Interviewing - Successful Selection

by Jane Tredgett

Why interviewing is important

Most organisations use interviewing as part of their selection process. Asking candidates to submit a CV and/or application form and then selecting candidates to interview is a key step in filling vacancies – a vital stage in the process of whittling candidates down. This is usually followed closely by the interview, conducted by one or two people from the organisation.

Depending on the role, interviews may be followed by second interviews (possibly with a selection panel), candidates making presentations, assessment centres and reference checks. These later stages are very variable and should be tailored to the demands of the job.

The basic selection interview tends to be more consistent and a good basic format and structure can be applied to many jobs, regardless of industry or job role.

Getting it wrong...


Research suggests that between a third and half of recruitment processes are unsuccessful when judged against whether the appointed person is still in the role six months after starting the job.

Ineffective interviewing is a major contributor to these figures. Many managers feel interviewing is easy – just pop along on the day, ask a few questions that you make up on the spot, go on gut instinct and you’re sorted!

In situations where there is an urgent need for a vacancy to be filled, the key criterion may be whether the person has a pulse...

Little wonder, then, that six months down the line the person has left (either under their own steam or with a little help) and the manager is back to square one! Not only has the vacancy reappeared, but also the wrong person has been in the job for the time period and may have caused more problems than they have solved.

Damaging consequences

Ineffective interviewing has many damaging consequences:

  • High advertising costs, as positions have to be repeatedly placed
  • High time commitment from all involved in the selection process
  • The manager gets a poor reputation for staff selection
  • The manager loses credibility with his staff for employing the wrong person
  • The company gives a poor image to external people, which may result in loss of sales
  • Other candidates, with high potential, are put off from applying after they hear from a friend or colleague that the interviewing process was a shambles
  • Companies may be accused of discrimination during the interview process, resulting in prolonged and expensive legal processes.

Why it goes wrong

Sadly, far too many companies do not train their managers to conduct effective interviews. They provide few (if any) guidelines on what to ask and what not to ask.

It is often left to the manager to draw up a list of key qualities they are looking for and a method of assessing suitable candidates. Managers may not even have a job specification to use as a starting point, let alone a detailed list of required competencies.

Even if the interviewer is highly skilled, there can be problems with the advertising – particular if the description of the job bears little resemblance to the actual day-to-day requirements of the role. Companies will often over-state the benefits of a job and play down the demands, challenges and expectations, in the belief that this will attract more candidates. Managers are then left with the task of clarifying the role at interview and, if a candidate then withdraws at this stage, both the interviewer and interviewee have wasted their time.


Recruitment advertising is often out of the interviewer’s direct influence and is covered in more depth in the topic on Recruiting.

Sometimes, companies advertise in the wrong place and do not attract the appropriate people for the manager to interview.

There are many other reasons why interviewing can go wrong, but the above examples are probably the most common.

The aim of this topic is to help you to avoid these mistakes and ensure that you give yourself the optimum chance of selecting the best person for the post.