Recruitment Interviews

Most companies now conduct competency-based interviews as these are a much better predictor of performance in the workplace. They give an insight into the candidates preferred style of working and help predict behaviour in future work situations. The questions require candidates to demonstrate that they have a particular skill or a core competency which you are looking for.

The questions ask for situational examples from the candidates life experiences to illustrate their personality, skill set and individual competencies to the interviewer.

Competency interviews may also feature questions that probe candidates on their knowledge of the company and industry they have applied to as well as questions about career motivation and commitment.

Your Questions

When you are deciding on your questions, try and always ask open questions. These are questions where the answer is NOT yes, or no and semi-closed questions where the choice is between only two options.

For example:

An open question is: what is your favourite evening meal?

A closed question is: Would you like chips for tea?

A semi-closed question would be: Do you want chips or a baked potato with your steak?

Open questions allow much more scope for the candidate to answer with useful details and will give you a greater insight into the candidate’s skills and thought processes as a result.

It is best practice to ask a very open question such as:

Tell me about a time when you showed leadership.

The candidate has a wide choice of ways to answer such a question. If you feel they are getting stuck, floundering, or going off topic a bit, you can bring the discussion back to the point by asking a probing question about a particular element of their explanation.

For example: You have told me that you led a team of fourteen people of very different temperaments. Which type of temperament did you find most difficult to lead and why do you think this was a challenge for you?

Telephone Interviews

If you have received a large number of CV’s or applications and have a number of candidates who could well be “the one” but don’t want to do face to face interviews with 20 or so candidates, you can hold telephone interviews. These can be a quick way to assess and whittle down the candidates to a more manageable three to four, six maximum, whom you would like to see in person.

Both telephone and face to face interviews should have a structure and be standardised as far as is possible.

The lead up to interview

Short list your candidates using objective measures.

Aim to shortlist about four to six candidates for most roles.

Plan to spend around 30 – 45 minutes on each interview and it is a good idea to leave around 15 – 30 minutes between interviews so you can make any notes about the candidate you have just seen without feeling rushed. This means around five candidates in one day is about right when planning the diary for a whole day of interviews.

Plan where you will interview, ensuring it can be rendered calm and quiet with no distractions. There is no law that says you must interview people with a desk between you and it can help to interview people in a less formal setting if you have one available. In this case, best practice is to place the chairs at an angle to each other in a natural, cosy way, rather than straight opposite each other which can feel interrogative to candidates.

Send out the invitations a couple of weeks ahead of the interviews if possible. Invitations should include the time, date, location and any information the candidate needs to bring with them. It is usual to ask candidates to bring their Right to Work documentation with them to interview. If you need to see qualifications, let the candidates know, and if you plan to carry out any competency tests, you should declare this.

Email invitations are perfectly fine to use and can be linked to your calendar, so the candidates can book themselves in.

Ensure your team know you are interviewing and do not disturb you. Inform reception of the names of your candidates so they feel welcome from the start.

During the time between inviting your chosen candidate to interview and their planned interview date, you can create your questions.

Every candidate should, as far as possible, be asked the same questions, in the same order, to ensure equality and fairness within the interview process. The follow up questions you ask to clarify information do not have to be the same for everyone as they will be led by the candidates answers and your need to ensure you have gained all the information you need.


The questions you choose will depend on the level of the role. The Mint HR Recruitment Toolkit includes a question bank for you to choose from.

The interview generally starts with some settling down questions, common to all roles, then flows into the specific questions relating to roles and competencies, before moving toward a close where it is good to end the interview by asking for any questions from the candidate.

At the start – the settling down questions for all candidates

What preparation have you done for this interview?

Bring your CV to life for me.

Why is there a gap in your employment between (X date) and (Y date)?

What can you offer us that someone else could not?

What would you look to accomplish in the first 30/60/90 days in the role?

At the end

Do you have any questions for me?

It’s important to ask this – it shows the candidate that you are interested in their view and realise that they are checking out you as an employer as much as you are them.

Getting the candidate to ask a question also demonstrates on their part a level of preparation and interest.

You can download a free recruitment toolkit from Mint HR here.

If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available. For more recruitment advice, contact our expert* Tracy on LinkedIn, call her on 0113 863 0011 or visit her website:

*We’ve picked experts we know and trust who are good at what they do. All of them will give you at least an extra 30 minutes free advice if you contact them and would then charge their normal prices. They don’t pay to be on BuBul and don’t give us any money from anything they earn as an expert.