The much maligned Job Interview

The Interview, in spite of its many flaws is still the benchmark tool for effective recruitment. It should give you 70% of the detail and answers you need to make an informed decision. You should use the interview as your main decision-making input and supplement it with some of the other suggested tools to bolster, calibrate and copper fasten your decision. As with all steps in the recruitment investment process, pre-planning is the key to success.

Keep in mind the following;

Ensure the interview environment is laid out properly and conducive to putting candidates at ease and engendering rapport building.

Pre-plan all interviews in terms of timing, questioning focus, etc. This is especially important if you are using panel interviews. It helps ensure consistency/flow/smooth transferring/question allocation/time management etc. In panel interview format, always designate a panel chair.

Spend time at the start of the interview focussed on building candidate rapport and putting applicants at ease. Make introductions and outline the format the interview will take.

Explain the role clearly for each candidate upfront and ensure they are made aware of any specific job requirements/aspects of the role that candidates need to be familiar with.

Always remember that interviews are a two way process and both parties may have a decision to make. You have to sell as well as buy.

Use well thought out competency based questions to gain an insight into the level of specific competencies each candidate possesses.

Probe where appropriate for greater detail and understanding by use of focussed follow on questions.

Avoid the use of leading questions.

Make sure the talk ratio is balanced. For effective evidence of competency, the candidate should be doing most of the talking throughout.

Active listening is an interviewer competency. Use it extensively.

Maintain good eye contact with each candidate throughout the interview discussion. This is key to building trust/openness and engagement.

Allocate sufficient time for applicants to ask questions they might want to cover or clarify and don’t rush this section. Allow them time to add anything further to their candidacy that they feel is important.

Outline next steps in the process for candidates before closing the interview.

Note taking is key. Spend a few minutes after each interview and write up summary notes including a next step recommendation. If you are part of an interview panel an overall panel note or interview report is fine. It is advisable not to take notes while a candidate is answering your specific questions and best practice may be to appoint a note taker in advance.

Ensure you remember that once an interview is complete you have a decision to make. You must have enough insight and data to make that decision. The first and key decision you must be able to answer is, can the candidate do the job?, the second if the first can be answered in the affirmative is, will he/she be a good cultural fit to and for your Organisation? Remember you must be able to justify your decisions with evidence.

Finally, be sure that interviews are conducted within all legal requirements.

Good interviewing is complex. Preparation is key. Skilled interviewers are essential. Getting it wrong can be expensive.

The Right people are more important than The Right Strategy

Jack Welch the retired ex-CEO of General Electric (GE) said, “getting the right people in the right jobs is a lot more important than developing a strategy”. He may well be right, and I would suggest that finding the right talent and developing their full potential should actually be a key part of your overall business strategy. Recruiting new talent is likely to be a €1m investment decision. It is not to be taken lightly and requires a robust process. You should approach it like any other business investment decision and seek to minimise poor decision-making and eliminate as much risk as possible from the outcome. If you are investing a €1m+ over an average career tenure, you need to be sure you are making a good investment and will see a good return on your investment. So how can you increase the likelihood of success? By following a disciplined step by step focussed recruitment & selection process. Best practice will utilise most or all of the following stages, typically in this order;

The hiring process stages

Role Justification (title/level/salary/role summary/why now needed/consequences of not hiring). Normally completed by the hiring manager and passed up the Organisation for approval.

Job Description (fulltime/part-time/permanent/temporary/contract/detail role duties & responsibilities/reporting lines). Hiring manager normally develops this.

Person Specification (education/experience/competencies). Responsibility of the hiring manager to complete with the job description, both used to create job adverts.

Role advertising (recruitment agencies/social media/radio/newspapers/trade journals/employee referrals/company website/career open days)

Selection Process (screening/interviewing/testing/competency profiling/assessment centres/personality traits insights)

Interviewing (competency/motivational fit/behavioural based questioning techniques)

Candidate Vetting (reference checks/pre-employment medical/drug screening/qualification verification/permit validating)

Job Offer Process

New employee on-boarding Process

Induction Training

Probationary Period Management


Quite a detailed process and often time consuming, which doesn’t help in the current skill gap shortage economies we work in. However take shortcuts at your peril. As someone once said, “if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, try hiring an amateur”.