Six short steps to better job interviews

Just as the candidate has to prepare for an interview, so does the manager. This should begin well before you have your short-list of candidates. You will need to make decisions about the format of the interview, who is going to participate, where interviews are to be held, what equipment is required if presentations are requested. You need to put aside time to plan this properly.

A common mistake made by many interviewers is to talk too much. As a rough guide, it is best to speak for no more than 20 per cent of the interview time and spend the rest of the time listening. How you listen is during the interview is just as important as the questions you ask. “Active listening” is the technique in which you reach a fuller interpretation of the information given by asking probing follow-up questions, giving constructive feedback and using body language and other signs to acknowledge your interest. And use silence – if an answer is brief, be silent and wait – the candidate will often then offer more information that may well be truer and more useful.

An interview is a two-way conversation – don’t just sit back and wait for the candidate to impress you. Your role is to facilitate the conversation and encourage the candidate to open up and reveal their qualities. Ask questions that open the floor for the candidate, rather than ones requiring brief yes and no answers. Later in the interview, it’s fine to put the candidate to the test a bit, but don’t simply resort to asking tricky, abstract questions for the sake of it – you want a candidate who is comfortable and open, rather than closed and wary.

Don’t forget to spend some time getting up to speed with current legislation. Employers are subject to a complicated series of legal responsibilities and rights, obligations and entitlements. It is vital that you stay on the right side of anti-discrimination legislation at every step of the process, and this relates directly to the questions you ask.

To avoid the risk of asking illegal questions, create an interview script in advance. Include questions which target the skills you are looking for and ensure that you use the same script with all candidates. Not doing so could result in an accusation of discrimination.

Finally, don’t forget to make notes and record responses during the interview. Not only are these essential when you come to make your decision but they may be required should a losing candidate challenge your decision.
Joe McDermott is CEO of, an interview training site for managers.


Personal Career Management

I got made redundant from my banking job in 2008, and used my payoff to fund a year’s travelling. Now I’m back and need to find work – what’s the best way to get started?

The most important thing you can do is reinvigorate your network of contacts, and get that grapevine working for you. You’ll be finding, of course, that it’s still a very tough job market, and that means you’re most likely to hear about opportunities through people you know rather than advertisements or contacting companies directly. Don’t expect someone simply to give you a job because they know you, but try to find out about people who have left and departments that are being restructured, anywhere where openings may be being created. Keep your ear to the ground, and be prepared to say who has put you in contact when you make your move – don’t be afraid to name-drop.

You have a decision: do I go back to what I was doing, or can I direct my skills into other areas? You may be thinking about broadening your search to areas you hadn’t previously considered – certainly talk to former clients, customers and suppliers rather than just your old colleagues and peers. A career coach can also help you analyse and pinpoint your key transferable skills. But be prepared for the fact that headhunters are very risk averse right now, and even if you could do a job very ably, you may not get short-listed if you haven’t got very specific, direct experience.