Sigmar Recruitment - Interview guide for employers
How to plan an interview and the questions you need to ask.
Interview Guide for Employers
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail
A job interview is probably the most critical point of the selection process.
It provides a valuable opportunity for you and the candidate to learn
more about each other and learning more about how the candidate might
perform in the specific position to be filled.
Candidates also have a right to learn about the job for which they are
interviewed. You can get the most from the interview by carefully planning
in advance what you want to learn from candidates as well as what they will
need to learn from you.
Overview of the Interview Process.........3
Planning the Interview............................4
Conducting the interview........................7
- Define the job description and person specification
- Deciding on the selection panel
- Deciding on the selection method/s to be used
- Informing people who have not been shortlisted
- Informing people who have been shortlisted of the
- Planning and preparing for the interviews
- Conducting the interviews (or other selection methods
where they are being used)
Overview of the Interview Process
- Making the decision
- Following up of references
- Informing management about the final
recommendations for ratification
- Writing a letter of offer to the successful candidate
- Writing to the unsuccessful candidates
- Co-ordinating the handover to the person or people
responsible for induction
Planning the Interview
Clarifying and agreeing selection
The selection criteria should be taken from
the person specification. The panel need
to take time to ensure that they are all
agreed on these criteria with a common
understanding of what they mean. Develop
an interview marking form (see Appendix I
for sample) for each member of the panel
with the names of the candidates and a
list of the criteria. The panel should assess
each candidate against each criterion. They
usually do this individually directly after the
From their agreed understanding of the
selection criteria then develop a limited set of
specific questions pertaining to the essential
duties and responsibilities of the position
to probe for the candidate’s strengths and
weaknesses. The interview is for a limited
time so it is essential that each question
is focused and purposeful. The questions
should be designed to make sure that the
panel gets the information needed to assess
whether this person will be the most suitable
for the position.
Interview questions should only relate to the
job requirements. When framing questions
employment and equality legislation should
be borne in mind. Care should be taken to
avoid questions whose content or wording
might be perceived as giving rise to unequal
treatment of one candidate compared to
another of a different age, gender, marital
status etc. Questions should deal with a
candidate’s skills, talents, qualifications and
help him or her demonstrate their capacity to
do the job.
The panel should decide in advance who will
ask which questions and in what order. The
panel also needs to clarify what information
they should give to the candidates during the
course of the interview, for example:
- Terms and conditions: It is important that
the panel is cleat about the range of terms
and conditions being offered. Be clear
about the period of probation, if there are
unsocial hours to be worked, the nature of the
contract, permanent or fixed term, and the
Interviews can be just as stressful for interviewers as the interviewee. Good planning will reduce anxiety and therefore
enable panel members to give their full attention to the actual interview. Before the interview, the panel needs to take
time together to sort out the following:
- Making the decision: It is good to be explicit
about the timing of the decision-making and
how the decision is to be communicated to
If one or more members of the interview
panel have not interviewed before it is helpful
to practise agreed questions to check that
they are clear and well communicated. Role
plays are very useful for practising interview
Roles on the interview panel
The panel needs to allocate roles,
responsibilities and question areas. It is
important not to stereotype members of the
panel in the process. It is advisable to have a
chairperson of the panel. The four key tasks
of the chairperson are:
- To facilitate the panel in planning the
interview process together
- To facilitate and direct the interviews
according to the agreed structure and timing
- To ensure that the panel reflects on how
they are working as a team throughout
the day as necessary and make changes
- To facilitate the panel discussion and
decision making process
The panel as a team
The panel needs to work together as a
team so it is very helpful for members to
consider in advance how they will deal with
potential problems and disagreements. They
also need to ensure that they have shared
understanding of what equal opportunities
interviewing entails. It is advisable to discuss
how they can interrupt each other if they
think it is necessary. It helps to take time
after the first interview to evaluate how
it went and how the panel are working
Structure of the interview
The interview should be planned so that it
relates directly to the job description, the
person specification and the candidate. If it
is a large panel it is important to ensure that
the interview is not just a series of short,
superficial exchanges with each member. It is
useful to tell each candidate the plan for the
interview at the outset.
Timetable for the interviews
It is wise not to cram too many interviews
into one day, six to eight at maximum. To
make the best selection and to be fair to all
candidates the interview panel needs to be
able to maintain attention and remember all
the interviews with equal clarity.
There should be a copy of the timetable
for the day, with the timing and spacing of
interviews, breaks and running order with
the candidates’ names, for each member
of the panel and for the person working
on reception. The length of interviews
depends on the job and is usually from half
an hour up to an hour. It is essential to give
the panel adequate time to ascertain fully
the interviewee’s skills and experience in
each of the requirements specified in the
person specification. If there are two sets of
interviews for a position the first is usually
shorter and the second is longer, giving the
panel an opportunity to explore areas in
Venue and physical environment
The physical environment for the interview
and for candidates waiting to be interviewed
is very important. The furniture in the
interview room should be arranged to help
both the candidates and the interview panel
concentrate, feel comfortable and be at ease.
Put up notices that indicate the interview
and waiting rooms are in use and ensure
that there will be no interruptions during the
interviews. Make sure that there is somebody
to let the candidates in, get them a cup of
tea or coffee and show them where the
Agreeing a decision-making
The panel also needs to agree in advance how
they will make a decision. It is recommended
that the panel takes time after each interview
to score candidates individually according to
each of the selection criteria and then to have
a short collective discussion. Members should
be reminded that in order to ensure fairness
their assessments must be made on the basis
of evidence from the interview rather than
gut reactions or intuition. It is essential to
have time for reflection and note-taking after
each interview as people forget things easily.
At the end of all the interviews, the panel
should take time to make their decision by
comparing their assessments and discussing
each candidate. If the panel have used an
interview marking form, the final decision
may be on the basis of this.
The following official records should be
kept for six months after the interviews are
completed in order to be able to deal with
any subsequent complaints:
• Job description
• Person specification
• Job advertisement
• Application forms
• Shortlisting procedure
• Selection criteria
• General framework for questions as planned
in advance and where possible particular
questions that arose during the interview
• Interview assessments for each candidate
• Any correspondence with candidates and
• Final decision and the reason for making it.
It is important to clarify in advance what
status will be given to references and at what
stage in the selection process they will be
sought. Generally references are not seen
as a source of objective information so they
should be weighted accordingly. References
are most useful for checking out factual
information, e.g. qualifications, length of
service, sick leave record, attendance record,
terms and conditions and reasons for leaving
It is advisable to plan what information is
required of referees and not to ask for more
than is necessary.
It is important to consider the possibility that
a negative reference may be due to personal
bias. In the case of a negative reference about
a candidate who the panel considers very
suitable, it may be necessary to check it out
further by discussing it with the candidate
to get his/her version of events. One of the
referees should be the candidate’s current or
Conducting the Interview
1. Introduce interviewers and explain the
format of the interview.
2. Check that the candidate is clear about
the job and give information about the
organisation and the terms and conditions of
3. Ask the candidate to explain his/her
interest in the job and suitability for it.
4. Clarify information in the candidate’s
application form or CV.
5. Seek additional information about the
candidate’s skills, experience and other
details relevant to the person specification.
6. Ask the candidate further questions in
order to assess the extent to which s/he
meets the criteria in the person specification.
7. Give the candidate an opportunity to ask
questions or to add any points or further
8. Tell the candidate when to expect
information on the outcome.
9. Thank the candidate and close the
Controlling the Interview
Above provides a good framework for
conducting effective and consistent
employment interviews. However, in order
for it to help you obtain the information you
need to make a sound employment decision;
you must have control over the interview.
Establishing and maintaining control of
the interview requires effective listening
combined with good questioning techniques.
• The key to effective listening is for you to do
minimal talking during the interview.
• After establishing rapport and describing
the job and its requirements to the candidate,
let the candidate do most of the talking.
• It is important that you pay attention to the
candidate. Do not let your mind wander or
think ahead to the next question instead of
listening to what the candidate is saying.
• Occasionally, restating a candidate’s reply or
observation in your own words may be useful.
• As noted previously, it is always a good
technique to ask questions that require more
than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Your
questioning should encourage the candidate
to communicate information that will shed
light on his or her capability to perform the
Topics to Cover
Attempt to gain knowledge about the
candidate’s career growth, stability,
achievement, interpersonal skills and interest
in the position. Examine the following areas:
Compare the duties and responsibilities,
supervision and the candidate’s likes and
dislikes of past and present positions with
the position you are seeking to fill. Question
the candidate on his or her progress and
salary increases. Also find out the candidate’s
reasons for leaving a past or current job.
Relevance of Education
A person’s educational choices can reveal
important aspects of his or her personality,
motivation, character and interests. Key
areas include: subjects studied, academic
performance, class offices held, night school
attendance and work experience while in
Because a candidate has the freedom to
choose leisure activities, when relevant to the
job, outside interests, such as organization
and association memberships, and volunteer
work, may be revealing.
Sample Interview Questions
• What do you know about our company?
• Why do you want to move to our company?
• What role are your applying for?
• What will you be doing on a day to day basis
in this role?
Influencing or Persuading Others
• Tell me about a time when you were able to
change someone’s viewpoint significantly.
• Tell me about a time when you were asked
to do something that you disagreed with.
Interpersonal and Team Skills
• What skills and personal qualities have you
contributed to the teams you have been part
• What qualities do you admire most in
• Tell me about a time when someone
misunderstood what you were attempting to
communicate to them
• Tell me about a time when you worked
with people from a culture unlike your own.
What did you do to overcome any perceived
barriers to communication?
• Have you ever dealt with customers that are
in the wrong? Give me a specific example and
• What do you think that the company’s
Personal Adaptability, Energy and Resilience
• Tell me about a time when your work or an
idea was criticised
• Tell me about a time when you felt
frustrated by your work.
• Describe something creative that you’ve
• What has been your most satisfying/
• What are your strengths?
• What are your weaknesses?
• Tell me about a time when things were
particularly hectic? How did you feel?
•What steps did you take to deal with the
Self-management, Self-motivation and Self-
• What have you done that shows initiative
and willingness to work?
• What are the two most significant
accomplishments in your career so far?
• What do you expect to be earning in 5
• In the past year, what have you been
dissatisfied about in your performance?
• What motivates you to put forth your
• Tell me how you organise your work and
schedule your time
Problem Solving and Decision Making
• Tell me about a difficult decision that you
• Tell me about a time when you had
conflicting priorities and what you did to
Conflict Management and Ethics
• Tell me about a difficult customer or a
customer complaint that you have dealt with.
• How do you resolve conflict in the groups or
teams that you have membership of?
Personal and Career Objectives
• What are your short and long-term goals?
• When and why did you establish these
goals and how are you preparing yourself to
• What do you see yourself doing 5 years
Knowledge of the Organisation and Role
• What skills and personal qualities are
essential for success in this role?
• Why did you apply for this position?
• What do you know about our industry?
• What do you know about our organisation?
Ability, Competence and Achievement
• What two or three accomplishments have
given you the most satisfaction? Why?
• Tell us about a time when you had more
to do than you could complete in the time
allocated: tell us what you did about it and
what the outcome was.
• What are your strengths?
• What are your weaknesses?
• Describe a time you failed.
• How do you react to stress?
• What your notice period is and salary
• Are you looking at other roles at present?
• What questions do you have for us?
The post-interview process should consist, of
the following elements:
1. Record your observations
Immediately after each interview, take time
to summarize the observations made during
the course of the interview. Note your
observations right away, so you can assess
each candidate more objectively against the
requirements of the job and not subjectively
against the preceding or succeeding
2. Narrow the field
After you have interviewed all the scheduled
candidates and before you make your final
hiring decision, narrow the field to those you
would consider hiring for the position. Don’t
centre all consideration around one person
and exclude all others from contention,
because if your first choice turns down the
position, you may have trouble remembering
the merits of the other candidates.
3. Make the hiring decision
Review all the information you have obtained
on the candidates. Consider the following
factors in arriving at your final decision:
• Ability to do the work.
• Interest in doing the job.
• Potential for growth.
• Ability to adjust to the job environment.
After careful thought, make the decision to
hire or not to hire. A valid selection occurs
when the “merit and fitness” of the candidate
are the primary determining factors in the
decision. Inform the Personnel Officer of your
4. Notify the selected candidate
5. Notify unsuccessful candidates
Good personnel practice and common
courtesy require that you inform candidates
not selected of your decision and thank them
for their interest.
Sigmar Recruitment are a wholly Irish owned
company with offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway
and Warsaw. Sigmar has been recognised as “
Recruitment Agency of the Year” (2014 & 2013) by
the National Recruitment Federation awards due
to our client delivery success, candidate experience
and our innovative methodologies.
We have 100 specialist recruiters specialising in the
following areas: Accountancy, Banking & Financial
Services, Construction & Property, Engineering, HR,
IT, Insurance, Legal, Marketing, Pharmaceutical,
Office Administration & Support, Multilingual,
Sales and Supply Chain.
Contact our team on +353 1 4744600, email
email@example.com or tweet us @SigmarIrl
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