Conducting a Job Interview

12 August 2022

As an employer, you may often need to conduct an interview for an opening within your company as part of your hiring process.

When you are hiring for a position on your team, knowing how to conduct an effective interview can make you feel more prepared. More importantly, it helps you select the best candidate for the open position.

A poor interview might lead to the hiring of the wrong candidate, which can harm your company's productivity. Aside from that, a wrong approach to hiring might lead to discrimination, which can result in hefty fines.

In this guide, we'll discuss what a job interview is, the main parts of it, and advice on conducting a good job interview.

What is a job interview?

A job interview is a meeting between a job candidate and a representative of the company that is used to assess whether the candidate should be hired. Interviews are one of the most common methods and useful tools for selecting employees.

An interview is a major part of the hiring process, which typically precedes the final selection. Normally, the interview itself is preceded by a review of the candidate's resume and cover letter, which are selected after reviewing the job applications.

An applicant's resume allows you to make comparisons to other candidates and shortlist who may be better suited for the role. You should then conduct an interview to learn more about each of the candidates.

What is the purpose of a job interview?

The purpose of conducting a job interview is to get the chance to meet the candidates either in-person or virtually. This is done so that by the end of the interview process you discover more detail about their skills, expertise, and suitability for the advertised position.

You can gather important information by asking a number of questions that will help you decide how a candidate will perform in the role. You can also get a sense of if they're a suitable fit for your company.

For the majority of employers, the main purpose throughout the interview process is to find out more about:

  • Whether the candidate's skills and qualifications are relevant to the role.
  • Any relevant experience they could bring to the business.
  • Their passion for the role and their interest in the work environment.

Job interviews give employers the chance to ask the candidates a specific set of questions. This enables them to compare candidates and choose the one who best fits the position.

An applicant shaking hands with the interviewer.

Main parts of a job interview

A job interview may be split into five main parts, starting with an introduction and ending with the candidate asking questions. The length and format of the interview may change, especially if you want to ask candidates to prepare a pitch or presentation beforehand.

The main parts of an interview are:

A quick introduction and ice-breaker

It's common to offer the candidate a drink and make small talk to ask them a few ice-breaker questions before the main interview. If the interview is in person, present a tidy office and turn off your cell phone as this will be the candidate's first impression of you.

Depending on the situation, choose appropriate ice-breaker questions to begin the interview. Set the tone by giving the candidate a simple explanation of what to expect over the next half hour.

Make eye contact and establish rapport by finding a common ground to discuss before diving into the difficult questions.

The following are some examples of generalised questions you can use:

  • Ask about the weather or the location in which the candidate lives.
  • Ask whether they had any difficulties getting there and what they think of your work environment.
  • Ask if they have any prior experience with your company as a customer.

A presentation of the business

Outline what the company does, who you are, and what your role is within the company.

In this part, providing the candidate with a bigger picture of the company and its long-term goals and a sense of the company culture can be beneficial.

Also, discuss your length of service with the company, when and how you started, and your career journey. This can give the candidate an idea of how they are likely to progress within the business.

A review of the job description

In this part, you can review the job description and the working conditions to check if the candidate meets your expectations and is comfortable with what the job entails.

You should describe the job details and what you're looking for in the ideal candidate. Give candidates more detail about the position's requirements than was provided in the job posting, so they can decide if the job is the best fit for them.

The discussions in this part are a great opportunity to uncover candidates' strengths and identify whether they are a suitable fit for your company.

In some situations, the candidate may lack relevant experience, yet their educational background does closely match what you are looking for.

A number of interview questions

In this part, you should ask pointed questions about the candidate's background and skills, and dig deeper into their work history.

Some of these questions may be situational questions in which you ask the candidate to give an example in a particular setting.

You can also ask open-ended questions, such as asking them about a difficult challenge in their last job. If they are confidently answering any question you ask, it could indicate that they understand all sides of the role and can meet your expectations.

Keep in mind that asking challenging and tricky questions can make the candidate feel nervous and uncomfortable.

A chance for the candidate to ask questions

In the final part of the interview process, you should be asking the applicant if they have any questions for you.

They might want some clarification on the position or the following round of your hiring process. Give them a time frame in which they may expect to hear back, so they won't have to wait around in uncertainty until you make a decision.

It's wise to spend some time preparing before conducting an interview. This allows you to ask the questions necessary to identify the best candidate for the role.

If anything relevant comes up during the interview, you might want to ask follow-up questions. Having an organised set of questions helps ensure that you discover the key details about the candidates' experience, skills, and qualifications.

A woman sitting on a sofa being interviewed.

Conducting a good job interview

As you conduct more interviews, you'll probably develop your own distinct interviewing techniques and candidate selection methods. However, keeping the following points in mind can help you be adequately prepared when conducting interviews:

Know what you want

Before you begin looking for the ideal candidate, you should consider the job itself. Consider what the position involves, former position holders, their core duties, and what skills, knowledge, and personal traits made them successful or unsuccessful.

It's a good idea to make a list of the factors that make up a good candidate. Then, make sure that other employees involved in the hiring process agree that this is the criteria your company is looking for.

Ask relevant questions across the interview process

You should ask consistent questions throughout the interview process. The questions should help you evaluate if the candidate is genuinely interested in the job and company, their career plans, values, work habits, knowledge and skills.

It's crucial that you ask about skills specifically related to the requirements and responsibilities of the job position. You could also ask questions that enlighten you about the candidate's reasons for leaving their current job.

Develop a rating system

The first impression each candidate made on you shouldn't be used to compare candidates to one another. They might leave a good impression on you but be unsuitable for the job.

Remember that the new employee should be the best candidate for the specific position, not necessarily your new best friend.

Failing to rank each candidate's criteria before comparing candidates may result in the selection of someone who is friendly but not necessarily the best candidate for the job.

Also, you run the danger of selecting a candidate who lacks the necessary qualifications only because they were the most competent among the job candidates you interviewed. This is an issue if the qualifications are essential.

Quantify the requirements

An effective strategy rates each candidate in each success factor and compares them against a set of criteria.

For example, for an SEO Content Executive role, you might want a candidate who can create three pieces of content for your website every week.

It may seem like some skills needed for specific positions are more difficult to quantify, but all it takes is a shift of perspective. For example, for a leadership position, you can set a standard of having managed a certain number of employees as a requirement.

Before comparing candidates against this benchmark, do not compare them to one another.

Avoid discrimination in the recruitment process

Throughout the interview and the recruitment process, you must avoid discrimination. Always ensure that interview questions adhere to all applicable employment law.

Generally, the questions should be consistent for all candidates about their past or current job. Once you've spoken with everyone, you can compare the answers fairly and on an equal basis.

Prevent asking candidates about protected characteristics such as race, religion or belief, age, sexual orientation and other protected characteristics under the equality act.

When deciding about the final outcome, avoid making either positive or negative assumptions about candidates based on these characteristics.

Get advice on conducting a job interview from Peninsula

Carrying out an interview is an excellent opportunity to discover more about a candidate's skills and experience. By analysing their answers, you will find out if they will be a good match for your company culture.

Understanding how to conduct an effective interview will make you feel more prepared when hiring someone for a position on your team.

A poor interview not only raises the likelihood of hiring the wrong person but also raises the possibility of discrimination in the hiring process.

Peninsula offers 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 051 3687

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