How to conduct a successful interview process

The ‘war for talent’ is in the news on an almost weekly basis, with organisations across all sectors struggling to successfully hire.

There are a number of reasons for these challenges:

  • High demand for talent means candidates have more choice in their next role
  • Businesses are not aligned as to exactly what they need
  • Extrapolated processes which lead to candidates dropping out or accepting other opportunities
  • The best talent is being heavily counter-offered by their employer, with companies recognising the ‘war for talent’

Understanding what you want and need

Before you even think about hiring, you need to understand the difference between what you want and need for someone to be successful in their appointment.

Here is my first challenge to traditional hiring protocols.

We are going to turn:




To this:

Attitudes & Behaviours



If people fail in a new role, it is often because they do not have the right attitudes and behaviours or values alignment with the business, yet the interview process often focuses on assessing skills and experience only.

Attitudes & Behaviours

The hiring success rate is significantly higher if you focus on the attitudes and behaviours needed to excel in the role, specifically for your company and situation.

For instance, an HR professional is likely to need different attitudes and behaviours in a start-up SME organisation than in an established FTSE business.

At this point, I would suggest measuring and benchmarking the behaviours you need and creating a blueprint that is aligned with the key stakeholders’ expectations. It will help the business to be more balanced in the way it assesses and analyses the individual and remove the uncertainty of intuition and ‘gut feel’.


“Culture is what happens when no one is looking”

Your company culture and EVP will be reflected in your values. To understand if someone will be a cultural fit, you will need to know what values you want the person to align to and how they can demonstrate those values personally.


This is where people can often fall into the trap of making assumptions.

Hiring managers often believe because a candidate was part of a successful business, they will have the experience needed. Or, because a certain company has a good reputation, people who work there will be a great fit for your business.

This is not always the case.

What you need to be clear on are the challenges and goals that you need this individual to be able to contribute to. The more aware you are of those challenges, the better you will articulate them and subsequently decipher if the candidates’ experience is relevant and at the appropriate level.


Skills are a natural extension of the individual being successful in their role but do not make assumptions. My advice is to list the key 4 or 5 skills needed and ensure the candidates can demonstrate them through the process.

Dynamics of the interview process

There is a balance to achieve between analysing a candidate enough to ensure they are a good potential hire and becoming paralysed by that analysis, draining time and resources.

If candidates sense that you do not know what you want, can not make decisions quickly or are not agile through the process, you run the risk of losing that top talent.

It states the obvious, but not everyone that you interview will be offered the position. If you interview 5 candidates, you will appoint one new colleague and ideally leave 4 others who have become advocates for your business and brand. A quality process is important, as is your ability to sell the opportunity and company.

Good candidates will be discerning about their career choices and will certainly have other opportunities to consider alongside your process in the current market.

A useful pneumonic to remember is VM2

Vision – what do you want to achieve in the future?

Mission – what is the purpose?

Values – what do you stand for?

Milestones – what are the key measures taking you towards success?

You will also need to think about how you articulate the opportunity, without overpromising and the challenges along the way.

Please do not fall into interrogation mode, it will definitely put candidates off.

Your interviews should be meaningful, peer-to-peer conversations that allow you to assess each other openly.

Consider who you need to participate in the interview process. The key decision-makers (those with a veto vote) should be involved earlier rather than later. Conversely, it is good to invite candidates to meet their potential peers in a less formal setting towards the end of the process.

Interview checklist

This is your opportunity to ensure that your business reflects the level of quality and capability of the candidate that you want to appoint as well as create advocates along the way.

Some of this list may be obvious, but you will be amazed how many fail to include these salient points.

  • Send the candidate a diary invitation to the interview including who they are meetings, the address, parking details and anything else they need to know to arrive easily
  • Brief the team that interviewees are in the business that day and ensure someone is dedicated to meeting and greeting them on arrival
  • Be punctual
  • Ensure a meeting room is booked (clean and tidy with water and glasses)
  • Have read the CV (and behavioural profile) before the interview – be prepared
  • Ensure those involved know what part they are playing – who is asking what questions, note-taking, observing etc.
  • Give initial feedback and ask for candidate feedback at the end of the meeting – gage interest
  • Manage expectations regarding next steps and timescales
  • Call all unsuccessful candidates with full feedback
  • Feedback
  • You need to get comfortable giving feedback. Candidates appreciate that not everyone will be taken to the next stage or offered the role, but everyone values candid and constructive feedback for their time and cost investment.
  • Utilising a scoring sheet (such as the one attached) will let candidates know if it was behaviours, values or experience that did not meet your expectations. Prepare to tell them what they did well, where they did not score so well and what they might consider for future interviews. If relevant, invite them to apply for alternative roles in the future.

Complimentary Interview Playbook

We have also created an interview scorecard, to receive your copy fill out the details below.

If you are struggling with a business-critical HR appointment, or would simply like some advice without obligation, I would welcome a conversation on how HR Heads’ vast network of passive human resources professionals could provide the solution to your challenges.