We’ve heard a few interview horror stories over the years and I know from personal experience the weird and wonderful techniques that interviewers can use. I’ve been part of a process that lasted 6 stages for a graduate role I was applying for, one charming interviewer asked if I’d been too busy chasing boys at school to get better grades and I’ve been interviewed by someone in bare feet.

It’s all part of the job-hunting process and we just have to accept it. Right?

Wrong. We know that interviewers and interviewees want to improve the experience and we really care about improving recruitment practices in the sector.

An interview for many of us is a daunting, unknown prospect, filled with trepidation, nerves and anticipation. What an unnatural situation to put ourselves in; meeting complete strangers across a table from us who catch us off guard asking complex questions and expecting the very best of us to shine. Then you add a socially distanced, virtual interview into the equation and it all just feels too much!

What boggles my mind, is that we have all been there! All of us have attended an interview at one point or another. We all remember what it is like to write a CV, complete an application form and be offered an interview and we know the amount of preparation it all takes. Never mind the amount of time we take to pick out an outfit, iron said outfit, ask our partners whether it strikes the right tone, spend hours researching the organisation, preparing our answers, buying a train ticket and taking the day off work after coming up with a very awkward excuse. It is all exhausting!

Interviewing is a two way process. The candidate needs to leave feeling engaged, excited and impressed too. They need to hear why you love working there, be shown round the office (virtually), describing what the environment is like, who sits where and what the coffee tastes like! It is also imperative to talk about the benefits that you offer including holiday allowance and parental leave – these things really matter to people.

We have heard some wonderful interview stories too, which I’ve summarised as six tips in the hope that we can all learn to do this better.

  1. A coffee chat with the hiring manager or someone in the team. I love this idea! A really informal chat to hear more about the role and organisation. In a perfect world, this would be a real-life latte in a real-life coffee shop but we might have to settle for a virtual coffee at the moment. Don’t let this stop you though, after a couple of minutes you’ll forget that you’re not in the same room together and the conversation will flow. This could be conducted 30 minutes prior to the formal interview or it could be prior to a candidate even applying – either way, it puts a candidate at ease and humanises the entire process.

  2. Sending the interview questions in advance. (What a game changer!). We all know that we don’t tend to give the best version of ourselves when we are caught off guard or we are trying to ‘wing it’ so why are we intent on making candidates do this at interview? Surely a well thought out answer with lots of useful information is a better use of our time? I think this demonstrates a huge amount of respect for the person coming to meet you.

  3. Two-stage interview process only. I think this is enough, I really do. I mean what else are you trying to learn from someone and how many more hoops do they need to go through? I’d suggest using the first stage as a more formal meeting; finding out all the qualities that make a candidate suitable for the role and the second stage could be more informal; a way to find out what makes them unique and special, looking at what they can add to your organisation rather than how they can be a carbon copy of the person who was in the role before.

  4. You are being interviewed too! Sometimes interviewers can take on the role of interrogator, asking question after question with little or no sign of liking what a candidate has to say! Candidates can often leave thinking ‘I’m not sure if that went well’ and not really being sure whether they want the role anymore. It’s a good idea to leave lots of room for them to ask you questions and make the process more conversational rather than confrontational.

  5. Smile. Make eye contact, nod your head, listen intently and encourage a candidate to flourish. If a candidate feels comfortable, they will perform so much better. This is even more vital when interviewing remotely; you’ll need to work even harder to engage a potential recruit and build that rapport.

  6. Feedback, Feedback Feedback. There is NOTHING more important than this. Providing feedback demonstrates that you respect candidates as individuals, is testament to you as a person and as a hiring manager and reflects on your organisation as a whole. It can feel awkward to give someone feedback, particularly anything negative but as long as you give this constructively, it is the most important thing that you can do for someone. It may be their first interview, it may be their 50th, but they will never improve if you aren’t honest with them. Take the time to provide detailed, constructive, supportive feedback to every single candidate that you meet.

Job-hunting is never easy but we can do our best to provide a warm, welcoming and supportive environment for a candidate to really shine.

Be kind has been the motto of 2020 and at a time where redundancies are commonplace across our sector, it is even more important to be kind to each other through the interview process.