The Interview

main content

The purpose of the interview is to assess candidates' suitability for the post against the essential and desirable criteria set out in the person specification. The right person specification is therefore crucial for a successful recruitment and selection process. Guidance on developing the person specification is avaliable from the Human Resources website

Not all criteria will be assessed through the interview process, some (e.g. qualifications) will be assessed at the shortlisting stage through an examination of the application form and/or CV. Other criteria such as oral communication skills or influencing skills can only be assessed through an interview process. The interview allows the panel to test the experience and skills which the applicant has claimed that they possess in their application which meet the person specification.

Initial Interviews

Where there are a large number of applications who potentially meet the essential and desirable criteria it may be useful to hold initial interviews before progressing to the formal interview process. These initial interviews should be constructed in a way which ensures that the candidates' skills and experience are explored to further examine them against the criteria set down in the person specification.

Although it is not necessary to have a full panel interview at this stage, it is recommended there are at least two people on the initial interview panel to ensure balance of views and avoid inadvertent bias. Interview Assessment Forms will be provided by HR and should be completed to ensure a rationale is recorded for decisions at this stage is available and candidates can be provided with feedback if their application does not progress beyond this stage.

Formal Interviews

Preparing for the interview
  • Decide who should be on the panel taking into account the need for diversity and effective assessment of the candidates. Wherever possible Appointment Committees will be of mixed gender composition. The panel should have sufficient knowledge and experience to probe all areas of the person specification.  Guidance on the requirements for the Interview Panel Composition for different staff categories and grades of post is avaliable form the website.
  • All panel members should read the paperwork for the panel and familiarise themselves with this before the interviews themselves.
  • Recruiting managers and other panel members should consider appropriate lines of questioning before the panel meets.  The most effective types of questioning have shown to be those that test previous experience and behaviour (behavioural questions) however open questioning and scenario based questioning can also be helpful in gauging whether candidate meets the person specification and/or would be suited to the organisational culture. Suggested interview questions have been provided on our website .
  • HR will write to all candidates invited for interview on the return of a fully completed shortlist. 
Before the Interview Starts
  • Decide which panel members will be responsible for asking which questions and addressing which criteria.
  • Decide who will meet and greet the candidates.
  • Ensure that the physical environment is conducive to a smooth interview process.
    • Is the candidate sitting in a position that they can see all panel members?
    • Is water available for the candidates?
    • Is there any disruptive element e.g. excessive noise, high or low temperature?
    • Have all adjustments for disabled candidates been put in place?
The Standard Interview Format
  • Introduction to the panel and the interview format
  • Broad 'settling in' questions gauging experience and background to application
  • Criteria based questions set around the person specification
  • Opportunity for candidates to ask questions or add any additional information
  • Confirmation of how decision will be communicated
The Dos of Interviewing
  • Engage with candidates in a friendly way and keep attention on the candidate throughout the interview
  • Introduce the candidate to the panel members including their job title/role on the panel
  • Let the candidate do most of the talking (aim for 80%)
  • Ask some initial opening questions to build up a rapport with the candidate before moving onto the criteria based questions
  • Ask questions which challenge the candidate but not questions which are too long or complex
  • Ask one question at a time. If the candidate doesn’t cover the ground you would expect you should be prepared to ask further probing questions.
  • Fully complete your interview assessment forms so that meaningful feedback can be provided to any candidate who was not successful.
The Don'ts of Interviewing
  • The interviewer should not do most of the talking
  • Avoid using jargon or institution specific language with candidates.
  • Don't look bored or spend the whole interview scribbling notes without making eye contact with the candidate
  • Don't allow candidates to provide answers that are vague – if you are not sure of the evidence for statements, ask them for this
  • Don't ask the candidates questions which are specific to their own personal circumstances and not relevant to the job in question
  • Don't criticise or react aggressively to anything the candidate says – a good interview is about building rapport with the candidate so that you can see them as they would normally behave
  • Don't discriminate on the grounds of gender, gender reassignment, disability, pregnancy, race, sexual orientation or religion/belief. Further training on this can be found here.