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Top 5 tips for preparing and conducting interviews

Got a key position to fill? Hiring good employees is the foundation of any successful business, but selecting the right one can be hard work.  How you prepare for the interview is often the most important step in the process. Here's how to figure out if the candidate sitting across from you is likely to become your next best employee.

As an employer it is important you get the best person for the job. That's why the interview process - and the interview questions - should focus solely on matching the skills and experience of the candidates against the requirements of the job.  You can always ask them to provide more information through a skills testing process if required, to learn more about skills testing click here.

Employers should have a good understanding of the job requirements and appreciate the importance of asking only job-related questions and follow equal opportunity principles.  Below are our five top tips to follow:

Plan for Success

Goal:  A successful interview plan to find the right candidate

Planning for your interview is the most important step of the interview process.  Some important things to think about could be:  

  • Timing: plan for at least 45 minutes per interview.
  • Use multiple interviewers. Several members of your team should meet key hires. The more perspective you get on the candidate, the smarter your decision will be.
  • Have note-taking materials available, don't rely on memory alone to track responses.
  • Prepare a list of questions that relate directly to the job requirements.  All candidates should be asked the same set of questions.
  • Know the order in which you'll proceed with questions and how they'll be divided up among team members.
  • Allow candidates time to make their point and, if necessary ask follow-up questions so they can elaborate on their initial answers.
  • Make a record of the answers provided by each candidate
  • Consider developing a scoring system to rank each candidate's ability to meet the essential and the desirable selection criteria, this will help in selecting the preferred candidate.

Do Your Homework Beforehand

Goal: Minimize the back-story and maximize the time you spend with the candidate

Going into an interview, each interviewer should have already studied the information on the person they're about to meet face to face. At the very least, become familiar enough with his or her resume, cover letter, or other submitted materials so you don't waste the first half of the interview re-learning basic biographical information.

Make sure you have the information you need to get a sense of what each candidate is all about—and what they might bring to the position—before you conduct the actual interview

Discriminatory questions

Goal: Keep it legal

The interview process is subject to numerous employment laws designed to protect applicants' privacy and ensure them a fair shot in the selection process. Employers cannot ask questions about religion, national origin, age, height, weight, marital status, disability, or gender unless they represent genuine qualifications essential to the operation of the business. (For example: a church can ask potential ministers about their religious background; a contracting firm can ask if candidates are physically able to perform certain tasks.)

No one should be required to provide personal information, and some in the employment field recommend keeping the interview process tied strictly to job relevance. It is against the law to request information about someone's personal background or attributes - such as their age, marital status or parental status - and then refuse them a job based on this information.

In addition it is generally unlawful to ask candidates whether they have ever made a workers compensation claim, how many days sick leave they took in the previous year or other questions about health conditions that do not relate to their ability to meet the requirements of the job.

The employer should also avoid asking questions that are presumed to be relevant only to certain applicants for example to women, older workers or parents.  Instead, applicants should be asked whether they can fulfill the key requirements of the job such as travel, overtime or performing any necessary physical activities.

Instead of Ask
Have you been on WorkCover?

This job requires heavy lifting/sitting at a computer terminal. Are you able to do that without compromising the health and safety of yourself and others?
What are your childcare arrangements?
This job requires travel interstate. Are you able to spend time away from home?

Are you planning      to retire soon?        Where do you see yourself in five years time

Do you intend to have a family?

Can you commit to the organisation for two years?

What after hour activities are you involved in? We're seeking well-rounded, passionate people. Is that how you'd characterize yourself?

Behavior-Based Questions

Goal:  Keep the interview focussed around practical, job-related skills and information.

Behavioral questions require candidates to give examples from their past experience and describe how they used specific skills that are relevant to the job. They're a great opportunity for candidates to demonstrate leadership or other desirable kinds of performance. An applicant may make statements like, "I deliver great customer service," but that's meaningless unless they can provide a concrete example showing how they walked the talk.  Some examples of behaviour-based questions could be:

  • If you're looking for leadership: "Tell me about a time when you accomplished something significant that wouldn't have happened if you hadn't been there to make it happen."
  • If you're looking for communication: "Describe a situation where you persuaded team members to do things your way. What was the effect?"
  • If you're looking for customer service: "Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an irate customer."

In summary, like many things in your business, preparation is the key to success for conducting a successful interview.  To validate and provide additional information to help assess the suitability of different candidates, you might like to perform a skills test.  If you want to learn more about skills testing and implementing it into your business, click here for further details on our skills testing process.  Please note it is important that these tests are relevant to the job, non-discriminatory and that any specific needs of candidates with a disability, are taken into account.


Copyright 2011 Brook Personnel. All Rights Reserved.  This article may not be used without the prior written consent from the author. See below for more details...

Need more help? Why not contact Brook Personnel the author of this article, and let us connect you with the people or an organisation you need to succeed.

Author: Lynne Brook - Brook Personnel