Interviewer’s guide on candidate selection

Young modern men in smart casual wear shaking hands and smiling while working in the creative office


We have matched exceptional jobseekers with fantastic businesses since 2001 and, for those looking to recruit staff, the hiring process has changed drastically in that time. Even prior to the pandemic, we were already seeing the desires of both businesses and job seekers shift.

Now, we’re seeing another dramatic shift in hiring. Both the pandemic and the calls for increased diversity in the workplace in 2020 have forced many businesses to transform their recruitment processes. From the conversations we’re having with businesses in the wake of this, it’s clear there is a need for a simple, straightforward guide on the basics of hiring.

The following is a comprehensive article that breaks down each step of the hiring process, from job specifications to best induction practices.

Table of Contents

Diversity in hiring

Diversity is about including, embracing and empowering a range of people by respecting and appreciating their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation and education. Diversity is important because everyone deserves to have the same opportunities in the workplace. However, due to discrimination, prejudice and systemic racism, this is rarely the case. So, if a workplace promotes diversity and inclusion through actionable initiatives, it can help provide opportunities for those from underrepresented groups.

Two female friends talking at a coffee shopEveryone brings a unique perspective to the workplace and, if an office is diverse, these different perspectives can make organisations stronger and more successful. There have been many studies to support this, one being the McGregor-Smith Review, which found that the benefit of having a representative black and ethnic minority workforce would add an additional £24bn a year to the UK economy, which represents 1.3pc of GDP[1].

Protected characteristics under the Equality Act

Legally, unlawful discrimination is dealt with under the Equality Act 2010[2] (applicable in England, Scotland and Wales). There are nine protected characteristics under the Act:

The Act states that unlawful discrimination includes:

The Act states that employers must not discriminate against those applying for employment during the recruitment process.

Effective tools in encouraging diversity include:

Find a more comprehensive guide to diversity in recruitment, read our diversity and inclusion in the workplace guide.

Writing a job specification

A job specification (job spec) or job description is a document created for candidates to understand the details of the job, before they apply for it. It’s an easy way for them to understand what the job will entail and conclude if it’s the right position for them.

Why is a job spec important?

Format of a good job spec:

Example of a good job spec

Writing a good job ad  

If you’re not using a recruiter, it’s likely you will also write a job advertisement for the role, in-house. The ultimate goal of a job ad is to attract the best talent, so it’s worth taking the time to write a fantastic ad.

While you want to attract the best talent, it is essential that all role expectations are communicated clearly and understood by the employee before any type of commitment is made. If a role includes a large amount of administration or irregular hours, mention it – otherwise, a discrepancy between what an employee expects and what can you deliver could arise.

Other elements to consider when writing a job ad include spelling and grammar, tone of voice, a clear heading, simple language and enthusiasm. Writing the best possible job ad will also reflect positively on your employer brand, which ensures your opportunity is considered by the right candidates.

There are also common mistakes that we see many employers make when writing their own job ads. The following are some things to avoid:

What’s the difference between a job ad and a job description?

Remember, a job ad and a job description are different: a job description describes what a candidate does for you, whereas an ad should focus on what you can for them.

If using a recruiter, it’s likely they will write the job ad for you, once you’ve provided them with a thorough job description or spec.

Creative candidate attraction strategies

Our MD, Rebecca Siciliano, hosted a webinar in March 2019 where she offered her expert insight to hiring managers around creative attraction strategies in times of uncertainty. She discussed:

Find the full session below:

When looking to attract talented candidates, it’s useful to think outside the box (and the traditional job ad). It could be as elaborate as a creative job ad or as simple as setting up a strong referral process. Looking for inspiration to get you started? Head over to our blog on creative ways to attract the best talent.

Remember, by 2025, millennials will make up three-quarters of the workforce[3], so it’s incredibly important you take them into account as part of your attraction strategy. You can do this by investing in your digital presence. They were the first generation to grow up surrounded by digital technologies, and as such, will rely on the internet for information about your employer brand. Invest in building a digital presence that’s attractive to the best talent, with consistent messaging and experiences across all sites. Don’t be afraid to use social media for sourcing – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Glassdoor can all be effective.

What to look for in a CV

When looking at candidates’ CVs, it’s important to know what to look out for with a quick scan of the document. Below, we outline what we look for in a great CV, along with common misconceptions we’ve heard along the way.

CV Layout

So, what should a CV look like? Look for:

Education

Education is clearly important, but often employers will rule out candidates who don’t have a bachelor’s degree, even if they are clearly intelligent (e.g. strong A-levels but have chosen not to go to university). We see this quite often when hiring personal assistants and office managers. Remember, if you do rule out a candidate based on their university qualifications, you’re at risk of narrowing your pool of candidates and potentially excluding your dream hire!

Interests/achievements/further information

These sections are a fantastic opportunity to learn more about a candidate on a personal level, behind the CV. This, in turn, gives you a better indication of their personality and if they are likely to be a good fit for your workplace. It’s also a good indication of the level of imagination and creativity a candidate possesses, as there isn’t a lot of room for individual expression on the rest of the CV. As recruiters, we actually use this information to help us do just that, so we would highly recommend more than a cursory glance at these sections.

Example of a good job spec

Soft skills

It can be tempting to hire prospective employees based on specific skillsets, past experience, and referrals. Personality type and soft skills like patience and enthusiasm, however, factor into workers’ success just as much (if not more) than their ability to carry out the role. Unlike industry experience and technical skills, soft skills often cannot be taught, though they can make or break a successful onboarding process.

While CVs may outline the soft skills of a candidate, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to completely understand the breadth of these from this alone. Therefore, you should always try to go into soft skills in more detail in later stages of the process.

Movement on a CV

A number of employers find a CV with a little movement unusual, or an indication that the candidate won’t stay in one role for long. While this may have been the case in the past, it’s now very normal for a candidate to ‘hop’ from one role to the next, particularly millennials.

When you review a CV of a job-hopper, consider the following points:

Essentially, hoppy CVs aren’t the necessarily a negative thing, so never exclude a candidate based on this reason alone.

How to conduct an interview

Effective interview techniques are essential to get the most out of the experience. If done well, you’ll better understand your employees’ motivations and be better equipped to nurture their desired career path for the benefit of your business.

As the interviewer, it’s your job to make the candidate feel at ease in the situation (as they are probably nervous) when conducting interviews. Remember: a calm, informative and honest interview will ensure the candidate performs at their best, allowing you to ultimately make the right decision. It’s also a good idea for hiring managers to prepare for an interview beforehand.

Set the scene for the interview

There are different types of interviews, mainly consisting of 1:1, panel and group assessments, with 1:1 being the most common. By explaining the format of the interview and what the candidate can expect, this will allow them to feel comfortable and will make for more effective interviewing.

Make interviewees feel at ease

If the candidate feels at ease, you will get the best out of them in the interview and have a more accurate representation of their character/ skill set. If working with a recruiter, brief them on what the interview will entail so that they can prepare the candidate on what to expect.

This includes:

In the interview, you can make the candidate feel at ease by adopting friendly, open and warm body language. As mentioned above, start the interview by outlining what the candidate can expect. It’s also a good idea to give the candidate an overview of the company and the role as this will allow them to settle in and calm their nerves before answering questions.

There are topics you should avoid venturing into during the interview, as they have no bearing on the candidate’s ability to perform the role successfully. These include those topics to do with protected characteristics (as mentioned above), but also questions about social media accounts and leading questions.

Shot of businesspeople shaking hands in an office

Structure of interview

In the beginning, reiterate what structure the interview will follow and give the candidate an overview of the company and role. This is an effective interviewing technique as it will make the candidate feel at ease and give them time to tailor their answers and choose the best examples.

Next, talk through a candidate’s CV and experience. This, alongside targeted questioning, will take up most of the interview. The goal here is to find out about the candidate, their previous experience and what they’re looking for in a new role. Questions to ask at this stage may include:

After your questions, give the interviewee a chance to ask their own. This allows them to show an interest in the role and company, as well as proves they’ve done background research into the company.

End the interview by explaining what the next steps might be and when the candidate can expect to hear feedback. Regardless of how well the interview went, always thank a candidate for their time and finish on a positive note.

How long does a job interview take?

The length of the interview depends on the role, the level of experience and the number of stages in the interview process. We recommend a minimum of 20 minutes for a first-stage interview (if there are several stages). A single interview could take up to 45 minutes, but try not to keep the candidate too long, especially if they are meeting different people.

Tailoring interview questions

While it’s important to tailor interview questions depending on the specific role the candidates are applying for, there are a number of general questions employers should always ask in an interview. Below, we break down the specific types of questions that can be asked when assessing a candidate.

Different types of interview questions

There are different types of questions that an employer can ask when conducting interviews. These include:

A combination of both competency and situational questions will provide you with a holistic view on a candidate’s thought process and problem-solving abilities. These are open questions and will therefore require the candidate to tell you a bit of a story and paint a complete picture of their experience and approach to work. These should be defined ahead of the interview with the desired competencies in mind.

Closed questions can be useful too. These are the ones that only need the one-word answers. They have their place, especially in an interview environment where you might be asking prospective permanent staff technical questions to test their understanding. Equally, if you’re rushed for time, closed questions can be a speedy way of generating easy conversation at the start or end of a meeting.

Competency-based interviews are becoming increasingly popular, with companies opting to ask broad questions that reveal a candidate’s skills and personality behind their CV.

What is a competency-based question?

Competency-based questions typically lead a candidate towards describing a situation and/or task.

For example, you may start a question by saying:

Competency-based interview questions always require an example of something a candidate has done in the past (to use as an example of their competency or behaviour in a certain situation).

Pros of competency-based interviews

Competency-based interviews allow you to use a set script or a score-based system for assessing candidates. This typically means that all candidates are asked the same questions, allowing there to be a fair interview process in place, where every candidate has an equal opportunity to shine. Competency questions force candidates to recall their personal experiences, which may then be elaborated on.

Finally, these questions allow candidates to show they have all the experience and capabilities to do the job well.

Cons of competency-based interviews

Group of people in a meeting room

As with every type of interview, there are cons associated with using competency-based questions. In some cases, candidates spend so much time preparing polished answers that they unintentionally give the impression they have a robotic personality. Also, some may struggle with the open-ended nature of the questions and end up giving poorly constructed or unclear answers. Typically, these are the most challenging types of questions — some employers report that they find candidates will freeze if they feel they’re put on the spot with a competency-based question. Finally, if an interview focuses exclusively on competencies, a candidate might not get the opportunity to convey their emotions or motivations.

Examples of competency questions

Influencing or persuading others:

Interpersonal and team skills:

Communication skills:

Personal adaptability, energy and resilience:

Self-management, self-motivation and self-knowledge:

Problem solving and decision making:

Conflict management and ethics:

Personal and career objectives:

Knowledge of the organisation and role:

Work experience:

Ability, competence and achievement:

Stress questions:

Essentially, what you’re looking for is someone who can positively contribute to the business by using their pre-existing knowledge and any new skills they learn on the job. It’s important to establish that they possess the relevant skills for the advertised role, which can be conducted through a small skills-based task.

Portrait of young workers sitting at a cafe table and talking.

The offer process and securing a candidate

Congratulations! All your hard work throughout the interview process has paid off and you’ve found your dream hire! Below, we outline the next steps to take to ensure you win over your chosen candidate as quickly as possible.

The pre-offer stage

The offer process is an integral part of securing your dream candidate. Essentially, strong communication and acting quickly are key.

This process begins before interviews start, as communicating timings and setting expectations around the interview process are absolutely essential. If working with a recruiter, talk to them to learn important information, such as where the candidates might be in recruitment processes for other positions and salary expectations.

Offer and acceptance

When making an offer to a candidate, this usually begins with a verbal conversation. During this talk, you may mention salary, benefits, an expected start date and reference requirements.

In some cases, there may be some negotiation and working around a counter-offer from the existing employer.

Once the candidate accepts, you will be able to get in contact with them directly (if you’ve been using a recruitment agency up to this point). At this stage, the contract and offer letter is sent to the candidate.

Elements to include in the contract/offer letter

There are a few key points to include in a contract or job offer letter. These include:

You will also need to carry out any background checks and references and talk to the candidate about when they will hand in notice with their current employer (if applicable).

Finally, communicate any final information pre-starting with the candidate. This could include the start date/time, who to ask for on arrival and how the onboarding process will go ahead.

Best-practice onboarding process  

The hiring process doesn’t end at the candidate’s acceptance of the job. Without a smooth introduction to the organisation in the days following their acceptance, you are in danger of alienating your new recruits and impacting their motivation and productivity.

Effective inductions are timely, organised and engaging. The aim is to inspire and excite new starters while giving a good first impression of the company. They should set out an organisation’s mission and vision for them, while educating them about the company’s history, culture and values.

Your employee onboarding process could take up to three months, depending on the level and scope of the role. HR staff, line managers or the office manager can help onboard new staff. We’ve outlines the best practice for onboarding below:

Planning the onboarding in advance

A successful onboarding process doesn’t begin from the new employee’s start date. As soon as the individual accepts the role, you should be managing your new recruit’s perception of the organisation’s brand and the team they’re about to join.

How to structure a new starter’s first day

On a new starter’s first day:

Permanent staff walk through a creative modern office.

A new starter’s first weeks

It’s a good idea for HR to organise catch-ups with individual managers once they’ve started the role. Communicate to managers that this is an important step in the new starter’s onboarding process, as it will also help them to feel as though senior staff are taking a genuine interest in them and their skills.

The first few weeks are the most important time for any new starter. In this time, they’ll form an opinion of your company which will be hard to change if it isn’t a positive one.

Send around an email asking their colleagues to introduce themselves so that they have informal introductions over a few days. Introducing them to everyone at once will be overwhelming and the new recruit is unlikely to remember any names. Organising a buddy who can take them for lunch and show them around the local area is also a good way to relax and orientate them.

Continue holding regular catch-ups and check-ins, and allow different team members to take part in the induction process to draw on their own skill sets and give them some responsibility when training the new starter.

Planning a new starter’s initial workload

Recognise that a new employee will take some time to be able to work at their full capacity. If you enforce deadlines too quickly, you could get the wrong impression of their capabilities as they may be tempted to rush tasks in order to deliver them on time. Small mistakes are likely be made while the new recruit is taking in all this new information, so try to set them small tasks and evaluate their performance after each is completed, ensuring that you give constructive feedback.

Remote onboarding

If onboarding remotely, it’s important that:

Remember, the onboarding process can be overwhelming for a new starter. It’s important that everyone in the office reaches out and makes them feel welcome.

If you’d like any additional guidance on recruiting new staff, get in touch with us today and we’ll be able to guide you through the process. If you’d like to request the PDF version of our Interview and Selection guide please email us at [email protected].

 

[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/594336/race-in-workplace-mcgregor-smith-review.pdf

[2] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents

[3] https://www.catalyst.org/research/generations-demographic-trends-in-population-and-workforce/

Author David Morel Tiger Recruitment Team

The future of work after COVID-19

Updated 29th September 2020 Given the massive transition COVID-19 triggered in businesses around the world, it’s no surprise that almost all existing rules were thrown out the window overnight. Since March 2020, companies have navigated through extreme uncertainty and adapt the best they can. To make sense of this new normal, we’ve put together the

Read more

How to carry out a telephone interview

Updated 13th November 2020 Sometimes, once your recruitment agency has presented you with a shortlist, you may prefer to carry out a telephone interview ahead of a more formal face-to-face meeting or a video interview with a potential candidate. There are several reasons for this; for instance, you might be looking to relocate someone from

Read more

Newsletter

Sign up for the latest workplace insights.

Are you: