How to: Design a great interview process
It goes without saying that an interview process is incredibly important to a business, whatever the level of person you are hiring for. Hiring someone into your business is a costly activity, both from a time and money perspective, so you want to get your process right.
The interview process is also incredibly important to your strategy for attracting great people to your business, and it is often the best process that wins the war on talent. So if you want to hire great people, you need to put some thought into this!
We work with hundreds of businesses and have managed thousands of interview processes, so here are our top tips for designing a great interview process:
Timing – a recruitment process should be timely and shouldn’t drift on for weeks on end. Block time in your diary for all interview stages, and get them pencilled into your colleague’s diaries too, so the time is already set aside
Stakeholders – think about who you want to be involved in your process internally and why, and then make those stakeholders aware of your requirements.
Job Description – you need a JD before you start; if you don’t have one you can check out our article on writing a great JD here. But writing a JD is important as it’ll help you identify what you need from someone in this role core technical skills, behaviours, KPIs etc -and then you can translate this into your interview plan.
Stages – consider how many interview stages you want to have. For junior-mid level roles 2 stages are normal, for senior level roles 3 stages is more normal. Then work out which of your stakeholders you want to be in which stage, and what each stage might cover. There is some advice on this below.
Activities – outside of just normal interviewing, do you want to include anything else? Verbal or numerical testing? Personality profiling? Some sort of IT skills test? A presentation? If you are doing this you should get prepared first; figure out what you want and how you’re going to include it.
Read the candidate’s CV – always do this well in advance of the interview, not 5 minutes before and definitely not during! Read the CV, get a sense of the person you’re interviewing, and consider if there are any questions about their CV that you want to ask at interview. Make sure any of your stakeholders interviewing the individual have the CV and do this too.
Designing the interview process
You need to start by planning out what you want to cover, you should consider the following:
A motivations interview (what someone is looking for, why they are looking, what they like/dislike, what they want long term, what motivates them etc.)
A technical/CV interview i.e. going through their experience, can they do the role?
A behavioural/competency-based interview – is this person the right fit to my business culturally and do they have the right behaviours for this role? More on this below
Anything else? If you’re doing a presentation, what is the topic? Set it now so you and your shareholders know. If you’re doing testing, what tests are they? When and how will they be used?
A typical interview process would usually follow the above pattern with motivations and CV/technical first, followed by competencies at second stage, followed by “anything else” such as a presentation. Most commonly, any tests are done between first and second stage.
Designing an interview
Before you do an interview, you should prepare what you want to ask. You don’t need to be overly scripted, but for consistency from candidate to candidate, you should have a set of core questions at each stage, to make sure you hire the best person.
Below is some advice on different interview types:
This will help you to understand if someone is a good fit to your organisation based on what they want to do, why they are leaving their last role/looking for a new role, what they like and dislike doing, what their long term expectations are and what motivates them. You want to make sure there is a match to your organisation, so you don’t hire someone who might leave quickly!
N.B. this doesn’t need to be one interview stage, it can easily be combined with a CV/technical interview.
Questions you could ask include:
What has made you decide to look for a new role?
What do you/did you like most about your previous job?
What didn’t you like so much?
What did you like about your current/last business’ culture?
What didn’t you like?
What is on your wish list for a new role?
What are the top 3 most important things a new role should offer you, to make sure you accept it?
What is your 5-year plan career wise, where would you like to be?
CV run through
This seems quite obvious but you need to prepare by reading someone’s CV in advance, highlighting things you want to ask about, and preparing technical questions to make sure they can do your role.
Questions you could ask include:
Tell me about your key responsibilities in X role?
What were you measured on?
How did you perform against those KPIs?
What did your team/business structure look like?
Talk me through one of your key achievements within that role?
What are your key strengths? What about key weaknesses?
You can also include specific questions you need to ask that fit your role i.e. delve into their 3PL management experience or understanding how they ran an S&OP process. Prepare these in advance as it’s a good idea to ask all candidates the same thing to compare against each other.
Competency based/behaviours interview
Competency interviews test someone’s behaviours in a role i.e. HOW they do things, not just what they have done. Two people could have done the same role, but only one might do things in a way that will fit your business.
A competency-based question will ask a candidate to give an example of a specific activity from their career history or will ask a scenario-based question to test how someone thinks.
You should start by reviewing your JD. Go through each of your desired behaviours and then think of questions to ask to test those behaviours, in line with the job itself.
For example, if you were recruiting a Logistics 3PL Manager and you wanted someone with excellent communication skills, you could ask questions such as:
Tell me about an external stakeholder you’ve had to work with who was challenging to deal with, how did you overcome it?
Can you tell me about an improvement that you made by working with your 3PL, how did you go about it and what was the outcome?
Imagine you are working for us, our 3PL are regularly missing SLAs and you’re tasked with improving their outcomes, talk me through the steps you would take to do this?
As you can see, from asking the above questions you should be able to find out more about the skills a candidate has, but also how they approach things in the workplace.
Competency interviews and values/internal competencies
You can also use a competency interview to screen someone against your internal competencies or values, if you have them.
For example, Pod has a value of excellence, so we ask questions such as “can you give me an example when you’ve worked beyond your job description, to deliver a piece of work for your business?”, or we have a value of creativity, so we might ask “can you give me an example of a problem you’ve solved for a client, and what solution you used?”. We also have a core competency of commercial awareness, so we would ask questions such as “can you give me an example of when you’ve used industry news to grow your revenue?”.
Creating a competency based interview is often difficult, so if you need any support with designing this, you can speak to me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to advise.
And lastly, what else?
FEEDBACK! – I can’t stress enough how important this is and it is linked to preparation. You have prepared your questions so you should make sure you take notes during an interview. It will help you to compare candidates, but it’ll also be something you can share with other interviewers who are involved in the process, who can add their own notes. I would recommend you create a template sheet for this based on your interview process. Also, don’t forget to give a candidate feedback -whether they are progressing or not, they will really appreciate it!
Timescales – remember that delays can lead to losing a good candidate, and that if a candidate doesn’t hear from you, they will automatically assume it’s a “no” and try to move on from your opportunity. If you have planned your process and used a process for collating feedback, you should be able to get back to someone and plan next stages quickly. Also, if someone is a “no”, you should go back to them with some detailed feedback from your notes, it will be appreciated and useful for the person.
Allow a candidate to ask questions – in each interview, allow a candidate a chance to ask questions at the end. It’s a two-way process and they need to be able to ask things that will help them to know if your job and business is right for them.
Sell – never forget that an interview is a two-way process and you should be selling to a candidate. The first aim of an interview should be that the person leaves the room wanting to work for you. Prepare your intro, sell your business, sell the role. Try to be conversational and don’t just jump from question to question, let the person you are interviewing see who you are as a person, so they can see themselves working for you!
Tests and additional activities – if you need advice on what to use and how to build these, give us a shout. The only additional thing I would stress is to make sure you know WHY you are doing these activities and what value they add to your process, don’t just do them for the sake of doing them.
That’s it for now. If you would like some advice on creating an interview process, developing specific questions or even building a feedback process, I’d be happy to have a chat, so drop me a line on email@example.com
Don’t forget to check out our other advice, such as “how to: build a JD” – here.