Hiring is one of the most important activities you will do in order to grow your business with each new employee playing a pivotal role.  But how do you determine which candidate would perform best and fit in well with your current team?

This short guide will help you to plan and conduct your interviews and feel more confident of appointing the right people.

Prepare for the interview

Using your job description and person specification, prepare some standard questions which you will ask of all candidates. It can help you to compare and contrast your candidates if you ask a lot of the same questions at interview.

Compare the candidates’ CV or application form with the job description and highlight any specific questions you may have for each individual.

Prepare an interview assessment form to complete during the interview. Use ticks or alternatively mark each point out of 5 or 10, either of which are easy to do quickly whilst still actively listening. If possible, it is a good idea to have someone else present to take notes for you so that you can concentrate on what the candidate is saying – this also helps to get a more objective view of the candidate.

Leave space on your form to record notes on experience, motivation and enthusiasm for the role, communication skills and the ability or competencies required.

Consider the location

Think about the layout of the room. If it is a one-to-one interview, sitting at 90 degrees to the candidate is less formal and usually makes for more relaxed discussion. Unless the candidate is giving a presentation as part of the selection process, try to make this as informal as possible.

Alternatively if you are having a telephone interview, ensure that both parties have the right numbers to call and that you are in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.

Welcome the candidate

Try to relax the candidate as soon as possible upon meeting and to make him/her feel at ease.  Open with a short overview of your business, and where this position fits, followed by an explanation of what you will cover in the interview.

Questioning techniques

Closed questions are those which require a simple “yes” or “no” response and should be used sparingly, to clarify information only.

Open questions begin with “how”, “who”, “what”, “why”, “where”, “when”, “do you”, “talk me through…..” and require detailed answers. These should form the majority of your questioning.

If you have specific competencies or skills against which you wish to measure candidates, you may ask for evidence of these by getting the candidates to tell you when and how they overcame a particular predicament.

Generic questions will help you to build a fuller picture of the candidates, and it is common to cover the following:

  • how they see themselves
  • how they see and interact with others
  • how others see them
  • positive things about work
  • negative things about work
  • what they want from their job/motivation
  • research they have done about your business and fitting in
  • personal development and relaxation.

Questions or tests should be limited to those that check for the particular skills and competences required for that position. Throughout the interview, do take care not to ask questions that may potentially be unlawfully discriminatory.

Ask some practical questions towards the end of the interview:

  • When could you start (if successful)?
  • What is your salary expectation?
  • Do you have any holidays planned?

Candidate questions

Don’t forget to allow time for the interviewee to ask questions, to clarify details or bring up issues not covered so far. Give candidates a genuine opportunity to ask questions – often this will be a chance for you to differentiate between equally good applicants. It may show you their level of interest, their level of expertise and an indication of how they work.

Closing the interview

Summarise the selection process, recapping what you have already covered, what the next stage is and how long the whole selection process will take before you make a decision.

Finally, while it may seem overly-cautious, it’s good practice to write up your notes and retain these for six months so that you have a defence in case a candidate claims that he/she was rejected on unlawful discriminatory grounds.

You can find out more about a cost saving HR compliance service from Hiscox and BusinessHR at http://hiscox.businesshr.net or by talking to your insurance broker.

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