Home » Employer Resources » Interview Guide

Employers Guide to Interviewing

In a tight employment market, the performance of the manager conducting the interview can have a direct impact on the interviewee's enthusiasm for the job.

A positive interview experience can enhance an organisation's reputation, attract top talent, and strengthen its employer brand, while a negative experience can have the opposite effect, potentially damaging the organisation's reputation and ability to attract and retain talent.

Preparing for interview
Stress reduction & the environment
Take notes
Ask questions
Actively listen
Test skills
Cultural fit
Salary discussions
Career review
Bias check
Interview conclusion

Organisational reputation
Top talent
Employer brand

Preparing for Interview

  • Define the values and personal attributes you are looking for in an individual.
  • Create a set of questions that allow candidates to elaborate on their qualifications and demonstrate their fit with your company’s culture.
  • Fully read the interviewee’s CV in advance and compare to the requirements of the role, highlighting areas to spend time reviewing at interview.
  • Seek inspiration from top performers and trusted colleagues within the organisation and create selection criteria based on common attributes, experience and accomplishments.
  • Review individuals interests and values via their online presence and social channels such as LinkedIn.
  • Inform the candidates of the structure and discussion points of the interview in advance.
  • Ensure the interview is at a time where you can give the interview your whole attention and are mentally prepared.
  • Inform the candidate of the expected dress code in advance.
  • Define the complete interview process in advance such as: stage 1 - informal Teams interview with HR, stage 2 - Face to face interview with HR and Line Manager, stage 3 – Final Interview with relevant senior executive. Share this process with potential candidates.
  • Set and pencil in interview schedules with stakeholders to ensure a smooth process.
  • Produce a list of essential skills and experiences required for the job.

Stress reduction & the environment

Create a comfortable environment and reduce stress. Reducing stress in an interview is crucial to ensuring candidates can perform at their best and present themselves authentically. There are several strategies that interviewers can employ to help alleviate stress:

  • Create a welcoming environment: If possible, ensure that everyone who might meet the interviewee, from their arrival onsite onwards, is aware in advance so they can present a welcoming experience.
  • Greet candidates warmly and make them feel comfortable as soon as they enter the interview room. Offer them a glass of water and engage in small talk to help ease any initial tension.
  • Begin the interview with simple, non-threatening questions to help candidates ease into the conversation. This can help build their confidence and put them at ease before moving on to more challenging topics.
  • Ensure that candidates understand the structure of the interview and what is expected of them. Clearly outline the topics that will be covered and how the interview will proceed to help reduce uncertainty and anxiety.
  • Allow candidates to ask questions throughout the interview process. This demonstrates that you value their input and helps clarify any concerns they may have, which can alleviate stress.
  • Provide positive feedback and encouragement throughout the interview to help boost candidates' confidence. Let them know when they are doing well and offer constructive feedback if needed.
  • Recognise that interviews can be stressful situations for candidates, and be empathetic to their feelings. Avoid putting unnecessary pressure on them and strive to create a supportive atmosphere where they feel valued and respected.
  • Stick to the planned interview schedule and avoid rushing through questions or cutting candidates off abruptly. Giving candidates adequate time to respond can help reduce feelings of stress and allow them to express themselves fully.
  • Conclude the interview by thanking the candidate for their time and expressing appreciation for their interest in the position. Offer any relevant next steps or information about the hiring process to help alleviate uncertainty.

Take notes

Taking notes is essential for a successful balanced interview process. Interviewers often meet multiple candidates and it's easy to forget specific details about each one. Making an informal record can help you remember important points about each candidate, including their skills, experiences, and responses to question, and can provide an objective record of the interview, allowing you to compare candidates fairly based on the same criteria.

It is important to balance note-taking with active listening and engagement with the candidate, taking extensive notes throughout the interview may distract you from fully engaging with the candidate or picking up on subtle cues.

Ask questions

  • Open-ended questions are powerful tools in interviews because they allow candidates to provide detailed responses, giving you deeper insights into their skills, experiences, and personality.
  • Craft questions that are clear and specific to the role and the skills you're looking for. This helps candidates understand what you're seeking and provides focused responses.
  • Structure your questions around the candidate's past behaviours and actions, as these are often indicative of future performance. Ask about specific situations, actions taken, and outcomes achieved to assess their skills and suitability for the role.
  • Customise your questions based on each candidate's CV, experiences, and the specific requirements of the role.
  • Prompt candidates to provide examples or tell stories about their past experiences. This allows you to gauge their problem-solving abilities, communication skills, and how they handle various situations.
  • When candidates provide vague or brief responses, don't hesitate to ask follow-up questions to encourage elaboration. This can uncover additional details and provide a more comprehensive understanding of their capabilities.
  • Encourage candidates to share their experiences and thought processes.
  • Avoid yes/no questions; instead, ask questions that require elaboration.

Active listening

During the interview listen actively to what candidates are saying, and show genuine interest in their responses, allowing the candidate to speak without interruption. Offer nods, smiles, and other positive body language cues to convey your engagement and ask follow-up questions in support and avoid crossing your arms, as this can signal defensiveness or disinterest.

Pay attention to the candidate's facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language to glean additional insights beyond their verbal responses. These non-verbal cues can provide valuable context and help you better understand the candidate's thoughts and emotions.

Test skills

If the role has a technical aspect to it, testing can be an excellent tool to assess the level of skill and competence of the interviewee. There are a few things to consider prior to testing

  • Be mindful of candidates' time constraints and avoid making the test overly lengthy. Ensure that the test can be completed within a reasonable timeframe. Ensure you communicate before the interview that there will be a test and advise of the likely length of time that will be needed.
  • This sounds obvious but ensure you adopt relevant tests or scenarios related to the job role.
  • Observe how they perform under pressure
  • Provide candidates with feedback on their performance in the test, regardless of whether they are successful in the hiring process. Transparency and constructive feedback help candidates understand their strengths and areas for improvement, contributing to a positive candidate experience.
  • Tests may not be suitable for every role or candidate. In some cases, alternative assessment methods such as structured interviews, portfolio reviews, or behavioural assessments may be more appropriate and achieve the best results when evaluating candidates' suitability for the role.

Assess cultural fit

Assess how well a candidate fits the culture of your organisation and how well your organisation suits the candidate.

  • Before the interview process begins, clearly define your company's culture, values, and mission. This provides a framework for evaluating candidates and determining whether they align with your organisation's ethos.
  • Ask candidates to provide examples of how they have demonstrated behaviours or values that are important to your company culture in their previous roles. Explore how they have contributed to team dynamics, resolved conflicts, and embraced diversity and inclusion.
  • Pay attention to candidates' behaviour, communication style, and demeanour during the interview. Look for cues that indicate whether they would thrive in your organisation's environment, such as their level of enthusiasm, adaptability, and ability to collaborate with others.
  • Involve key stakeholders, such as team members or managers, in the interview process to gather feedback on candidates' cultural fit. Consider conducting group interviews or panel discussions to assess how candidates interact with potential colleagues.
  • Review the research a candidate has done into your organisation prior to attending interview to assess their interest in the role and company.

Salary Expectations

Address the candidates salary expectations, to ensure you are aligned, early in the process, ideally prior to interview.

Understand any salary requirements, including bonuses, commission, or any other extras, and align them with your budget.

Benchmark salaries for key roles here

Career review

Review the interviewees career time line and inquire about any short-term roles or gaps in employment history.

Understand the reasons behind transitions and evaluate their adaptability. Although not always the case, candidates with an unusually high number of past employers may be less inclined to stay at a company

Check your bias

Be aware of any unconscious biases such as age or gender. Approach the interview with an open mind and refrain from making premature judgments or assumptions about the candidate based on stereotypes or preconceived notions. Instead, focus on objectively evaluating their qualifications, fit for the role and interview responses.

Conclude the interview

Give the candidate an opportunity to ask any final questions they may have about the role, the company, or the hiring process. Providing clarity on any outstanding queries helps ensure that the candidate has all the information they need to make an informed decision.
Thank the candidate for their time and interest in the position. Clearly outline the next steps in the hiring process, including the timeline for decision-making and when the candidate can expect to hear back from you. 
If you feel the interview went especially well, conclude the interview with a positive remark, such as expressing your enthusiasm about the possibility of working together or acknowledging the strength of the candidates suitability and experience.

Your recruitment partner

Perfecting your interview skills can help you identify the best candidates for the job during an interview, presuming you have the right candidates presented to you in the first instance. With Ashdown's expertise in talent attraction, you will be armed with the information and strategy to help get the best possible outcome when hiring.

Contact us for the latest insights in hiring and recruitment, including job market data, salaries and demand.

Access IT, HR, Accountancy & Marketing Salary Guides

Explore industry specific salary data

salary report icon

Free bespoke salary report

Receive a fully researched report for your industry, role and location