Preparing and conducting interviews with job candidates

During the hiring process, after you have screened potential job candidates, you need to schedule interviews with your short list.
The five major objectives of the job interview are to:

  1. Collect relevant information about the candidate
  2. Describe the job and expectations to the candidate
  3. Assess the “fit” of the candidate
  4. Educate the candidate about your organization and its corporate culture
  5. Answer any questions that the candidate may have

Planning the interview

When preparing for the interviews with job candidates, make sure you:

  • Review the job description and discuss it with all stakeholders
  • Prepare a list of standard questions, focusing on the candidate’s skills, abilities and past work performance, ensuring you adhere to the Ontario Human Rights Code
  • Determine measurable criteria for comparing the candidates
  • Select an interviewing style, such as a one-on-one or panel interview
  • For panel interviews, have panel members discuss how they will run the interview
  • Re-review the candidate’s resume
  • Set appointments with reasonable time limits
  • Arrange to conduct the interview in a quiet space, without any interruptions
  • If applicable, prepare any tests required and ensure they clearly relate to the skills required in the job

Determining the interview questions

Bear in mind the two main types of interview questions:

  • Closed-ended or direct questions that focus on facts
  • Open-ended questions, which generally fall into one of the following categories:
    • Hypothetical—that is, “what if” questions about a situation that has not happened
    • Behavioural—that is, questions that ask the candidate to describe past behaviour when they handled a real situation

Open-ended questions will be the most relevant as they allow you to assess the candidate’s ability to communicate in a non-structured way. This can create opportunities for you to probe into many important aspects of the person’s experience and skills. 

Conducting the interview: Your roadmap

Use the following as a basic roadmap to steer you through the interview:

  • Start the interview on time
  • Introduce yourself and panel members (if applicable) and explain your role(s)
  • Offer the candidate water to drink and establish a rapport
  • Give a high-level overview of the interview process and the job
  • Begin the interview questions and keep track of relevant information
  • Use open-ended questions
  • Ask the candidate if they have any questions or comments about the job or organization
  • Explain the follow-up process, including reference checks and the timing of any job offer and start date

Conducting an interview: Do’s and don’ts

Interviewing is an art. That said, it is a good idea to follow these rules:

  • Do have a thorough understanding of the candidate’s background
  • Do stay focused on the candidate
  • Do ensure consistency in the questions you ask each candidate
  • Do express curiosity and interest—and ask more questions if necessary to better understand the person’s perspective
  • Do not take over the conversation. Permit the candidate to talk as long as it is relevant to the interview
  • Do not let the candidate veer away from the focus of the interview
  • Do not ask questions about the candidate’s religion, gender, sexual orientation or any other area of potential discrimination
  • Do not allow your personal biases to affect your opinion of the candidate
  • Do not take notes about your opinion of the candidate—simply record their answers
  • Do not oversell the job
  • Do not permit unnecessary interruptions

Interview follow-up

Following the interview, you will need to embark on a number of tasks:

  • Review test results, if applicable
  • Meet with stakeholders to review and discuss the interview assessments and test results
  • Conduct reference checks and discuss what you learn with all stakeholders
  • Contact the winning candidate to negotiate an offer
  • Assuming the winning candidate accepts, contact the other candidates to explain the decision and answer any questions

Useful templates