How to plan an interview

Employees aren't the only ones who should come prepared

First published on Thursday, Jun 04, 2020

Last updated on Friday, Jul 19, 2024

The job interview remains the most popular assessment method for job applicants, in just about every sector. Even when employers use assessment days to measure candidates’ practical abilities, a face-to-face interview is usually part of the process.

It’s easy to see why: a well-conducted interview can give you excellent insight into the experience, skills and character of your applicants. Here’s how to plan for the best results.

Select the best format for your interviews

Your planning options aren’t limited to a one-to-one meeting. Interview formats to consider include:

Using a selection panel can bring a broader range of experience to your interview process. You may want to include a line manager, a potential co-worker, and a senior member of your organisation. As well as helping to conduct the interview, your panel can help with screening CVs, preparing questions, and final assessment.

Group interviews allow you to assess candidates side by side, and are especially useful when you want to interview a large pool of applicants – or when your time is limited. The group interview environment can also bring out qualities such as competitiveness and assertiveness.

Telephone or video interviews are often used as a screening stage, before you conduct face-to-face interviews. They’re an economical way to whittle down a large pool of applicants, but they still need good planning.

Choose your interview questions carefully

The whole purpose of the job interview is to find out if the applicant has right stuff for the job. You should start by identifying the skills, experience and qualities required, and then develop questions that explore them.

It’s a good idea to use open-ended interview questions, which bring out the personality of each candidate. Common questions include:

  • “Tell me about yourself”
  • “Tell me about a time when you overcame a difficult challenge” (or some other relevant situation)
  • “What would you do in your first month in this job?”

Keep it relevant to the job

Avoid potentially discriminatory questions about the candidate’s ethnicity, orientation, religion and so on. Stay focused on what’s needed for the role.

Be consistent with all candidates

While some employers like to vary their interview questions to keep things fresh, staying consistent will give each candidate a fair and equal opportunity. Allow the same amount of time for each interview.

Be ready to answer applicants’ questions

Job interviews are a two-way process. Good applicants will want to know more about the role and your company, to make sure the job is right for them. Make time for them to ask questions.

Arrange a suitable location

Choose a location that gives a good impression of your company. You’ll need it to be quiet, professional and free from distractions. You might also need a waiting area and refreshments.

For internal candidates, the best location may be off-site.

Make sure interviewers have the right skills

Conducting a job interview is an important responsibility. Your panel is representing your organisation to visitors. Interviews must comply with employment laws. And the person hired as a result of the interview usually represents a major investment by your company.

Interviewers should be professional, impartial, and able to conduct the interview according to the structure you’ve planned. You should provide regular training to keep their skills up to date, and make provision for excluding interviewers who under perform.

Thea Watson

Chief International Growth and Marketing Officer

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