How to Interview – Step 3 – Preparing for the Interview

8 04 2010

Continuing with our series on How to Interview and following our last two posts How to Plan to Recruit and How to Shortlist and CV Sift, today we’re focussing on the key preparation needed before the interview itself.

Just like Baden Powell said, it’s crucial that you are prepared for the interview and here you’ll find 5 simple stages to help you.

Stage 1 – Background Information

In general terms prior to the interview, it’s important that you know:

  • Has the job the candidate has applied for been advertised?  If so when and where? Have a copy of the advertisement for reference.
  • If the applicants have been shortlisted? How was this done?
  • Is this the first or second interview? Who saw them first? Get a copy of any notes before meeting with the candidate.
  • What is the interview format? Will you be undertaking all or part of the interview process?
  • What is the next stage in the interview process? Are further interviews, assessments or tests planned? When will these take place?

Information on the Candidate should be available through their CV or application form.    Checking these prior to the interview will help you to maximise on your time.

Stage 2: Scheduling

In most cases you will be interviewing more than one candidate. It is therefore essential that you plan and schedule the interviews into your diary effectively to allow sufficient time for each candidate.

Remember you will need to build in time to check all relevant information before each interview as well as write up your notes between interviews.  Time needs to be scheduled for these activities, in addition to the time allocated for the interview process.

It is important to bear in mind that the time allocated for the interviews needs to be consistent so that all candidates have the same opportunity to demonstrate their skills. It is the responsibility of the interviewer to keep control of the time.

Try not to cram too many interviews in to a day.  Interviewing is tiring!  You need to ensure that you can approach each candidate fairly, and give them your best attention.

Stage 3: Structure and Planning your Questions

To be effective, it is essential that the interview is well organised and has a structure. If not it will be unfocused, may overrun and, most importantly, not be fair and consistent for all candidates.

We recommend therefore that you put together the following for each of the people you are meeting:

  • Each Candidate’s CV
  • Individual Sheets of the questions you plan to ask
  • Any notes that you have (agency/telephone interview)
  • A copy of the Role Profile and details of benefits offered

This means it will be close to hand for you on the day and again, will save you valuable time.

Consider what you’re going to ask and set a clear framework for the interview which will help you to:

  • Obtain a comprehensive coverage of information
  • Systematically gather information
  • Be fair to all candidates
  • Control and manage the interview
  • Achieve the identified outcome

You should also think about general questions in the areas of:

  • Why are they applying to work for you/with you?
  • Why do they wish to work in a particular department?
  • What interests them specifically about the job?
  • Why are they leaving their present employer?
  • Are they applying for any similar jobs or are they different?
  • When may references be taken up?

Stage 4: Information for the Candidate

The interview is a two-way process.  It’s as much about a candidate wanting to work for you as you wanting the candidate to work for you.  Therefore it’s advisable for you to have given some thought to the information you will give to the candidates at the interview.  You should have information available on the organisation, background, size, services offered, and number of employees. It is also important to provide the candidate with information on the department and the job itself, together with details on benefits and terms and conditions of employment.

If it’s possible, it can also be useful to show the candidate the actual environment that they will be working in.  This can help them to actually visualise what it will be like to work there.  To do this, allow time to show the candidates around and also perhaps identify some people for them to talk to.

In a competitive recruitment market, time spent on giving information to candidates can be a critical factor in deciding which job offer to accept.

Stage 5: Preparing the Environment

This is possibly the most overlooked of all the steps in this process, where meeting rooms may not be available or are often booked in advance and only vacated immediately prior to the interview itself.  Time spent getting this initial stage right however can make a key difference to the interview itself creating the right impression of both yourself and the organisation.  It is for this reason I recommend you always interview a candidate in an interview room.

Interviewing in the Office

The room itself should be clean, light and airy and free from debris. Make sure that any business sensitive materials have been removed and that phones have been unplugged to avoid interruptions.  Create an open layout for the interview, for example it is better to sit around a corner of a desk rather than sitting face to face as this can create a barrier between the candidate and the interviewer. However it is important to make sure that there is a reasonable distance between you to ensure that you are not invading personal space.

Think also of the practicalities, are there enough chairs, do they creak or wobble, is the candidate’s chair lower than the interviewer’s?  In addition, make sure that the light is appropriate, bulbs don’t need changing and that the sunlight is not directly in the candidates eyes.

Interviewing outside of the Office

If you are meeting a candidate in an external environment, ie a hotel or café, it’s important that they are prepared for this.  Some candidates may find it hard to open up about personal situations if they’re in a public location and therefore you need to always conduct your interviews in a private room which you will need to book.  Just as if you’re meeting people in an office environment, it’s critical that the establishment you are using to interview in is aware of your requirements, particularly where you may have a number of candidates scheduled in for the same day.

All of this seems common sense, but think of the impact on the candidate if the environment is not conducive to what will be a fairly lengthy meeting.

Finally, I hope this has helped you to consider what you need to do when you’re planning your next interview.  If you’ve any questions, please get in touch on 01202 853647 or email us at

Watch out for the next step – Diversity in Recruitment.




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