There are many forms of interview. These can range from telephone interviews - through one-to-one varieties, including the use of second interviews, to panel interviews - typically comprising of three interviewers.
Whichever format a company uses, the whole purpose of the dialogue is to gather evidence of a candidate's suitability for the position in question. The key word in that sentence is evidence. Decisions need to be based on evidence not opinion. Remember, the requirement is to show that candidates have been treated fairly as described in recruitment procedures
During the course of the interview it is in the manager's interest to get the best from the applicant. That being the case, the word dialogue is worth bearing in mind. Make it easy for the candidate to talk and provide information. If they feel under undue pressure, this will not be the case.
It is important to spend time beforehand preparing for the interview. If it is to be a panel interview, each panel member must be clear about his or her role. It is always a good idea to have more than one person interviewing, as whilst one person is posing their questions, the other or others, can be making notes, thereby allowing the questioner to concentrate on the responses.
Most importantly, the preparation should be about deciding which questions are going to be asked. Agreement should be made about which topic areas are going to be explored. These should be selected from the most important aspects determined by the job description and person specification.
A good place to start is with the CV or application form. The manager may want to explore further some of the information already given in writing. A mixture of open and closed questions should be used. Typically a good approach is to start with a closed question; a question to which there is a specific answer. This enables the candidate to take up a position, which you can then probe and examine more closely, to gather further detail.
An example of this would be, 'What's your favourite colour?' Having received an answer, you can then probe by asking if they prefer any particular shade of that colour. Further still, you could find out what they would choose if their first choice was not available. By using the 'closed and probe' approach you are able to build a rounded picture of their position on a particular topic or theme.
On occasions, you may choose to get a greater depth of response by asking the candidate an open question. This is where you are seeking a broader response, and may be where you are looking to ascertain his or her views on an area of interest. 'How do you feel about ...?' and 'What do you think are ...?' would be typical openings to such questions.
In preparing questions, bear in mind that you should not be too fixed or rigid in your approach. Listening and reacting to the applicant's responses to glean more evidence of their suitability is part of the interviewer's skill.
Critical Incident Interviewing
Given that the purpose of the interview is to gather evidence about the candidate, it is important that the questions posed are designed with that in mind. Critical Incident questioning, sometimes also known as Behavioural Interviewing is a commonly used technique.
There are two broad sub-sets of this approach. The first, is where you get the candidate to talk about a relevant area of the job based on their previous experience. So, for example, if part of the job is to produce a series of reports for internal information sharing, the sort of question asked would be, 'How have you previously set about structuring reports aimed at other managers in your organisation?'
One of the benefits of using this form of question is that it can expose those who have been bluffing on their CV or application form. When faced with these direct experiential questions, any gaps will be exposed. It is hard to discuss something if you haven't actually done it for real.
The second variant of Critical Incident questioning is normally referred to as 'scenario building'. Here you create a scenario, which the successful candidate is likely to face in the role, and see how they would propose dealing with it. An example might be, 'How would you approach a team member, for whom you are responsible, who, whilst being a good worker, has a persistent punctuality problem?'
Again, their response may be a good indicator of how they would actually react in that given situation. The second variation of this approach will tend to be used a bit more sparingly than the first.
In addition to the preparation for and delivery of the interview questions and the recording of the applicant's responses, some consideration should be given to the setting. Arranging a room, which is conducive to conversation plus the provision of water or maybe tea and coffee, are simple but important things. Do what you can to make the candidate feel at ease.
Above all else, remember the interview is your opportunity to gather information and evidence about who is likely to perform best in that job role. Make sure that you focus on gathering that data. Avoid asking questions that really don't provide any useful information. What exactly does the question, 'Where do you see yourself in five years time?' tell you? As if anybody knows for certain anyway! Stick to the most important elements of the job description and person specification.