An interview is your chance to assess the candidates' skills, experience, knowledge and attributes against the selection criteria you have defined.
A good starting point if you are about to undergo a selection process is the Interviewing e-learning course. This short module is intended for people who are reasonably new to interviewing, or who don’t interview often and would like a refresher.
The material is divided into three sections; plan, interview and decide. If you are looking for ideas on just one piece of the overall process, there is a table of contents available that allows you to jump to the section of your choosing.
The Interview Programme
The interview programme includes the interview, any other assessments and may, if appropriate, include opportunities for candidates to discover more about the role, the University and, if relocating, about the city. Remember, whether the interview programme is simply one interview or a more involved programme, candidates will be using their own criteria to assess whether this is the right opportunity for them.
Scheduling the interview
Allow sufficient time for each interview with time between each interview for the panel to discuss the candidate’s performance and to write up notes. As a rough guide, allow 10 minutes for the introductory section, 3-5 minutes per question and 10 minutes for wrap-up and candidate questions. This will vary depending on the role and the nature of the questions.
Communicating with the candidate
Ensure the candidate has the information they need to be able to prepare for the interview: the time and how long it is likely to last; clear directions to the interview room; a contact name and telephone number; the names and roles of the interview panel; information about any other assessments; and links to useful information e.g. about the department, relocation. Check whether any special arrangements are needed.
Think about the layout of the room and how to make sure the candidate and panel members are comfortable. Consider layout of chairs and tables, light, ventilation, having water available and making sure there will be no interruptions.
Ensure that someone is available to receive all candidates as they arrive and direct them to a waiting area. It is preferable this area is situated so that candidates do not meet each other.
Providing information to the panel
Make sure each member of the panel has a copy of the interview schedule, interview questionnaire, advert, job description or information statement, CVs, covering letters and the Selection Panel Factsheet in plenty of time so that they can prepare for the interviews.
Have a copy of the interview invitations, employment conditions and any relevant policies for reference. Records of recruitment decisions, including interview notes, should be stored securely for 12 months then confidentially destroyed. Discuss record keeping during and after the interview to ensure that notes made by all panel members are appropriate for both your information and for disclosure, if required.
Review your selection criteria and design questions to find out how well your candidates meet each criteria. It is advisable to ask the same generic questions to all applicants – this is not only fair to the applicants, but provides a sound framework for determining the most suitable applicant.
Make sure you cover how candidates are likely to perform in the role, not simply whether they have the knowledge and skills required. You may find it useful to refer to the PDR competencies when structuring your questions.
A few examples
- Behavioural questions elicit relevant information from the candidate about how they have applied their knowledge and skills in situations relevant to the role they are being considered for. You are trying to understand the situation the candidate was faced with, what actions they took, and the outcome of their actions. You may need to ask probing questions such as "What was the outcome of that?" or "What did you learn from that situation?". Take your time to fully understand how the candidate performed in that situation.
- Open questions encourage a long answer based on thought, reflection or opinions. For example, "What appeals to you about this position?"
- Closed questions encourage a short, factual answer, which are useful for clarifying points. For example, "Did you complete the project before the deadline?"
- Situational questions ask candidates to consider a hypothetical scenario. For example, "If you were confronted with an error that you were not personally responsible for, how would you respond?" Note that in this situation, a candidate may respond with an answer that they believe you will want to hear, rather than a true indication of what they would do. Behavioural questions focusing on a past scenario is more effective.
- Candidate-specific questions can be appropriate to clarify specific information from the application.
Try to avoid
- Leading questions which indicate the preferred answer within the question. For example, "You would report that if it happened, wouldn't you?" In an interview you want to hear the candidate’s opinions rather than your own!
- Any questions which could be perceived to be assessing a candidate’s suitability for a position based on their sex, marital status, religious belief, ethical belief, colour, race, ethnic or national origins, disability, age, political opinion, employment status, family status or sexual orientation.
At the beginning of the interview, welcome the candidate and outline the structure of the interview. A widely used approach is as follows:
- Relax the candidate – a minute or two of chat about the weather, their journey or whatever is topical and non-personal
- Ask the members of the panel to introduce themselves
- Explain the format and likely duration of the interview
- Mention that all candidates are being asked the same set of questions, that panel members will take turns to ask questions and that notes will be taken
- Advise there will be an opportunity at the end of the interview to ask any questions or add any other comments
- Ask the candidate if they have any questions before you begin – you can note these and ensure they are covered either during the interview or at the end
- Briefly describe the role, the environment, the team and the Department
- Introductory questions – ask the candidate about their career history
- Questions – ask your questions. Group your questions into related areas and decide which panel member is best placed to cover each area
- Ask the candidate if they have any questions
- Thank the candidate and let them know what will happen next
Records of recruitment decisions, including interview notes, should be stored securely for 12 months then confidentially destroyed. Ensure that all notes made are appropriate for both your information and for disclosure, if required.