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The Art Of Conducting An Employment Interview

You may think you are good at interviewing people.  After all, you usually manage to recruit someone suitable and you have always enjoyed the interview process. 

But do you know what questions you should avoid asking?  Some things are inappropriate, others could potentially be illegal to ask about. 

Avoiding complaints – or even legal action

Jobseekers have some of the same protections at interview as employees do at work. For example, you cannot ask someone if they are pregnant or are planning to start or increase their family.  If a woman is evidently pregnant, or mentions that she is, then you must not discriminate against her. 

Many employers believe that it is OK to ask about pregnancy.  They also believe a woman should disclose the fact she is pregnant, or trying for a family.  It is not OK.  It is potentially against the law and you cannot take pregnancy – or potential pregnancy – into account when considering whether or not someone is the best candidate.  There is no obligation on a woman to disclose her situation or plans.

Beware discriminating against somebody in interviews

Additionally, you need to guard against discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity or religion.  The important thing is the skills, experience, aptitude and enthusiasm to do the job.  Why is the colour of their skin, or their accent or their religious practice something which you would want to take into consideration? Those are not things which you should be asking about in interview (or at all).  Of course, you may need to check that someone has a right to work in UK, but that check should not be part of the interview.  The question should be asked of every candidate, regardless of the colour of their skin or their accent.   Guidance on this check is available on the UK Government web site.

What about aptitude tests and skills assessments?

If your budget allows for it, you may want to run aptitude tests and skills assessments.  A variety of these are available in the recruitment market.  It is true they can be a useful pointer, but remember that they are only ever a snapshot of that particular moment in time and the same questions to the same candidate would probably get different results on a different day. 

Candidates are already nervous and some are intimidated by these kind of tests.  Many people cannot see the point of them and, as a result, some don’t take them seriously.  External events can affect the way a candidate will answer a question.  If they have had a difficult time with a previous employer, then that can affect how they will answer. 

So is there any point in running these tests during the interview process?

The real benefit of these tests is for you to run them prior to the interview and then use the results to inform your interview questions.  So if an assessment brings up an area of concern for you, then ask questions around that area of concern to try and get to the truth of whether it is a real block for the candidate or just a temporary diversion from their normal reactions.

Softer skills

As well as checking out the candidates’ ability to do the role you are offering, it would be wise to use the interview process to check out their “soft skills”.  Do they have emotional intelligence?  Are they able to relate to other people? Are they able to react in a professional manner to a difficult situation? The answers to these questions will help you decide who will fit best into your team and who will be most comfortable with your company’s culture.

Making the decision

If there is a candidate who is clearly a good fit for your role, then the choice is an easy one.  More often there are two or three “possibles” who each bring a particularly useful skill or who have the right personality. But there is also often something about each one which is not quite what you had hoped for.  This, of course, is your perception and may not be the reality. 

It may be that you are still searching for that perfect candidate who doesn’t exist.  My best advice in this situation is to choose one of the candidates and make an offer as quickly as possible.   If you take too long to make a decision, then you risk all of the suitable candidates accepting an offer from another employer.   There is nothing more offputting for a candidate than to be kept “hanging” without a firm decision either way.  That is not very good for your reputation as an employer. 

Giving timely feedback after the interview

Finally, if a candidate has made the time and effort to come to an interview, then the very least you can do for them is to give them speedy and honest feedback from the interview.  If they are a definite “no”, then tell them and tell them why (honestly).  If you felt someone else had skills or experience that were a better fit, then tell the unsuccessful people why.  It is not very helpful to be told that you are “not the best fit” without being told what it is that you need to work on for another time.

Once the successful candidate has started in the job, then you need to look at the best way to retain their interest and enthusiasm.  But that is for future  articles.  If you want to be sure of getting that help when the time comes, then please sign up to our mailing list.  

In the meantime, if you think this article is useful and you would like more advice on dealing with this  – or any other people-related issue in your business – please contact us for further guidance.

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