Planning and conducting a job interview

The success of an organisation depends a great deal on recruiting people with the right skills, knowledge and abilities. Conducting an effective job interview process in a timely manner is key to that success.

But when you're already juggling multiple tasks, it's easy to feel that there aren't enough hours in the day to meet every candidate who submitted a great resume. How can you organise your time better to schedule in the necessary interviews and avoid a slow hiring process? Here's a guide:

Consider video interviews

Often, you'll end up with a long list of suitable candidates but may not have time to meet them all. Travel time can also be a barrier. A phone or video interview can help narrow down your options.

Just speaking with the candidate over the phone can reveal a lot about them. However, video interviews using tools like Skype are growing in popularity because they allow hiring managers to see non-verbal cues.

Prepare the right interview questions

Develop an approach you will use with all candidates. Rank the key factors required for the job in order of importance. Again, let the job ad you created be your guide.

Prior to your video or in-person interview, have a list of questions prepared that explore the key skills necessary to perform the job of each applicant. Include key questions suitable for all candidates, and more specific questions tailored to each candidate's resume. Vary the styles of the questions by including:

  • Close-ended, factual questions; e.g. “How long did you work for company A?”
  • Open-ended, competency-based questions that require more than a “yes” or “no”-style answer; e.g. “Can you describe three achievements at firm A that you're particularly proud of?” and “Can you tell me about a time when you had to give criticism?”
  • Behavioural/hypothetical questions that relate to situations the candidate is likely to face on the job; e.g. “How would you handle a situation when you are sure your boss is wrong?” and “As a project manager, what would you do to build team spirit?”

Make sure you prepare interview questions for each round of interviews. Asking factual questions in the first interview is more suitable as you want to get to know the candidate and what experience they have. Behavioural questions are more suited to the second and third round of interviews as the candidate will have to deliver concrete evidence to demonstrate they are capable of doing the job.

During each round of the hiring process, make sure each interviewer gives their feedback to every stakeholder involved to avoid doubling up on questions in the second or third interview that were already addressed in the first interview. This will avoid the candidate getting the impression that your company isn’t organised in their post-interview feedback process. Candidates in second or third interviews may consider it unprofessional or a waste of their time if they need to re-state answers to questions already answered in the first interview.

Schedule the job interview

Conducting all in-person interviews over 1 to 2 days will help you get through the interview process faster while ensuring the candidates stay fresh in your mind. Stick to your schedule once you have decided on the interview timeframe. However, be careful not to squeeze too many interviews into the same day, as this could drain you of energy and enthusiasm.

Some ways to accelerate your job interview process include:

  • Be flexible but organised. Some candidates may find it difficult to be available during normal business hours, so you may need to accommodate them earlier or later in the day. Don't go back and forth trying to find the perfect time, though; if they are serious about the role, they'll find a way to be available.
  • Be strategic. Find the time of day when you're most focused and productive. Aim to conduct interviews for your most promising candidates in that timeslot, when you will be at your 'A' game.
  • Budget enough time. An effective in-person interview will typically be at least 30-40 minutes long, providing sufficient time for both sides to get to know one another. Allocating as much time as you can spare will help you to focus on the candidate, not the clock.

Apply common criteria

Assess each candidate based on the same set of criteria that predict success in your organisation, such as enthusiasm, body language and personality fit. For inspiration, look towards your company's top performing employees for the types of qualities they bring to the job.

Don’t rush into a judgement

Try to avoid forming an opinion about an applicant too quickly. Wait until after the interview to evaluate the responses and make interpretations.

Take notes

Your memory can play tricks on you, leading you to ignore what actually happened during an interview and rely instead on general impressions. Taking notes helps to avoid this common pitfall. Just make sure you do so unobtrusively so that the interviewees don’t feel like they have to pause for you to keep pace.

Post-interview etiquette

If you still have more candidates to see, tell the interviewee and thank them for their time. To prevent candidates from becoming disinterested, give them frequent updates on the next steps in the interview process. This may involve deciding whether they are needed for a second interview, and if they make your shortlist, speaking to referees. Also don’t forget to notify the candidate if they have not been withheld for the job.

Now that you know how to optimise your job interview practices and reduce the length of the hiring process, you are ready to prepare a shortlist and choose your next star employee.

Want more hiring tips and recruitment advice? Visit our recruitment process hub.