Interviewing - Successful Selection

by Jane Tredgett


Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.


Many interviews are unsuccessful because enough time has not been put into this vital stage.

Picture the scene (it may have happened to you!)... The interviewer scribbles a few hasty questions down, moments before the first candidate arrives. They have forgotten to bring pen, paper or the application forms, so make notes on a tatty old envelope... They get the candidate’s name wrong or ask a question that relates to a different candidate... Interviews run over, so good applicants are kept waiting and then have to be interviewed in reception because the room wasn’t booked for long enough...

This checklist should help you plan your interviews effectively and help you avoid being the hapless interviewer described above!

Invitation letter

Be organised

  • Ensure you give a good positive impression of the organisation – be prepared, well organised and appropriately dressed.
  • Ensure you inform co-interviewers of arrangements and decide who is going to take which role – who will ask which questions/who will take notes/how you will make your joint decisions.


  • Make sure you book a room or area where you can be undisturbed and that is reasonably quiet and private. It can be off-putting to both the interviewee and interviewer to be in a room with glass walls, where people outside the room cannot hear what has been said, but can still peer in as they pass en route to the coffee machine.
  • Decide whether it would be best to conduct the interviews on or off company premises. Either can be appropriate.
  • Ensure the venue gives a positive but accurate impression of future working conditions. Don’t book a fancy hotel if the job involves more down-to-earth conditions, but bear in mind that a candidate may not realise that the space they would work in is much better than the neglected corner of a tatty pre-fab where you have decided to hold the interviews.
  • Reserve car parking spaces if possible.
  • Advise reception of expected candidates and their arrival times.
  • Decide whether you will collect the candidates from reception or ask them to be sent to you.
  • Arrange other security measures – such as passes/safety videos.
  • Make sure the room temperature is set at an acceptable level – it’s very hard for both parties to concentrate if they are overheating or shivering!
  • Consider the room layout – sitting behind a desk is more formal; across a corner of a desk or using a round desk is slightly less formal, while no desk at all is the most relaxed option (but conversely one where some candidates may feel exposed).
  • Make sure computers or other items of equipment are not blocking your view of the candidate.
  • Set the chairs so you are comfortably close to but not invading the personal space of the interviewee.
  • Decide whether you will offer refreshments and arrange this, if required.
  • Make sure you can see a clock or put your watch where you can glance at it so that you can keep the interview on a timely track.
  • Take the phone off the hook before the interview starts
  • Check the sun won’t be in the candidate’s or your own eyes.


  • Allow approximately 30 to 60 minutes per interview. Less than 30 minutes and the candidate may feel their journey has been wasted. More than an hour suggests your questions are probably not structured or concise enough.
  • Allow a gap (at least 15 minutes, but ideally 30 minutes) between candidates, to allow for contingencies and so you can collect your thoughts and complete any notes. It can also be embarrassing for rival candidates to bump into each other and a time gap should help prevent this from happening.
  • Don’t try and do more than six interviews a day – your head will be swimming as you try to remember who said what!


  • Prepare a form on which to record the interview. A simple scoring grid can be of help (see the section on Taking notes for more details).
  • Prepare a list of questions – to avoid being accused of discrimination it is best to ask all candidates the same core questions in the same way (for more ideas on specific questions to consider, see the section on Asking effective questions). These questions will be based on the list of job qualities you have previously identified (for more information on this, see – The overall recruitment process).
  • Ensure you have pens and spare paper. It can be quite embarrassing to find yourself having to borrow a pen from the candidate...
  • Have the candidate application forms at hand for all the candidates attending (but make sure candidates cannot see the other application forms or flick through them if you have to leave the room for a moment!).
  • Have any relevant job information available to help you answer questions the candidate may pose.
  • A few minutes before each interview, read through relevant application form to remind yourself about the next candidate and key specific areas to explore.