By Shaun Simmons, Managing Director of Cordant Technical & Engineering, part of recruitment giant Cordant Group

With the job market looking up, employers are now having to work harder than ever to secure the best candidates, with the average applicant considering at least four companies before accepting a job offer.

Interviews are one of the key opportunities for an employer to convince candidates that the organisation is right for them. So how can businesses make the most of these meetings?

The perfect interview starts with preparation.

The interviewer should study the candidates’ CVs or application beforehand. Many companies also do further research, such as reviewing candidates’ social media profile. It’s really important to schedule adequate time to do this.

As well as assessing their experience and skills, interviewers must identify gaps in a candidates’ CV where time is unaccountable. There may be a perfectly good reason for this, for instance; living abroad, poor health, unemployment or additional study.

Once the interviewer has all these facts at their finger-tips, they can write a well-planned list of questions to test the exact criteria of what the company is looking for in an individual.

Before the day, businesses should think about what format the interview will take. It’s becoming more common, for instance, to have multiple interviewers, which limits bias towards candidates and makes the process more objective.
Remember that the more relaxed the candidate is, the better account they will give of themselves. Make sure that there is a comfortable room available, with no interruptions, that refreshments are on hand and that all staff know that interviews are taking place.

A professional and courteous interviewer will greet candidates warmly, introduce themselves and make them feel at ease. They might give the candidates the time to explain their CV and experiences before questioning them further.

Interviewers should be looking out for evidence of the candidate’s personality and ambition; it’s absolutely critical that the person fits in with the culture, especially in a smaller company. Interviewers need to address areas such as skills, education, work experience and ambitions and ask the interviewee to try and identify their weaknesses and strengths – giving them the opportunity for self-analysis.

Encouraging the interviewee to speak as much as possible will display their level of confidence. The interviewer might ask questions such as: “What achievements are you most proud of? Why do you want to leave your present job? Do you prefer to work alone or part of a team and why? How do you see yourself in five years’ time and what are your career ambitions? This will help shape the interviewer’s overall assessment of the interviewee.

The interviewer should also be skilled enough to highlight a certain credential listed on the CV and ask the interviewee to expand on this. Developing this interaction and discussion will give you more information on the candidate.

Use a range of questioning techniques to help. For instance, pre-planned “Behavioural” or “Competency Questions” test the credibility of a candidate’s claims of success. “Motivational fit” questioning allows comparisons between the company’s core values/practices and how a candidate likes to work. Meanwhile, theoretical questions ask the candidates to give their thoughts or opinions about how they would act or behave in certain situations. Finally, leading questions prompt candidates to tell the interviewer what they think he or she wants to hear. These questions can be used to qualify the candidate’s true intentions and should be based on statements made within their CV.

In wrapping up the interview, the interviewer should explain what happens next, whether there’s a second interview (at which point they may also decide to walk around the company or meet potential colleagues) or another stage of assessment. The interviewer should at all times be courteous to the interviewee and thank them for attending.

Post-interview, it's good practice to make written notes of each interviewee concerning their attitude and an overall opinion of their personality. This is particularly important for companies interviewing quite a few people on one day.

It goes without saying that it is extremely important to check references to confirm a candidate’s identity. Every company has their employment brand to consider and vetting a candidate for any criminal behaviour is normal procedure. It is unusual for a person to supply a bad reference, but if a company refuses a reference, businesses should investigate and directly question the interviewee to clarify the situation.

After conducting a thorough and well-prepared interview, businesses should be closer to finding their perfect candidates. But remember; don’t delay too long before offering the best candidate the job as they could soon get snapped up by another organisation!