How to Conduct a Knock-Out Interview

Interviews are usually nerve-racking for the candidate, but they can be a daunting experience for the interviewer too.

You are the ambassador for your business; there is pressure to convey authority and a breadth of knowledge in your field. It is your responsibility to extract the right information from the candidate, then make the call on whether or not they are a good “fit”. The buck stops with you.

But have you stopped to consider whether you are right for them? The candidate market has improved and candidates now have plenty of options open to them. Companies are competing for top talent. So here is how to make the interview a mutually beneficial process for you and the candidate alike.

Know what you want

Before you meet the candidates face to face you need to be clear about what you are looking for. Cast a critical eye over your business, examine your top performers and ask yourself what qualities and skills they have in common? Use this analysis to create a list of the key attributes you are looking for. When it comes to personality types remember that same-same isn’t always best. As a business grows, introducing contrasting personalities can bring about positive challenge and change to a culture.


The candidate’s CV is a mine of information and clues about them. Take a good look and note any particular aspect you want to discuss in detail. Perhaps there is a career gap or they took part in an interesting project. These small “side notes” could be the most revealing parts of the interview process.

Create a calm atmosphere

All candidates have some level of nerves and stress before and during the interview. In order to get the best out of them, you must put them at ease. Make sure they have as much information as possible in advance of the interview, from how to get there and where to go when they arrive to dress codes and any question preparation they may need. This will ease any excess stress in advance. On arrival, offer a drink and ask some informal questions about their journey to break the ice.

Keep numbers down

Seeking counsel on a new hire is important. However, too many “chiefs” can drag the process out and be very off-putting to candidates. We recommend an interview is conducted by a maximum of three staff members at any one time. Furthermore, you can stagger the introductions over a staged process: first interview with HR or a Hiring Manager, second interview would include an additional senior staff member, third stage could be a peer interview. The latter is important when assessing team cohesion and culture fit. By giving your team a say in who comes in, they are more likely to take the new hire under their wing.

Use real-world situations to assess potential

Clichéd questions such as “What is your biggest weakness?” are a waste of time. They are unoriginal, the candidates have probably been asked it a few times before, and the answers are usually a well-rehearsed fabrication. Instead, ask questions based on real-life situations. Describe a scenario in your business and ask the candidate to explain how they would tackle it. Ask them to talk about situations where they have overcome defeat, experienced a win or been challenged as part of a team.

Don’t obsess over Culture fit

It’s a hot topic, and companies have a tendency to obsess over this at interview stage. Just remember that an interview is a skewed reality. Candidates are rarely their true self so assessing their personality can be tricky. A better question to ask may be “Can this person adapt?”. As the interview process goes on, “fit” will become clear to you and the candidate alike – if they don’t see it, chances are they will know before you do.

Sell you and your business

The interview has gone well, you like the candidate and they have answered all your questions perfectly. Now it’s your turn to sell. Remember it’s a candidate-led market and your interviewee might have several other job offers under their belt. Discuss the team and the role in detail but don’t overlook the bigger picture. Talk about your vision for the company, where it is heading, how you demonstrate value to your employees. What about the social aspect too? Occasions like Christmas parties and staff incentives all help shape an employee’s working experience. A peer interview can be invaluable in selling the role. Candidates tend to trust the word of someone they will be working alongside.

So to recap:

  • Know what you want
  • Prepare in advance
  • Put the candidate at ease
  • Don’t fill the room with interviewers.
  • Ask the right questions.
  • Don’t obsess over culture
  • Sell “You”

Interviews are a two way process that if conducted well, could open the door to exponential growth for you and your business. We hope these tips help you reach that goal.

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