Effective interviewing

Effective Interviewing Blog Featured Image - Blue Zebra Talent

Interviews are all too often something which people just end up doing as they progress within their career.  You finally hit that infamous Manager level and the next thing you know, you’re in a windowless room, a crumpled, poorly aligned and unread CV in hand and expected to convince this poor unsuspecting applicant that you’re the best place they could ever hope to spend 40 hours of their precious week!

OK, so I may be exaggerating slightly, but in all truth, the importance of effective interviewing is all too often overlooked and rarely given the time and energy needed to increase a positive outcome.

As an external Recruiter I can name numerous times when the perfect candidate sat in front of my client, gave a grand show and received exceptional feedback from an unsuspecting client who then had to be told; ‘sorry but they don’t want to come back to see you for a second meeting!’  

From experience, the main reason this seems is when my client, first and foremost, forgot that the interview process works both ways.  Increasingly we are operating in a candidate driven market, where opportunities are aplenty and it is therefore essential that you put on your very best show to make sure you really are the place people want to work and thrive in their careers. 

Seems obvious right? So why does it go so wrong so often?  Here I’ll talk through some basic tips aimed at eliminating this problem and therefore improving your success in attracting the best talent to your company.

Be prepared

Before you even haggle for that overbooked meeting room, you simply must know what you’re going to do once you’re in there.  

Be sure to have a great understanding of the role you’re recruiting for.  Familiarise yourself with the job spec and really consider all the points that you have said is needed in the position.  

It is likely that this will be a team you’re working within so this shouldn’t be too difficult.  However, with familiarity it is all too easy to overlook the basics and you should appreciate the need to impart your knowledge and give relevant insight in a straightforward way, allowing for an ease of understanding and appreciation. 


Remember, this is the first window into your company and therefore be sure to present an environment which you are proud of!  Leaving an applicant standing while you negotiate yourself into an overrunning previous meeting room and subsequently sweeping old plastic cups into the bin will simply not do!  Interviews are nerve wracking experiences and to get the best out of a person you should create a professional environment which allows someone to give their very best.

Similarly, people give their best when they are feeling more relaxed and as an interviewer, you will get the best out of them if they are less guarded.  Remember your body language and demeanour when interviewing and be sure to appear welcoming and forthcoming in your approach. The days of the good/bad cop are firmly in the past, where they should stay!

What should you ask?

Consider your questions and ensure these are relevant to the position in hand.  Try to avoid clichéd questioning but similarly don’t try to reinvent the wheel.  Questions such as ‘tell me about your biggest weakness?’ or ‘where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ are rarely going to challenge your applicants thinking and they will be ready for these.  Similarly, they hardly set you aside as an innovative and challenging company.  

It is advisable that your questions allow for true exploration across a number of relevant areas and drive to allow applicants to demonstrate real examples of their ability in line with your position.  Fewer questions which explore deeper thinking and allow for a more thought provoking response will inevitably give you far greater insight.  

You should also ensure you set the same questioning to each applicant to allow for true comparison when later assessing all your interviews.

And remember!  Some things are quite simply, off limits!  Never ask an applicant about anything which can be seen as too personal, or worse still, air on the side of discrimination!  Sounds obvious but I’ve had to pull too many clients up on this in the past and although I often feel it is explored to genuinely aid rapport, is it simply a NO GO!  The easiest way to remain safe if you’re unsure is to avoid anything that you would consider personal beyond the nuts and bolts of the job they do or have done.  Whether they are married, have children or attend church on the weekend should have no importance to you as part of your recruitment process.

Don’t lead your interviewee

This is so easy to do and will come about with the best of intentions, but be on guard.  It will often develop as you’re ultimately doing all the right things and making the applicant feel comfortable and relaxed and before you know it, the rapport is flowing and you’re telling them all about the position and what you’re looking for before asking any questions.  No surprise here when you get back a set of answers which appear bang on spec!  

The easiest way to get around this is structure, and therefore, be sure to ask your questions ahead of expanding on the position and company expectations.  

Challenge your Unconscious Bias

There is no shame in admitting we have a bias, it’s part of our natural DNA as humans and to try to deny it is wholly untrue.  Preventing unconscious bias is however vital as it can lead to unfair and inaccurate judgement and potentially give one applicant an advantage over another.  To recognise it and be aware of it, adjusting your conscious thinking accordingly is simply the best way of challenging our own thinking.  For example, you may have a subconscious or stereotypical view of what a suitable Receptionist looks like which can affect how you compare and contrast different candidates rather than assessing them against their individual merit and position suitability.  Challenging your own thinking in line with the core skills of the position in question will ultimately lead to a more level playing field for applicants and subsequently a more successful hire for your organisation. 

Sell the job/Company

This is essential and all too often overlooked.  Think back to my original point about the candidate who doesn’t want to come back and see you again, and it will often be because the client has failed to really pitch the position and company and subsequently create a passion for the role.

As a representative of the company you should be wholly competent at giving relevant insight to the organisation and therefore drive enthusiasm to everyone you interview.

Things you should consider include;

  • Company history, development and future plans
  • Insight to the wider market and challenges faced within this
  • The impact of their position and team on the wider company
  • The environment they will be working in and how the team interact
  • Relevant training and development opportunities
  • Relevant benefits (be sure to include less structured benefits which will set you apart, i.e. charity days)

It is important to note that you should be selling your company to EVERYONE, and not just those that you already feel have performed well in interview for this particular role. Everyone should leave wanting to work for your company regardless of whether they actually will on this occasion or not.  You never know when a position may come up in the future which they may be relevant.  I have had far too many candidates turn down a company due to a bad experience at interview 2 years previously.  Similarly, also consider who people know; they may well be asked an opinion about a company by a colleague in the future and any bad experience will always be reported and subsequently could lose you associated potential applicants. 

Invite Questions

Remember that in your endeavour to make this a two way process you should always seek questioning from candidates.  And be sure to offer an in depth answer with examples and case studies where possible to emphasise your point with credibility.  

This is also a good way of identifying how much research they have done on the company and position and glean a hint into their own personal interest. 

To conclude, a company can make a significant difference to the success of their recruitment endeavours by ensuring their people on the front line when interviewing are well equipped and ready to give the very best show.  It should not be underestimated how much impact successful interviewing has on a positive outcome.  How a candidate is inspired (or not!) will directly influence their decision and subsequently your success in recruitment.  It is therefore advisable that company’s run regular training sessions for newly promoted staff as they start to get involved in the interviewing process, there is no doubt that this investment will pay considerable dividends in directly impacting your hiring success as a company.  

Scroll to Top