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As a hiring manager, knowing how to structure effective job interviews is a critical skill that significantly impacts the future of your organisation. A well-structured interview process helps you identify the most suitable job applicants, and ensures that you make informed hiring decisions that align with your company's goals and values.

Whether it is your first time hiring or if you are a seasoned recruiter, this guide will explore the critical elements of structuring an effective job interview and provide practical tips and strategies to elevate your interviewing skills and attract top talent to your organisation.

12 things to do before, during and after job interviews

Before the interview

1. Define clear objectives

Before diving into the interview process, start by defining clear objectives. Thoroughly review the job description and identify the essential skills, qualifications, and experience required for the role.

Collaborate with other stakeholders, such as the hiring team and department heads, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the position's requirements and expectations.

Once you have a clear picture of the ideal candidate profile, list key competencies and attributes you will assess during the interview. This list will serve as a roadmap, ensuring your questions and evaluations remain focused and aligned with your hiring goals.

2. Develop a structured interview format

A structured interview format is essential for maintaining consistency and fairness throughout the hiring process. By following a standardised approach, you can minimise bias and ensure all job applicants are evaluated based on the same criteria.

Start by creating a set of core questions that will be asked of all applicants. These questions should assess the key competencies and attributes you identified earlier. Consider including a mix of behavioural, situational, and technical questions to gain a well-rounded understanding of each candidate's capabilities.

In addition to the core questions, allow for some flexibility to explore unique aspects of each candidate's background and experience. However, maintain a consistent structure and allocate similar amounts of time for each interview to ensure a level playing field.

Related: How to hire to improve gender diversity in the workplace

3. Minimise unconscious bias

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Unconscious bias can impact hiring decisions, leading to unfair treatment of job applicants and potentially overlooking top talent. A structured interview format can help minimise bias by ensuring all applicants are evaluated based on the same criteria.

To further mitigate unconscious bias, consider the following:

  • Train interviewers to recognise and avoid common biases, such as confirmation bias, halo effect, and stereotyping
  • Use diverse interview panels to bring multiple perspectives to the evaluation process
  • Develop objective scoring rubrics to assess applicants’ responses consistently
  • Avoid making snap judgments based on first impressions or irrelevant factors, such as appearance or background
  • Focus on job-related qualifications and competencies rather than personal characteristics or cultural fit

By actively addressing unconscious bias, you can create a more inclusive and equitable interview process that identifies the best applicant based on merit.

Related: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the workplace: An employers’ guide

4. Manage interview panels effectively

When conducting interviews with a panel, it is crucial to ensure a cohesive and organised experience for both the interviewers and the candidate. To manage interview panels effectively:

  • Assign specific roles and responsibilities to each panel member, such as asking certain questions or evaluating specific competencies
  • Develop a clear agenda and time allocation for each panel member’s questions and discussion
  • Encourage all panel members to contribute and share their perspectives while maintaining a respectful and professional atmosphere
  • Designate a panel leader to facilitate the discussion, keep the interview on track, and ensure a smooth transition between panel members
  • Provide the candidate with clear instructions on the panel format and introduce each panel member and their role
  • Allow time for the candidate to ask questions and engage with the entire panel

By managing interview panels effectively, you can create a structured and organised experience that allows for diverse input while maintaining a cohesive and professional environment for the candidate.

5. Prepare thoroughly

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Proper preparation is vital to conducting effective job interviews. Begin by reviewing each candidate's resume, cover letter, and any additional materials they have submitted. Familiarise yourself with their background, qualifications, and relevant experience.

Next, create a detailed guide that outlines the interview questions you will ask and any specific points you want to cover. This guide will help you stay organised and collect all the necessary information during the interview.

It is also essential to prepare the interview environment. Choose a quiet, comfortable space that is free from distractions. Ensure all necessary materials, such as the candidate’s resume and a notepad for taking notes, are readily available.

Adopting open body language can create a welcoming and engaging atmosphere, such as avoiding crossing arms and legs to prevent the appearance of disinterest or defensiveness.

Related: 9 common mistakes hiring managers should avoid in job interviews

During the interview

6. Establish rapport with job applicants

Creating a positive and welcoming atmosphere is crucial for easing applicants' nerves and allowing them to showcase their best selves. Start the interview by introducing yourself and providing a brief overview of the company’s values, the role and how it contributes to the success of the company.

Engage in some light conversation to break the ice and help the applicant feel more comfortable. Ask about their journey to the interview location or mention something interesting from their background that caught your attention.

Throughout the interview, maintain a friendly and professional demeanour. Use active listening techniques, such as nodding, maintaining eye contact, and asking follow-up questions, to demonstrate your genuine interest in the candidate's responses.

7. Ask behavioural and situational questions

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Behavioural and situational questions are powerful tools for assessing a candidate’s past performance and potential to handle future challenges. These questions require candidates to provide specific examples of how they have handled real-life situations, giving you valuable insights into their problem-solving skills, decision-making abilities, and work style.

Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) framework when crafting behavioural questions. Ask job applicants to describe a specific situation, the task they needed to accomplish, the actions they took, and the results they achieved. This structured approach helps you gather concrete evidence of their capabilities.

Situational questions, on the other hand, present hypothetical scenarios and ask the applicants how they would respond. These questions allow you to evaluate a candidate’s thought process, judgment, and ability to think on their feet.

Related: 5 interview questions to ask to tell a great candidate from a good one

8. Evaluate technical skills

Depending on the role you are hiring for, assessing technical skills may be crucial to the interview process. Develop a set of technical questions or practical exercises that align with the specific requirements of the position.

For example, if you are hiring a software developer, you may ask them to solve a coding problem or discuss their experience with specific programming languages. If you are interviewing a marketing professional, ask them to analyse a case study or develop a creative campaign idea.

When evaluating technical skills, it’s essential to clearly understand the desired proficiency level and assess applicants fairly based on their demonstrated abilities.

9. Allow for candidate questions

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Allocating time for interviewees to ask questions is a courtesy and an opportunity to gauge their interest and engagement with the role and the company. Encourage them to ask questions throughout the interview or dedicate a specific portion of the interview for this purpose.

Pay attention to details in the questions job applicants ask, as they can reveal their priorities, research, and understanding of the position. Thoughtful and well-informed questions demonstrate genuine interest and preparation.

Be prepared to provide honest and informative answers to candidate questions. Use this as an opportunity to share more about the company culture, growth opportunities, and expectations for the role.

10. Take detailed notes

Taking detailed notes during the interview is essential for accurately evaluating applicants and making informed hiring decisions. Create a standardised note-taking template that aligns with the key competencies and attributes you are assessing.

Record specific examples, achievements, and responses that stand out during the interview. These notes will serve as a helpful reference when comparing applicants and making final decisions.

Be sure to maintain a balance between active listening and note-taking. Avoid getting overly absorbed in writing that you miss important nonverbal cues or fail to engage with the candidate effectively.

After the interview

11. Conduct post-interview evaluations

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After each interview, take time to conduct a thorough post-interview evaluation. Review your notes and assess the candidate’s performance against the predetermined criteria and competencies.

To gather diverse perspectives and insights, involve other hiring team members in the evaluation process. Discuss the candidate's strengths, weaknesses, and overall fit for the role and the organisation.

Use a standardised rating system or evaluation form to ensure consistency and objectivity in your assessments. This will help you compare applicants fairly and make data-driven hiring decisions.

12. Provide timely feedback

Providing timely feedback to job applicants is critical to a positive interview experience. Whether a candidate is selected for the role or not, it's essential to promptly inform the candidate of the interview’s outcome.

For successful applicants, extend a verbal or written job offer outlining the key terms and conditions of employment. Be prepared to answer any additional questions they may have and provide guidance on the next steps in the hiring process.

For those who are not selected, provide constructive feedback on their performance and express appreciation for their time and interest in the role. Offering specific and actionable feedback can help candidates improve their interviewing and communication skills and maintain a positive impression of your organisation.

Mastering the art of job interviews: Key to building a high-performing team

Structuring an effective job interview requires careful planning, preparation, and execution. You can make informed hiring decisions that drive your organisation’s success by defining clear objectives, developing a structured format, asking behavioural and situational questions, evaluating technical skills, and conducting thorough post-interview evaluations.

Remember, the interview process is an opportunity to assess candidates and showcase your company’s culture and values. A positive and engaging interview experience can attract top talent and build a strong employer brand.

As you refine your interviewing skills and techniques, continuously seek feedback from colleagues and candidates to identify areas for improvement. Stay updated on industry best practices and emerging trends in talent acquisition to ensure that your interview process remains effective and competitive.

By mastering the art of conducting effective job interviews, you can build a high-performing team that will propel your organisation to new heights of success.

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