How to find the perfect candidate: 7 tips on conducting a successful interview

It allegedly takes just seven seconds to make (or break) a first impression on someone but the cost of recruiting the wrong person can be huge.

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) estimates that a recruitment mistake costs around 2.5 times the new recruit’s annual salary. Which means you really can’t afford to get it wrong if you are a small business.

Here are 7 tips to help you carry out a successful interview and find the perfect candidate.

Do your research

In the same way that you would expect a credible job seeker to research your company, you should also get some background information on any potential recruits. Have a thorough look at their CV, check out their social media profile and adapt your interview questions accordingly. If there are, for example, any gaps or unexplained breaks in their career history, find out why and what they were doing during that time.

Make sure you have an up to date job specification on hand

Ask questions that relate specifically to the role you are recruiting for as well as the staple ‘why should we hire you?’ and ‘what do you think you bring to the company?’ type ones. Nicola Mewse, operations director at Hales Group recruitment firm, says you should always include a number of fail-safe questions too. “Ask them to give you an example of when you’ve been successful in a project, and how they created this success. You don’t just want to know about the success, you want to know the thinking behind it,” she advises.

Know what’s what when it comes to equality and diversity

Employers have a responsibility to ensure their recruitment process is carried out fairly and without discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, and religion or belief. Lots of forward-thinking companies, from the BBC to Facebook, now offer unconscious bias training as part of their equality and diversity policy. Unconscious bias, sometimes referred to as ‘second generation discrimination’ is where you subconsciously recruit someone like yourself, be that someone with the same social, economic and ethnic background, gender or age as you. So it’s a good idea to make sure you are fully up to date and have had some diversity and equality training or, at the very least, a basic awareness before you conduct your interview. Failure to comply could leave you open to costly tribunal claims further down the line.

Have a clear interview structure

Make sure you go prepared and have a clear interview structure in place. Introduce yourself and the company, set out your expectations for the interview, tell the candidate when they should expect feedback and ask them if they have any questions at the end. All though it is a competitive job market, don’t forget that you are also advertising yourself and your company too.

Look at the whole person rather than just the CV

Mewse from Hales Group, says in today’s competitive job market it is no longer a case of someone who just looks good on paper. “It’s about having qualifications or experience in their chosen career path which go to show that they’re dedicated and committed to the profession that they’re looking to go into,” she says. “We want to see drive and ambition to do well, and examples that the employee is willing to further themselves. This could come in any form such as voluntary work, an internship or completing any online courses that they’ve put themselves on.”

Include a colleague or an HR professional for a second opinion

Depending on how big your company is and whether you have an official HR team, it is always worth having another opinion, especially if you have narrowed it down to two good candidates. An HR professional can also help you go through CV’s, promote the role and oversee the whole recruitment process from start to finish.

Don’t forget to really listen

The best way to find out if someone is the right fit for your organization, aside from taking a close look at their CV to see whether they have all the necessary skills and experience, is to really listen to what they have to say and how they say it.  So says Mike Lloyd, partner at Haines Watts accountancy firm. “I try and ascertain whether they have the right qualities by really listening to the answers to the questions and observing the body language whilst the interviewee is asked the questions and replying.” As well as having the necessary technical skills and qualifications and excellent interpersonal skills, Lloyd says you should look for someone that has “confidence that doesn’t extend to arrogance.”

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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