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Interviewing job candidates – How to get it right

Although some employers perceive interviewing as a small part of the recruitment process, it is a vital opportunity to examine how potential candidates measure up against the needs of the business and, as such, it is important to get it right.

There are also risks of discrimination that employers should be aware of to avoid a tribunal claim, so here’s how to make sure your interviewing process gets the right results.

Prepare in advance of the interview

Where possible, a minimum of two interviewers should take part in the process to ensure there can be no claims of unfairness or bias. Having two people involved will also help with decision-making as they can make a collaborative decision, rather than relying on their own thoughts.

Preparation should be carried out beforehand to ensure the interviews start on time, there are no interruptions and a standard procedure is followed across them all.

Some consideration should be given to ensuring the candidate has been sent sufficient information to find the location of the interview, building security are expecting candidates, there is a room available and refreshments are on hand for those in the interview.

The correct documentation should also be available including having the job description, application form and copy of the candidate’s CV on hand to enable questions to be asked.

The interview is an opportunity for the candidate to get their first impressions of the business so ensuring the interviewer is fully prepared will give the best impression to future staff.

Applicants should have had the opportunity to indicate whether they require any reasonable adjustments making to the recruitment process, including at interview. If this has been indicated, the interviewer should ensure these adjustments are made to avoid the risk of applicants claiming there has been a failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Questioning candidates

To be able to compare candidates after the interview process, each interview should be approached with consistent methodology. All candidates should have the same opportunity to impress by asking each one the same questions. These questions should be based on the job description and the skills, qualities and experience required for the role.

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Asking the applicant open questions will allow them to expand on the information in their application, rather than simply answering yes or no.

Having a set list of questions which can be taken in to the interview itself will ensure the interviewer is not under pressure to remember the required questions and will remove the risk of forgetting an important question.

Notes should be taken of the answers to the question either on the set list or on a separate piece of paper. These notes should be kept after the process so the interviewer should not make any notes that they would not want to be seen at a later date, for example, if the documentation is ever placed in front of a tribunal.

The interviewer should also provide the opportunity for the candidate to ask them questions. This will be useful to cover any information about the job itself that the candidate is unsure about and can also indicate how much they know about the business itself.

Interview questions you should avoid

It’s important to remember that job applicants can claim discrimination even though they don’t work for the business at the time of their interview. This means some topics should be avoided to ensure the interview does not fall foul of discrimination legislation.

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Questions regarding whether the candidate has a protected characteristic or around circumstances arising from a protected characteristic should be avoided. The usual risky areas include asking questions about;

  • Whether the job applicant has any children
  • What their plans are in relation to children
  • Whether they have a disability or any illness
  • How many sickness absences they have had within a certain time period and
  • Whether they are a member of any religion.

The act of asking the question is not, in itself, a discriminatory act. The risk lies where these questions have been asked and then the job is not offered to that person as they could claim the answer to the question influenced the decision to not offer them the job.

If there is another reason why the person was not offered the job, it can be shown that this question was not the influencing factor, however, it is safest to steer clear of these questions completely.

After the interview

The interview should be closed by thanking the candidate for attending and informing them when they can expect to hear the outcome. The interviewers should then carry out a uniform rating of all the candidates to review which applicants come out on top.

An offer letter should be sent to the best candidate with a pending letter sent to the second best candidate to ensure they are available if the original offer is not accepted.

Keeping detailed notes and records of the interview process is vital as evidence of the recruitment decisions in case these are questioned in the future.

Other documents that should be kept on record include copies of the job advert, the job description, any application forms and the applicant’s CV.

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Peter Done, Managing Director of Peninsula Business Services – the UK’s leading specialist Employment Law, HR and Health & Safety service.