Interview dos and don’ts

7th June, 2016

The first interview may be the only interview you need. If you identify a fantastic candidate who ticks all the boxes and seems to connect with you and your organisation, then proceed to reference checking and potential offer.

Don’t delay; good people generally have a few options on the go.

But if the first interview gives you a couple of potential candidates do a second, more in-depth interview.

The first interview is designed to give you the detail you don’t get from a CV and help you get to know the person better.

Give each interview equal value, even if you are more interested in another candidate’s CV. After all, it could be that the third ranked candidate, based on CVs, becomes the first ranked candidate after the interview.

Do it face to face as often a lot is missed on a phone interview. If you have to speak to a candidate in another town or country use Skype or Face Time.

If you have no choice but to interview over the phone our questions can be used in a phone interview format. This should be your last resort and we’d recommend never hiring someone without meeting them first.

Where possible have two people from your organisation conduct the interview, perhaps yourself and a team leader or someone they will be working closely with. It helps to have another person’s perspective when evaluating the interviews.

Stick to the same questions for every candidate. This gives you a consistent base from which to compare each person and makes it easy to measure them. It’s also fairer and will keep you on the right side of discrimination laws.

The first interview should help you identify:

  • Do they have the right attitude?
  • Do they have the skills to do the job well?
  • Will they fit the current team and work well in your environment?
  • Do they show an ability and willingness to learn new skills?
  • Can you afford them?
  • When can they start?

Don’t forget that the candidate is also interviewing you – you must be conscious of the impressions you are making as a representative of your brand and reputation.


Book each interview for 1 hour 45 minutes:

  • 15 minutes for the candidate to complete the Application Form
  • 1 hour to conduct the interview
  • 5 minutes to complete your assessment
  • 25 minute buffer before your next appointment, in case you run over time

Make sure you have a private meeting room or office.  Don’t conduct your interview in a café or in an open plan space with other workers around.

Have some drinking water available.  Turn off your phone and give the candidate your attention.

Print a copy of their CV and read it before the interview, make some notes and highlight any areas you want to specifically question.

Read through the questions we provide so you can deliver them confidently.

Keep everything together in one recruitment folder, for each candidate clip together:

  • CV
  • Application form
  • Interview questions

If you take your recruitment folder into an interview make sure the candidate can’t see the details of others on the interview table – keep the folder closed as this is private information.

Getting started

Meet the candidate, shake hands and welcome them. Explain your role within the organisation.

Give them the Application Form to complete and leave them alone to do it.

When they’re done collect a copy of the form and their ID.

Take the candidate into the room.

Explain that you will be taking notes and working off set questions.  There will be an opportunity for them to ask questions at the end.

Get started and remember two important things:

  1. They must do most of the talking. Avoid filling silences and do not answer questions for them. Do not launch into a long and detailed explanation of what you are looking for or who you are. This can happen at the end, if they ask. A general guideline is to spend 80 percent of your time listening and only 20 percent talking.
  1. Only write what they say. You’re now collecting personal information and they are entitled to a copy if requested, avoid writing comments that might be discriminatory or insulting.

It is normal for you to feel a bit nervous, don’t worry the candidate is more nervous. Try to be relaxed and polite.

Wrapping up

Let candidates know what they can expect. Many job seekers complain that they are left “hanging” after an interview, or they are promised follow-up that never comes. If the candidate is a good fit, be clear about what the next steps will be, eg. reference checks, police checks or second interview.

Always end the interview on a positive note, and be genuine. Don’t tell the candidate to call you if you don’t mean it.

When the interview is over you should have a fairly good sense of the person’s likes and dislikes, along with their strengths and weaknesses.

Compare notes and reach consensus.  Each interviewer should be prepared to back up remarks and recommendations with specific examples and notes from the interview.

Listen to your instincts. If a candidate seems too good to be true or seems to lack the skills you need, be honest with yourself as you assess the meeting. In some cases, you may need to pose more pointed questions. On the other hand, no amount of questioning can change a person’s ability to do a job.

Remember, if you intend to include a Trial Period in the employment agreement you need to allow ‘reasonable time’ for the applicant to consider the job offer so don’t delay!

Once you have issued the employment agreement we recommend you allow at least three working days for them to review, ask questions and seek advice before signing. Five working days is better, if you have the time.

Don’t be a good employer – be a great one!
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This article is provided courtesy of MyHR. MyHR is your complete HR agency, with intuitive HR software to provide the right set of tools for every employment situation and our experienced team of HR consultants to ensure you’re always in control. It’s the new way to experience HR. Visit to find out more.