Interviews should generally last around 45 minutes each, plus any extra time needed for specific tests.
Try to create a relaxed atmosphere, since this will give candidates the best chance of showing themselves in a good light. However, the interview should also be structured so that you can cover everything in the short time available.
Many prefer to start the interview by telling interviewees about the business and its values. This gives them some time to listen, learn and puts them at ease.
Now you can move onto questioning the candidate. Always try to ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered simply by “yes” or “no”.
“What did you think about your previous job. What was good about it, what was bad and why did you decide to leave?”
This will give you some indication of whether the candidate is suitable and what their motivation is for applying. If elements that they disliked in their previous job are in the job you are offering it will obviously cause problems.
“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
This is designed to tell you what they are good at and, alternatively, how well they can take criticism and learn from their mistakes.
“Where would you like to be in five years' time?”
This will give you an idea about the ambitions of the candidate and whether they have a realistic idea about the prospects of the job you are offering.
You can then discuss the job you are offering and how their skills would enable them to do it well. A useful technique is to ask how they would react to a series of scenarios that could occur in the job.
Whatever method you use, remember that you need to be careful of the legality of what you can and cannot ask. At the end of the interview, you may like to explain the terms and conditions of the job – although to save time you could send these out beforehand. Also give the candidates a chance to ask any final questions about the company or job.
Finally, if you are recruiting in a hurry to work on a forthcoming project, for example, remember to ask the candidates when they would be able to start and if they have any holidays booked.
Recording the interview
It can be helpful to make notes during the interview, but only short ones to avoid gaps in conversation. Write down your impressions a bit more fully afterwards, while it is still fresh on your mind.
As well as reactions to their answers, you should also record other more general impressions on how well they are suited to the job and the company. You may look at features such as enthusiasm, self-confidence, communication skills and smartness of appearance.
The fact that you need to compare the candidates means it is important to do all the interviews in the shortest possible timescale.