Being the interviewer is as demanding as being the interviewee

The escalation in the so-called war for talent is certainly showing no signs of slowing down. Despite its corporate world undertones the practice of organisations vying with one another to secure the right people they need is perhaps greater in the social and health care sectors than anywhere else, especially when staff shortages are national news on an almost daily basis.

But once you have found the right candidate that you need, there’s the small matter of having to conduct an interview – something which sends shivers down the spines of many hiring managers.

Your job is to convince the candidate that your organisation really is the best place for them and their career and critical to securing the person you really want is as much to do as how well you perform too. So no pressure then.

Whether you are interviewing for a junior or senior level role the principles of sound interviewing techniques remain the same. Here are a few tips based on over 20 years’ experience of interviewing candidates at every level.

  1. Don’t compare like-for-like: Every organisation is different both in terms of culture and in working practices – even similar roles will be different in some ways. So consider these variations and look at how you can draw on these experiences in a way that will add value to your organisation.
  1. Be confident: Interviews can be a nervy affair for both parties, but don’t be afraid to ask those awkward questions – why they want to leave their current role, how do we know you’ll stay here, why should we employ you?
  1. Be open-minded: You may have the ideal candidate in mind, but be careful what you wish for. If the advertised role is a replacement of someone who has left or is due to leave take this as an opportunity to consider the type of person you bring in – do you want a clone of the person who has gone before or could you benefit by having someone who can plug some of their/your team’s areas of weakness?
  1. Prepare you questions: If they have already listed their current skills and responsibilities on CV, don’t ask them again. It’s a waste of your time and will give them a negative impression of you if it looks like you didn’t check them out beforehand. Prepare questions in advance that will challenge the candidate and give them the opportunity to ‘sell’ themselves. For instance:
  • What achievements within your current role suggest you are a good fit for this role?
  • Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months.
  • If you could change one decision or action earlier in your career, what would it be and why?
  • Tell me about the one project or accomplishment in your career that you are most proud of.
  • If we are sat here in 12 months time looking back at your first full year in this role, what do you think we would say we achieved together?
  1. Treat candidates like paying clients: The candidate ‘experience’ is critical and with the best people increasingly hard to find the challenge you have is to do all you can to persuade them that you can satisfy their career ambitions. Show candidates the same respect as your most important clients and you could find that they nit only tick all the right boxes, they may even become your biggest advocate in the labour market which could help you with any future recruitment needs you may have.

Finally, act quickly: If you are lucky enough to meet more than one candidate suitable for the job making a final decision can be difficult. However, this is not decision you can afford to spend weeks mulling over. Don’t wait for the perfect fit because them may never arrive at your door. Refer to any notes that you have made and compare the positive attributes of each candidate. Once you have identified your strongest applicant – make the offer, before someone else does.


Always remember that behind any successful company lies a dedicated team. Your colleagues are integral to your overall successful, so be vigilant when hiring at all levels.