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Hiring Managers will always interview candidates ‘their way’; they will input their personality and interview style into an traditional interview, and we shouldn’t harness this, but it is important that companies follow a formatted interview structure to deliver a consistent approach.

Here we cover how having a defined recruitment process lays the foundations for formatted and structured interviews. We share how having structured interview formats will give your company a professional image and an advantage in sourcing the best candidate in a competitive recruitment market.

Planning your recruitment process and giving your interview structure will make you more successful when it comes to recruiting, which will help your company’s performance when recruiting highly sought-after candidates. 

Why is Following a Recruitment Process Important?

Having a structured interview starts when a company takes the time to plan its hiring processes.

When working on specific job requirements, the company should agree on what the position’s responsibilities are, what skill set is required, and whether these compliment the overall objectives of the company. Having a structured recruitment process will give organisations a common agenda and agreed-on recruitment methods and procedures to work to. 

Planning helps each hiring manager understand what their expectations are. When agreeing on your recruitment process, these plans should cover timescales, business continuity, and the salary budget. The focus should always be committed to delivering an outstanding candidate experience.

Following a structured hiring process will help you define your requirements, and your workforce will be committed to collaborative work, giving them lines of communication and clear expectations and targets to work to.

The Benefits of Using a Job Description to help with Interview Structure

When interviewing, using a job description can help by providing information on what is required for the job and provides you with criteria to assess candidates on. This structure will give you guidance on the questions to ask in an interview about the candidate’s skill set, their interpersonal skills, and what motivates them.

However, when interviewing candidates, the interview process needs to be much more comprehensive, and having an agreed interview format with a robust structure will help you secure the best person for your company. 

The Interview Format

A key contributing factor to having successful interviews is if line managers interview candidates collectively in a group interview, is they must plan what they intend to ask the person. And if the line managers interview separately, they will get better results if they follow the agreed interview format and focus on the topics and questions that they have agreed to cover.

Having structure and knowing the good interview questions you intend to cover allows you to have a worthwhile interview. This will stop your interviewers from asking the same questions multiple times and prevent you from turning the candidates off.

If companies focus on the structure of the interview and align their objectives before, then they will increase their overall chances of success.

Companies should avoid their workforce sporadically joining interviews when they have had little or no preparation. This can include interviewers not having viewed the job description or even read the candidate’s CV. Furthermore, if they have not been briefed about the interview format and the objectives, then they will not know what is required of them. 

It is important that the interviewers reflect on the position and understand the importance of what a successful recruit means to them. Your team must be aware of how delivering a structured interview will affect the overall performance of the company if you recruit your candidate of choice. Adopting this strategy will help shift the mindset and promote the best working practice when it comes to interviewing. 

By taking a structured interview approach, companies will maximise their interview’s potential. The interview needs to be formatted, purposeful, and cohesive. Having a formatted interview will keep candidates excited and focused on the opportunity to work for your business.

By not having an interview structure, you will reduce the amount of job offers accepted and diminish your company’s chance of recruiting the best candidates, but you also increase the risk of recruiting unsuitable candidates. 

Interviewer resources

Interview articles

 Interview Structure Template and Example

Structured Interview Format

Interview Advice:

1. Candidate Screening

To ensure your and the candidate’s valuable time is not wasted, we recommend screening candidates against a pre-employment assessment before moving on to a screening phone call. Ensure you have enough time to conduct the interview (30 minutes for junior roles and 60 minutes for senior positions) and research candidates by carefully reading their CVs and LinkedIn profiles.

2. Listen intently

Your main job is to listen and take notes. It is helpful to include space after each question on your list to memorialise responses. A good rule of thumb is the 80/20 rule, where you should spend 80% of your time listening and 20% of your time talking.

3. Sell the job

Remember that interviews aren’t just about assessing the candidate. If you have the best talent in front of you, you need to sell the job and you as an employer, to ensure they accept any forthcoming job offer. To achieve this goal, make sure your interview preparation includes reviewing your company’s values, mission, goals, and culture.

4. Candidate research

Spend up to thirty minutes reviewing the candidate’s documentation before the interview commences. Consider if their CV and social media profiles indicate if they have role-specific skills, if they appear to be a cultural fit, or if there are potential red flags.

5. Remove distractions

It is crucial that you can focus on the interview process and give the interviewee your full attention. Switch off your phone and mute chat and email notifications to ensure the job interview is not interrupted.

Interview Template

Introduction

The structure of your interview should start by introducing yourself to the candidate. Tell them your name and involvement in the recruitment process. This is your chance to give them an overview of the company and some insight into your background. Consider telling them how long you have worked with the company, what your role is, why you feel passionate about your job, and what the company does. 

Focus on talking with pride. We know about the importance of creating a great first impression, so be positive about your company.

Interviewing is a two-way conversation so ensure you ask them for an introduction as well.

Before asking questions, it is advisable to set an agenda for the individual interview, share your objectives, and ask what they hope to cover and achieve from the meeting. 

Interview Tip: Constantly assess the candidate throughout the interviewing process. Some interviewers might like to ‘break the ice,’ if so, put thought into how you will do this. Other interviewers prefer not to and like to leave this to the candidate’s initiative. Also, take note of the candidate’s body language. How comfortable are they in your presence? Are they confident? Do they shake your hands and maintain eye contact throughout the interview? 

Profile

Make sure you have the candidate’s resume and notes prepared on the specific points that you wish to explore. These questions should be in line with your overall interview strategy, which has been agreed with your fellow interviewers. 

Start the conversation by learning more about the candidate. Ask a variety of open questions mixed with closed questions when you want to glean specific information. Consider situational questions, job specific questions, and competency based interview questions. You can improve interview techniques by exploring different interview questions and answers and the STAR interview technique.

Let the candidate present themself and talk about their experiences, but when relevant, interject with questions. This is a great moment for the candidate to provide an overview of their experience. 

Interview Tips: Don’t ask the candidate why they are well suited for the job yet. You probably haven’t had enough time to discuss the position. If you know they have received the job description, it might be better to ask their understanding of the position.

Questioning

When conducting a structured interview, you should remove as many variables as possible, making it easier to assess one candidate against the next. Keep to the interview structure, and when possible, try to arrange all of the interviews over the briefest date range possible.

When asking questions, this is your opportunity to investigate the candidate’s compatibility. There are several main areas to focus on, which can be broken down into three sections: motivation, skills, and cultural fit.

Motivations

Take time to understand the candidate’s values and interests and what the candidate is interested in achieving in their career. Explore what drives them and ask them to give examples of times in their career when they have been motivated and how they affected outcomes in the companies they worked for.

Ask them to share details on the tasks they enjoy/dislike in their current position. 

Understand why the candidate applied for the job with your company, what they like about the industry, and why they would like to get involved with your company and team.

Interview Tip: Focus on the candidate’s motives behind why they want the job in this stage of the interview. Gauge their responses; do they talk with enthusiasm, conviction, and purpose?

Skills

Employers need to ensure the candidate can be successful in your workplace, and it is important to evaluate whether the candidate can describe how their expertise and skill set matches the job requirements.

Prepare a list a set of interview questions that will enable you to probe their suitability from a skills point of view. You might find it helpful to create a standard order of questions and prepare a scale for grading responses.

Again, ask specific questions about the candidate’s current and past jobs. For example, you might ask, “Tell me about a technical problem at work you couldn’t solve?” Or “How did you overcome a client delivery issue?” Pay attention to how the candidate managed to overcome these challenges, what input they had, and the outcome.

Interviewer Tip: When asking about the candidate’s skill set, make sure you ask them what other skills they have. Often if you take the time to help and encourage the candidate, you will sometimes learn they have a broader skillset than you initially thought. This may be relevant for the position you are considering them for, or in fact, other jobs that you need support with. Including this in the interview structure can help you learn more about the candidate’s wider suitability for your company.

Cultural fit

For a new employee to be successful, the candidate must fit culturally within the company. Evaluate if the candidate’s personal values align with the ethos of the company.

Ensure you ask behavioural interview questions that give insight into the candidate’s social skills and how they conduct themselves in the workplace. Details can be on whether they perform when working in a team, test their ability to work under pressure, and do they have creative initiative?

When the candidate is answering questions, it is important that you document this, and later compare their answers to the other candidates.

Interviewer Tip: You need to judge this on how the company feels, so it is sensible you manage your personal opinions. If you need further support with this, consider using behavioural testing software. This will help you predict candidate performance and ensure fairness. Using this in your hiring process will help you be effective, efficient, ethical, and engaging.

Your Company

Earlier in the General Interview Advice section, we suggested that you should sell your company. If you feel you need to pitch your company in more detail to give you a better chance of appealing to the candidate as employers, now is your chance.

Up to this moment, if you have been impressed with the candidate, recall specific points that they mentioned and pitch how you feel that could work well in your company. Draw their focus on the impact they can have, why the challenge is suitable and why your firm is enticing.

Share information about the work environment, how the company is organised, and details that are appropriate to them. Describe the tasks involved in the position, common challenges, training, and advancement opportunities.

Interview Tip: Do not be sycophantic and avoid appearing to be desperate; this is your time to tap into your skill set to leave the candidate with the impression that your company is the right opportunity for them to flourish and to fulfil the next stage of their career.

Salary

There may have been some qualifying at the pre-screen stage, and regardless of whether there was or not, now is the time to do it again.

One of the main reasons why a candidate turns down a job offer is a low salary offer, so if agreeing on salary is your responsibility, be sure to have a conversation now.

Interviewer Tip: Discuss compensation packages with your candidates in-depth and cover aspects like bonuses, commission, and career progression. Use this opportunity to revisit their motivation and gain insight into their work ethic and career ambitions.

Questions

Now is a good time to open the hiring conversation up to questions. Let the candidate cover points and clarify issues that might have come up. 

Interviewer Tip: Ensure they have all the information they need to decide whether this job is suitable for them. Recruitment works both ways, so it is important they have enough information to determine whether they should wish to accept a job offer.

Interviewer Tip: Give the candidate your contact information and invite them to follow up. Encouraging post-interview dialogue helps secure candidates.

Conclusion

Outline details on the next steps of the recruitment process and inform the candidates when you will contact them. If this meeting is one interview in a multiple round interview, make sure they know you will be conducting multiple interviews, and clarify if any of these will be a group interview.

You may wish to share feedback and if so, focus on some of the points that you liked about the interview. There may be other points you want to make but ensure you leave them with a positive opinion about you and your company.

If the interview has been positive, you may want to gauge how interested they are in the opportunity. If so, ask them some hypothetical questions about if they are invited to the next stage or if they are offered the job whether they would accept. 

You might even be ready to offer them the job. If so, you know the interview structure and format has been successful.

Interviewer Tips: Although being honest is an admirable trait, when rejecting candidates, be careful about giving constructive criticism. People react differently to rejection, so whilst your intentions may be honourable, you risk not getting the response you hoped for.

How to choose the format of an interview

  1. Consider different interview formats

    A structured format is the most effective approach to ensure a candidate meets your requirements.

  2. Consider the interviewing elements

    Including company introductions, applicant questions, and salary.

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