes rather than taking copious notes during the interview

putting the candidate at ease at the start of the interview 

using the selection criteria, job or position description and the person specification as the basis for the interview. 

The softer skills required to conduct interviews include:

establishing a rapport to relax often nervous or stressed candidates, which means you’re more likely to discover the person they are and employee they could be

asking ‘open’ and ‘probing’ questions that elicit information, not leading the candidate or posing ‘closed’ questions

demonstrating good listening skills, evaluating the information received, picking up on key signals or remarks and probing further 

keeping your speaking time to a minimum once you’ve set out the structure of the process, to enable the candidate to demonstrate his or her qualities.

being objective – it’s essential to set aside bias or stereotypical views

controlling the session, sticking to the brief and the allotted time.

Although questions relating to reasonable adjustments for interviews can be asked (e.g. someone with an audio impairment may need a signer or may prefer to lip read), it is illegal for a prospective employer to ask questions about a person’s disability before a job offer is made. Even afterwards the information should only be used to determine what reasonable adjustments may be required.

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