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How to Structure an Interview

As an interviewer your job is to find out everything you can about the candidate. Your best chance of doing this in an effective, efficient, and legally compliant way is to adopt a structured approach to interview structure.

The interview is a structured discussion aimed at obtaining information on candidate’s abilities and behaviour in the work environment. You should try to avoid making judgements as you listen since this might prevent you from hearing what is being said. Make notes – explain to the candidate that you will be doing so. If you are interviewing with a colleague or business partner – strongly recommended – then take turns to ask questions and take notes.

Best practice demonstrates that the more relaxed and comfortable the candidate is the more you will learn about them, so take a bit of time to settle them down before starting the formal process.


Analyse the role that you are filling and identify those key skills, capabilities, competencies, past achievements which will lead to success in the role and identify questions that will enable you to evaluate each candidate against these.

Make time to prepare for the interview in advance. Review application materials, including curriculum vitae and any application forms. Decide which jobs/experiences are most relevant to the target job.

Prepare your introductory questions:

o Note any jobs/experiences on which you are unclear or would like more information
o Note areas of interest and areas of concern that you would like to explore
o Note any gaps in employment

Decide on the structure of the interview for example:

o Introduction
o Probe areas of interest from the CV, resume and covering letter
o Behavioural questions
o Other areas of interest
o Close

Decide questions in advance to ensure consistency of questioning to all candidates. Use follow up questions to probe which will clearly be different but the main areas explored will be consistent and make selection much easier.

Opening the Interview

Greet the applicant, giving your name and position and those of other interviewers involved.

Explain the interviews purpose:

o To acquaint interviewer and applicant
o To learn more about the applicants background and experience
o To help the applicant understand the position and organisation

Describe the interview plan:

o Briefly review jobs/experiences
o Ask questions to get specific information about those jobs/experiences
o Answer candidates questions about the position and organisation
o Point out that you both will get information needed to make good decisions
o Indicate that you will be taking notes

Closing the Interview
o Ask them if they have any questions
o Ask them if there is anything that they would like to have said, or would wish you to know that they did not feel they had a chance to say or put across
o Explain next steps in selection process (don’t over commit on timescales and ask the candidate to flag up any problems with the timescales)
o Thank applicant for productive interview

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