Updated: 30 January 2019

After you have selected the candidates that you wish to meet with, it pays to approach the interviews in pretty much the same way you would any other business meeting i.e. by having a fixed agenda. Knowing what questions you will ask, and what information you will provide will not only speed up the process but will provide a framework that ensures each candidate receives the same information.

Every interview is different so it’s important to let candidates know what to expect from the start for instance: ‘we’ll start off with a chat through your CV, followed by some behavioural questions and then we’ll give you some information about the company and the role. You’ll have an opportunity to ask us anything else you’d like to know at the end. It will last about an hour.’ This is clear and structured, meaning your candidates will be able to manage the timing of their answers, and also know they are guaranteed a slot to ask their own questions.

At the end of this post is a link to a template interview questionnaire for you to download and adapt for your own business.

How to Structure The Recruitment Interview

My preferred approach is to beak the interview down into four stages. The second stage is when you gather information about the candidate. In the third stage of the interview you provide information about the company and the department and role. Many interviewers structure these the opposite way round. There are two key reasons why I prefer to do it this way: the first is that by providing information about the role in the third stage the candidate is talking to you freely in stage two and there answers are not swayed by some of the information you have just given them; the second reason is that if the candidate is clearly not suitable you can save yourself some time and miss out the third stage.


  • Put the candidate at ease
  • Check their name and what they like to be called
  • Introduce the panel
  • Outline the structure of the interview
  • Explain that the panel will be taking notes
  • Explain the format of the selection process


  • Explore the reasons for applying for the position, how they heard about it, what they know of the company etc
  • Career history – starting with the most recent position and explore experience/achievements gained in previous roles
  • Probe gaps in employment history/reasons for leaving previous jobs
  • Education – focus on professional qualifications were appropriate and school education for recent school leavers
  • Ask about areas that are key to the role for instance geographical knowledge for a driver
  • Summarise the conversation – ask about strengths and weaknesses


  • Explain about the company’s history and future plans
  • Give a brief overview of the department
  • Expand on the job description
  • Discuss salary expectations and terms and conditions of employment
  • Give the candidate the opportunity to ask any questions
  • Ask the candidate for evidence of the eligibility to work in the UK


  • Ask the candidate if they have any questions for you
  • Give the timetable for the decision
  • Confirm what the next stage will be i.e. second interview
  • Thank applicant for attending

Top Tips

  • I have suggested explaining the requirements of the position after the applicant has responded to your questions. This prevents the applicant from formulating their responses to your questions to fit into the criteria that you have set down.
  • It’s important to ask candidates why they have moved from one employer to another in the past as this information could help you determine what is likely to attract them to join and stay with you.
  • The interview is an opportunity to obtain as much information about the candidate as possible in order that you can make a judgement. As a rule of thumb the candidate should talk for 80% of the time and the interviewer 20%.
  • Ensure that you take notes of the questions you ask and the answers the candidate provides. You don’t need to record every word, note the key messages and things you want to follow-up on later. Make sure your notes are objective and accurate. Any record created about an individual will give rise to individual rights under the GDPR, specifically job applicants will have the right, upon written request, to be given a copy of their own file. Interview notes should therefore be compiled with this in mind.
HR Toolkit: Recruitment
My HR Toolkit: Recruitment provides an essential toolkit with practical guidance, meeting scripts and template letters to enable you to manage recruitment within your business fairly and consistently every time you recruit.

I understand how important it is to recruit the right people and how much time that process takes. I like breaking processes into simple easy to follow steps and my HR Toolkit: Recruitment is full of easy to follow flow charts, meeting scripts, checklists and template letters to ensure everything is done properly, efficiently and compliantly in a professional, friendly and knowledgeable way.

When you purchase the HR Toolkit: Recruitment you will receive access to:

  • Flowcharts – provide step-by-step guidance to key aspects of the disciplinary and appeal process.
  • Forms and Letters – are templates with clear prompts were text should be added.
  • Meeting Checklists – provide a reminder of the essential points to be covered in the particular situation.

The HR Toolkit: Recruitment provides guidance notes that cover:

  • Preparation
  • Attracting Suitable Candidates
  • Screening Candidates
  • Interviewing Candidates
  • Making an Offer to a Candidate
  • Requesting References and Performing Background Checks
  • Administration: Rejecting Unsuccessful Candidates, Retention of Recruitment Records

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How To Structure The Recruitment Interview