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How to interview someone

Recruitment is a costly and lengthy procedure, so preparation is key to ensuring the interview runs smoothly and the right candidate is hired for the job.

Unsuccessful interviews are often the result of poor planning. This step-by-step guide from the CIPD’s People Skills Hub will help you plan effectively and sharpen your interviewing techniques.

Planning an interview

Interviews can take any amount of time but usually last around an hour. Every minute is precious, so be as strategic as possible with the time you have. Prepare an agenda and try not to deviate from it. Always allow time for questions from the candidate.

If there is more than one interviewer, arrange to meet beforehand to agree an agenda and establish each person’s role. Ensure everyone has read the candidate’s CV and tailored their questions accordingly. If the candidate has noticeable skill gaps consider whether you have the budget, time and resource to offer in-house training.

As you plan the interview, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I confidently share the company’s mission, strategy and structure?
  • Have I read and understood the job specification?
  • Have I got full details on the salary and benefits we’re offering?
Top tip: Print-out of the job specification and refer to this throughout. Use it to ensure you’ve asked a variety of questions covering the key areas and competencies. It will also highlight any skill gaps that need addressing.

How do I devise interview questions?

The questions you choose to ask are vital in determining whether the candidate is suitable for the role. Consider the key competencies required for the role and create a list of questions that will elicit the answers you need.

Questions vary depending on the position and job level advertised. For example, if you’re interviewing for a senior manager, you should include some questions on key performance indicators (KPIs) for the role and management techniques that determine the candidate’s working style.

Opening questions could include:

  • Why have you applied for this position?
  • What skill set would you bring to the role?
  • What relevant experience have you had to prepare you for the role?

Closing questions could include:

  • How would you describe your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What contributions would you expect to make in the first three months?

Behavioural questions – e.g. “tell me about a time you solved a challenge” – indicate how the candidate may respond to certain pressures, work with others and whether they are effective problem solvers.

You can find types of interview questions checklist on the Recruitment section of the CIPD People Skills Hub.

You can also download examples of different interview questions below. 

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Inviting the candidates

Once you’ve got your shortlist, select a small number of candidates to be interviewed. The interview can be arranged via email or over the phone.

Create a template email to send to each candidate for consistency, but make sure the date and time has been adjusted so there isn’t any overlap.

Scheduling tools are useful when planning more than one interview at a time. Once the candidate has confirmed a date and time, add it to the calendar as an event and invite the interview panel.

Conducting the interview

The following framework may help when conducting an interview:

  • Introductions
  • Outline of the company and brief overview of the role
  • Opening questions, such as “what attracts you to this role?”
  • Closing questions, such as “what are your salary requirements?”
  • Confirm the arrangements for testing the candidate’s suitability for the role (if appropriate)
  • Questions from the candidate

Phrase your questions carefully and try to keep them as concise as possible. Sharpen your listening skills and consider the language the candidate is using. Do they seem relaxed, engaged and well-informed? Or does the language feel unnatural or overly rehearsed?

Be prepared to adapt your questions during the interview. For example, if the candidate talks about a particular experience they had in a previous role and the challenges it presented, you might not need to ask a behavioural question. In short, if the question has already been answered, think of a different one that will give you further insight into the candidate’s capabilities.

While informal interviews offer a more relaxed alternative, and may help the candidate feel more comfortable, critical information can easily be overlooked.

Should I take notes during an interview?

Positive body language and eye contact are both important when it comes to putting the candidate at ease, but they can be difficult to sustain if you’re taking notes throughout. Although notetaking is an effective tool, and can be especially useful when you have a stream of back-to-back interviews, the candidate may find it off-putting and distracting. If you want to take notes, then consider having someone else sit in and write them for you.

Making the selection decision

This is often the hardest part of the recruitment process, especially if there are a number of strong candidates to choose from. If you’re struggling to come to any conclusion, here are some key questions that might help:

  • Does the candidate possess the skills required?
  • What additional skills and experience does the candidate bring to the role for added value?
  • Does the candidate possess all the certificates, grades and licenses needed to do the job?
  • What are the candidates stand-out credentials and achievements?
  • Would the candidate be a good fit for the team and company culture?

You may wish to keep any exceptional candidates details on record in case job opportunities arise in the future, but if you do this, you must ensure that you comply with GDPR requirements. 

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CIPD is the professional body for experts in people at work. For more than 100 years, they’ve been championing better work and working lives by setting professional standards for HR and people development, as well as driving positive change in the world of work.

With hubs in the UK, Ireland, Middle East and Asia, CIPD is the career partner of choice for 150,000 members around the world. They’re the only body in the world that can award Chartered status to individual HR and L&D professionals, and our independent research and insights make us trusted advisers to governments and employers.

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