This is an extract from our full guide ‘Effective Interview Techniques’.

An interview is a great way to gain an accurate picture of the candidate’s attributes whilst giving a good impression of the firm. It’s important to remember that they are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them. An interview is a two-way communication process.

Due to the amount of time you have and the position you are recruiting for, interview techniques will vary. We have some great techniques to help you find the true talent.


  • List 7-10 key attributes that you require in a candidate. Use the list to formulate interview questions that will test and measure the candidate against these attributes
  • Carefully plan your questions. Make sure you include a number of standardised questions to ensure consistency so comparisons can be made
  • Make sure you are familiar with anti-discrimination laws to identify what questions are not legal to ask. For example, did you know it is illegal to ask someone if they smoke? For more guidance please see our guide: “Illegal Interview Questions” or consult a legal professional
  • Prepare some questions from the candidate’s CV. Look out for gaps in employment or education and discuss these during the interview
  • Ensure you have a room set up to conduct the interviews in. Inform other employees when and where the interviews will be taking place to avoid any interruptions
  • Allocate enough time for each interview with enough time to write up your notes. This will ensure you get the most out of it and meet each candidate at the arranged times. Interviewing is a tiring task so ensure you don’t book candidates back-to back so you can rest after each one


The interviewees are likely to be nervous. Start off by welcoming them and putting them at ease as soon as they arrive.

Once they have sat down, go through the structure of the interview and inform them that they can ask questions at the end.

Provide them with background information about the company and any future plans.

Non-verbal communication

When forming a judgment on the interviewee, take into consideration a number of things.  Note if they were on time, if they were dressed appropriately and if you built a good rapport with them.

Recording the interview

You should keep a written record of the interview and the candidate’s responses. It is important you refrain from noting any personal judgements. Take into consideration that the candidate has the right to request your notes in the case of a tribunal claim. Ensure that the information you keep about the candidate is lawful and under the Data Protection Act.

Preliminary questions

Starting off with a few easy questions will help put the interviewee at ease. So when they relax you are more likely to see their real character. Ask them questions such as:

  • “How would your previous employer describe you?”
  • “What are your strengths/weaknesses?”

Behavioural questions

A good technique is to see how the interviewee responds to unstandardised questions. This will show real evidence of some of the skills they say they have. Examples of these types of questions could include:

  • “How do you handle confrontation?”
  • “Give me an example of when you went above and beyond your job expectations.”

Situational questions

Asking hypothetical questions is also a good way to see how they handle certain situations. It’s a chance to test their ability to think on their feet. Some examples of situational questions include:

  • “What would you do if an angry customer contacts you, tells you she isn’t happy with the service, and is threatening to complain?”
  • “A co-worker tells you in confidence she is going out after work, and plans to call in sick the next day. What would you do and why?”

Pointed questions

Another effective interviewing technique is to ask them a couple of tricky questions. Whilst you are interested in their response, you also see how they perform. Some examples include:

  • “Why should we hire you?”
  • “Why did you leave your last job?”

Character based questions

Another clever technique is to ask a couple of unexpected questions. This will allow the candidate to demonstrate quick thinking, poise, creativity and even a sense of humour. Examples include:

  • “If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be?”
  • “If you had superpowers, what would yours be?”

Be organised

In order to find out if the candidate is right for the job, we recommend you use behavioural and situational questions. Remember to keep an accurate record of the candidate’s responses and ensure you inform all applicants of the outcome of their interview as soon as possible.

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