Five interview tips to guarantee you hire the right fit

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

May 03 2021

When it’s time to grow your team, you want to find the right fit. 

Because when you employ an unsuitable candidate, you face the difficult choice of rebuilding their skills or letting them go.  

And if that means carrying out another round of interviews, it could waste time you simply don’t have.  

So to really see whether an applicant is right for your business, follow our effective interview methods…  

1. Hold a screening interview first

Every employer has ‘must-have’ requirements. For example, if you need bar staff, you’ll want to know whether candidates can work during the evenings. 

Imagine you found the perfect candidate and invited them to interview. After an hour of talking, you discover the candidate is unable to work your shifts – so you’ve wasted time you could have spent on your business.  

To avoid this, call your candidate for a quick ‘screening’ chat to rule out any deal breakers. This will depend on the role, but you could ask whether the candidate has: 

  • The right to work in the UK  
  • A driving licence (if it’s necessary for the role) 
  • A DBS check (if it’s necessary for the role) 
  • Whether they can work the right hours or days 

Your candidate’s answers, along with a brief overview of their background, should help you decide whether to arrange an interview. Remember, it’s illegal to rule out candidates based on attributes like their age, gender, disability, or race.  

Doing this could put you at risk of a discrimination claim. So, unless you can show a protected characteristic is essential for the job, it’s illegal to prevent anyone from interviewing on these grounds.   

2. Plan the questions around your needs 

There’s no ‘one-size fits all’ set of interview questions.  

Instead, think about what you’d like the candidate to add to your business. First, ask yourself: 

  • Do you need the candidate to be fully-trained and qualified? 
  • If not, are you willing to train staff up with the right skills? 

If you need someone who can hit the ground running, focus on their existing abilities. You could ask how they’ve previously dealt with challenges using the skills you’re looking for.  

But if you’re prepared to provide training, ask questions about the candidate’s attitude and how they’ve learnt new skills in the past. 

Next, consider what’s really important for your business. While being confident is an ideal quality for a team leader, it’s not as important for a supervisor. So consider what’s necessary for the role and shape your questions around that 

3. Consider a group interview 

If you’re trying to fill a customer-facing role, a group interview can be effective. This is exactly what it sounds like – you invite multiple applicants to answer your questions at the same time. 

This helps you see how candidates react with other people and whether they’re confident in a group situation. When candidates communicate with one another, you get to see their teamworking and people skills first-hand.  

Group interviews are also helpful when you’re short on time. Instead of spending days meeting your candidates one by one, you can meet them all in one session.  

Plus, you’re giving applicants a fair chance to answer the same questions. When all your candidates attend the same interview, it’s easier to compare like-for-like responses.  

4. Offer a trial shift or create a roleplay exercise 

A CV or conversation can only reveal so much about your candidate. For hospitality roles, you could offer a short trial shift to see how your applicant deals with customers.   

It’s best to keep a trial shift as short as possible. You’re not obliged to pay applicants for a trial shift – as long as it’s part of a “genuine recruitment process” and it doesn’t last longer than a few hours. 

But if it’s a full shift or you ask them to return for another trial, you need to pay at least the National Minimum Wage.  

For other client-based or customer service roles, consider a roleplaying exercise. Whether you use a script from a client call or invent a customer problem, see how your interviewee responds. This shows you how they react under pressure and think on their feet.  

5. Make sure your questions are HR-approved

While some questions may seem like innocent small talk, they could have damaging consequences. 

Asking female applicants whether or not they have children – or if they’re pregnant or planning to start a family – could put you at risk of a gender discrimination claim.   

Similarly, asking how the applicant’s age or religion could affect their job performance can also be discriminatory.  

It’s illegal to discriminate during the recruitment process, so steer clear of any sensitive questions. For a legally-sound interview, it’s safest to avoid asking candidates about their: 

  • Age 
  • Race 
  • Disability 
  • Religion or belief 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Sexual orientation  
  • Marriage or civil partnership status 

Get expert support as you grow your team 

As lockdown lifts and normal life starts to resume, you could be ready to grow your team. If that’s the case, our employment law experts are here to support you. 

Whether we’re updating your hiring policy or providing employment law advice, we’ll protect you from claims.   

And whenever you need instant HR support, we’ve got you covered. Call us on 0800 028 2420 to see how you can enjoy unlimited access to our award-winning consultants.  

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