Top 10 tips for interviewing job candidates

Decide well in advance of the interview on the skills (competencies) that you want to test during the interview for the particular vacancy that you are trying to fill. You wouldn’t use the same questions to hire a heart surgeon as for a rocket scientist, or even a customer service agent as for an IT manager.

Find experts across the organisation who are familiar with the demands of the particular role to comment on the skills that successful candidates should possess (and therefore the behaviours that they should demonstrate).

Prepare by writing down a list of the broad, open questions that you wish to ask candidates. Ideally, prepare an interviewer guide that makes the interview ‘idiot-proof’ for even novice interviewers.

Remember that you should spend around 70 to 80% of your time during the interview asking competency-based questions. Allow a minimum of 10 minutes during the interview to cover each competency – but ideally around 15 minutes per competency.

Ensure you ask questions about real instances and examples of past behaviour. Remember that the foundation of competency-based interviewing is that past behaviour is the single best predictor of future job success. Probe in particular for detail about candidates’ actions by asking plenty of questions phrased in the past tense to establish exactly what candidates did.

If candidates speak in overly general or vague terms, challenge them. Ask questions not only about candidates’ successes but also situations in which they struggled or even failed in order to find out not only what candidates do well but also what they do not do so well.

Use the interview only to collect evidence – leave the judgement and evaluation of the evidence until after the interview.

Take notes – avoid relying on memory! Provide your fellow interviewers with a simple marking frame for rating candidates against a set of competencies in an ‘idiot-proof’ manner.

Encourage them first to rate each candidate on all of the competencies before comparing different candidates against each other. Encourage your fellow interviewers to make decisions based only on the evidence that was collected during the interview rather than on overall impressions, gut feel, or instinct.

About the author

This article was taken from the new book, Successful Interviewing & Recruitment (paperback, 184 pages, £8.99) by Dr Rob Yeung, which is published by Kogan Page. Visit to find out more. Dr Rob Yeung is a business psychologist at consultancy Talentspace. He helps organisations to find the best candidates by interviewing on behalf of employers as well as training managers in interview skills. He presents BBC TV’s ‘How To Get Your Dream Job’ and contributes to newspapers and magazines including the ‘Guardian’ and ‘Financial Times’. He writes a monthly column for ‘Accountancy’ magazine and has written over a dozen other management books.


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