Job interview

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Things to consider prior to interview

It is important for even the smallest business to address the process of interviewing job applicants in a systematic manner. Prior to advertising the job it is important to determine:

  • Whether the appointment is really necessary or whether the job can be absorbed by existing staff
  • The tasks to be done by the job holder
  • The qualifications and skills required for effective job performance
  • Difficulties and problems normally experienced in the job - physical demands, other personnel, administration and decision making
  • Qualities usually found in successful job holders
Having considered these points, it is then important to decide and write down the main terms and conditions to be offered to the successful applicant: hours of work, overtime arrangements, rates of pay and average bonuses, holiday entitlements, pension scheme contributions and benefits, fringe benefits, opportunities for training and promotion.

By having these details with you at the interview, you will be able to answer quickly and accurately the questions the candidates are most likely to ask. This is important because once terms have been offered and accepted, even only verbally, they are contractually binding and you usually cannot unilaterally change them at a later date.

If you are aware that a disabled person is attending for an interview, you should take reasonable steps to ascertain the nature of the disability and to accommodate any special needs to facilitate the interview. Try not to have any pre-conceived ideas of a disabled person's ability, and assess them on their individual merits for the specific post applied for.

You may wish to consider using an interview checklist to help you in the interview process. The purpose of an interview checklist is to create a standardised approach to considering applicants for any job. Properly applied, an interview checklist can protect an employer against complaints of discrimination. The completed interview checklists can also provide evidence of a systematic approach taken to interviewing job applicants.

The interview

Non-urgent telephone calls should be intercepted by staff, and other interruptions kept to a minimum during interviews.

Keep in front of you the completed application form and necessary details about the job. Try to put candidates at their ease and draw out the information you require for an accurate assessment, by encouraging them to talk about their background, work experience and interests. The various aspects of personality should be explored using the interview checklist to determine how closely candidates fit the requirements of the job.

Candidates should be given an accurate picture of the job, including its less attractive features. A successful candidate who is led or allowed at interview to form unrealistically high expectations of the job is soon likely to become dissatisfied and perhaps leave. The selection process then has to be repeated.

Interviews should be conducted in such a way that all candidates feel they have had a fair hearing and opportunity to do themselves justice. Do not ask questions unrelated to the job - there are many discrimination issues in which the unwary employer can embroil itself through irrelevant probing questions. Unsuccessful candidates should be able to go away with a good impression of your company, and may be sorry (but should not be resentful) that they did not get the job.

If no decision or offer was given at the interview, candidates should be informed of the outcome as soon as possible. It is important to minute notes of the interview. This will ensure that the necessary information is available to provide a rationale should the selection be challenged. Be aware of the fact that as an employer, you may have to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants and disclose copies of the minutes to them if requested. An employment tribunal may insist that an employer disclose documents, and so it is important that there are no disparaging remarks or discriminatory comments. Please also be aware of the obligations involved with respect to this personal data under the Data Protection Act. For an outline of what you need to know, visit the Information Commissioner's Office's (ICO) website (or the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Statistics in Northern Ireland (DETI) website).

Data Protection Act from ICO.

Interview checklist

Before the interview, note on a separate sheet the requirements of the job under the eight headings listed below. Assess candidates under each heading using a predetermined scale (e.g. 5=very good, 4=above average, 3=average, 2=below average, 1=poor).

Record comments and ratings immediately after each interview:

Appearance and manner

General appearance and impact on others: manner, self-confidence, speech and dress.

Company image requirements: extent of job contact with clients or the public.

Qualifications and experience

Qualifications and experience required for the job: are qualifications and experience too little or too great for the job? Depth of experience relevant to the job.

Aptitudes

Intelligence: ability to think things out, problem solving, ability to absorb new information and training.

Aptitudes: practical, intellectual, social, physically active (check hobbies and interests); relevance to job.

These should be utilised if relevant and necessary to the particular job in question.

Motivation

Level: initiative, drive, persistence in overcoming problems, ability to plan, organise and achieve.

Direction: main goals and objectives, any ideological conflicts, personal aspirations.

Degree of supervision exercised: (i) over job-holder (ii) by job-holder

Need to set and achieve own targets.

(Compare track record and achievements to date with background and opportunities).

Emotional adjustment

Ability to get on and work with others: superior/subordinate relationships, other team members, customers and clients

Sensitivity to others: dominant/submissive, sociable/reserved.

Emotional stability: ability to cope with change, stress and frustration.

Ability to carry responsibility: ability to persuade and motivate others.

Maturity: realism of outlook and aims.

Reliability: conscientiousness, integrity.

Health

Physical demands of job: light/heavy, clean/dirty, indoor/outdoor, hot/cold.

General health and sickness absence record over last 2 to 5 years.

Visits to doctor during past year.

Physical and mental health: consider specific job requirements and whether any reasonable adjustment may be made.

However note that in England, Wales and Scotland the Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to ask questions relating to health or disability (or to use health questionnaires) before a job offer is made, unless it is being used in order to:

  • Determine whether any reasonable adjustments need to be made for an applicant during a recruitment process
  • Determine whether an applicant can undertake a function that is vital ('intrinsic') to the job, such as enquiring about any mobility issues where the job entails handling heavy goods
  • Monitor diversity amongst the applicants, such as enquiring whether an applicant is disabled in order to establish whether advertisements are reaching disabled people
  • Take positive action to assist disabled people
  • Establish that the applicant has a disability where having a disability is an occupational requirement of the job
The Equality Act permits employers to make any offer of employment conditional upon receiving a satisfactory medical report/health questionnaire. Questions asking the applicant to disclose details of past health may not be acceptable under the Equality Act.

See the guidance provided by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for further information.

Domestic circumstances

Travel to work: housing, mobility.

Reactions of family to prospective job.

Other aspects

e.g. Driving licence, shiftwork, union membership, travel and overnight stays away from home.

Comments should be recorded immediately after the interview and each checklist dated and signed by the interviewers.