How to conduct an interview

Conducting an effective interview is not as simple as it may seem. There are lots of elements that need to be taken into account prior to, during and after the interview in order for it to be a success for both the candidate and the recruiter.

The interview is an opportunity to sell the company to potential candidates and assess each candidate’s suitability for the position.

By ensuring the basics are well covered the interview process will yield greater results. Here are some of the elements that will need to be considered:

  • Location
  • The interviewers
  • Time-scales
  • Preparation
  • Introduction
  • Questions
  • Candidate questions
  • Closing the interview
  • Reviews


Many recruiters often forget the importance of location when interviewing. The location is a reflection of the importance of the position, the professionalism of the company and the professionalism of its staff.

Interviews should take place somewhere quiet, clean and confidential. The interview is a chance for you to sell the company and position to a candidate and for the candidate to interview you. Hiring the wrong person is not only costly but could also harm the company’s reputation.

The interviewers

It is advisable to have two people interviewing. The interviewers will need to be clear on the type of person being sought and the role they will play within the company.


Many candidates often get very nervous and anxious when attending interviews and consequently do not interview very well. It is important to set time limits on interviews to ensure that candidates are not kept waiting. The object is to hire the best person for the job not the best interviewee on the day. Help to keep candidates relaxed and focused by sticking to your original time-scales.


Before commencing the interviews re-examine all the criteria required by the applicants and consider their priority ranking. In the case of IT and technical interviews it is unlikely that communication skills will be considered the same degree of importance as technical skills.

It is important to ask all the applicants the same basic questions. By asking standardised questions you will be able to gather comparable data for review. Without this it is likely that your decision will be skewed by personal likes and dislike to a candidate. The questions you choose should be based on the job description to help focus on the relevant criteria.

Ensure that you have the applicants CV and covering letter to hand. Not only will they be useful for reference, but they will also demonstrate to the candidate that you are fully prepared.


Structure is crucial for interview success. Begin each interview with an informal chat. This will help to break the ice and will help to shake any unwanted nerves from the candidate. Introduce any of the other interviewers, explain what format the interview will take and how long it will last.

The introductory phase of the interview should be about the company, its products / services, recent successes, reasons for hiring and ideal candidate requirements. The interview will naturally evolve from here.


The interview questions need to give you a clear indication of not only the candidate’s technical abilities but also their personality. The aim of the questions should be to answer a simple question “Will this person fit into the business from a work and personality point of view and help to increase company profits?”

Begin your questioning with open ended questions such as “Tell me about yourself”. Using this information you will then be able to use more specific questions to obtain answers to the questions you need answering.

Expressions such as ‘explain to me…’ or ‘give me an example…’ will often receive more detailed answers than ‘do you…’ or ‘can you…’. Vary the conversation so that the interview does not lose its flow or become too one-sided.

Candidate body language sends signals of interest. Eye contact, head tilting and nodding are positive signs of enthusiasm. Folded arms and poor eye contact signals a lack of interest.

Whilst conducting the interview it is important to give yourself time to write a sufficient amount of notes regarding the candidate. Without these notes it will be hard to review the results of the interview at a later stage. Pauses will give you a chance to write your notes and will also give the candidate a chance to reflect on their responses and think of any questions of their own.

Candidate questions

An interview is not a one-way exchange. The interview is a time for the company to interview a candidate and for a candidate to interview the company. Remember finding the right job is not easy and accepting it is even harder.

All candidates should have some questions to ask whether it be about training, career opportunities or company culture. No matter how good you may be at interviewing it is unlikely that you would have covered every aspect of the job and company. A good candidate will invariably stand out from the crowd at this stage of the interview.

Closing the interview

An informal chat often helps to end on a friendly note. Make sure that you have covered all your points and the candidate has covered theirs. If the candidate has travelled a fair distance it may be an opportunity to offer them reimbursement for their expenses. Your closing actions will have an impression on the candidate. It is important to make sure that they reflect well on both you and your company.


The review is a chance for you to reflect on the interviews. If you conducted the interviews with a colleague it is a chance to compare notes and discuss individual candidate performances. Be objective in your decisions. Remember the question you really need answering is “Will this person fit into the business from a work and personality point of view and help to increase company profits?”

Try to send each candidate a thank you letter as soon as possible for attending the interview and informing them of your decision. Most active job seekers will be making arrangements for and attending interviews for several different jobs so it is important to not to allow too much time to pass between the first and second interview. It is sometimes helpful to change or introduce another interviewer into the panel to obtain another opinion during the second interviews.