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Frequenty Asked Questions


Interview Techniques

Interviews are the most commonly used selection tool in the process of hiring new employees. An interview is a meeting (face-to-face, over the phone or virtual) with the candidate to ask questions in order to ascertain their suitability for the role. An interview can take a number of different forms from very structured through to the more informal and unstructured. Multiple interviews may be included in the selection process along with other selection techniques.

An interview provides the employer with the opportunity to gain additional information about the candidate about    their suitability for the role through discussion regarding their knowledge, skills and experience. It also provides the opportunity for the employer to assess things not able to be assessed from a curriculum vitae or application form such as behavior, fit for the organisation and personal qualities.

An interview provides an opportunity for the candidate to gain information about the organisation and the role they have applied for.



A structured interview is one organized around specific questions and subject areas. The set questions do not vary between candidates interviewed except in response to candidate answers to the set questions (e.g. to request further information or clarification). Structured interviews are straightforward and seek information to assess the relationship between the applicant’s education, skills and experience and the job specification/description.

A structured interview will generally include an assessment or rating scale for use by the interviewers in quantifying the candidate response to the questions.

The advantage that a directive or structured interview brings is consistency. As all candidates in the process answer the same questions, it enables comparison by the interviewers of the candidates. Structured interviews are also easier to conduct for inexperienced interviewers and can be time effective in keeping to a set number of questions.

Structured interviews can be inflexible though and reduce the opportunity for interviewers to ask questions on areas which, while may not be covered by the interview, could provide invaluable information about the candidate and their ability to be successful in the role. The structured interview can be a less positive experience for the candidate too as it can appear one sided and may result in their reduced interest in the role.

Example questions for a structured interview

  1. Tell me about a time when you had to convey negative feedback to an employee about their performance. What was the situation? What did you do? What was the outcome?
  2. Tell me the switchboards you have worked with in your previous roles. What training did you receive on each? How long have you worked with each?
  3. What 2 or 3 words would your previous supervisors use to describe your work?



Unstructured interviews are largely unplanned and guided by the interviewer based on the material introduced by the interviewee. The applicant tends to do the majority of the talking in an unstructured interview.

Unstructured interviews can mean the applicant is more relaxed and open providing less guarded or prepared responses and showing more of their themselves and their personality than can be achieved during a structured interview.

Unstructured interviews do require a more experienced interviewer in order to achieve what is required out of the interview process and be able to find points of comparison between applicants. Unstructured interviews are less controlled, and it may be more difficult to extract the pertinent evidence the interviewer is looking for to address selection criteria.

Example questions for an unstructured interview

  1. Tell me something about yourself
  2. Can you expand on that example?
  3. How did that make you feel? What did you learn from that?


A behavioral interview is based on the competencies and behaviors required to perform the role. Questions tend to delve into specific life history events that give the interviewer insight into how the candidate would perform in the role. Candidates will be asked to give an example of a situation as they have experienced it and questions will be crafted around how the candidate responded in the situation, what the outcomes were and what they learnt from the experience.

Behavioral interviews allow the interviewer to look at the candidates past behavior as a predictor of their future behavior. The interviewer can probe the details of an example shared by the candidate. Behavioral interviews combine structured and unstructured interview techniques and allow the candidate to share examples from a variety of life experiences not just previous roles.

Behavioural interviews rely on the assumption that individuals repeat certain behaviour when faced with certain situations. An inexperienced interviewer may find it difficult to capture the pertinent points of the example the candidate shares and assess objectively.

Example questions for a behavioural interview:

  1. Describe a time in the past when you had to change someone’s mind about something. How did you go about it and were you successful?
  2. What has been the most difficult thing you have ever had to organise? What did you do?


Most often used in larger organisation, panel interviews involve two or more interviewers questioning one candidate. Generally, the panel will include one or more HR representative along with the supervisor or manager of the role and other key stakeholders from the team or broader organisation. It is important that panel interviews are planned well to ensure each panel member understands their role and questions can be allocated accordingly.

Panel interviews can produce more unbiased and reliable outcomes as a consensus from the panel members is required, drawing on multiple opinions rather than just one or two in a standard interview.

A more informed view of the candidate can be gained through a panel interview as panel members can observe the candidate while other panel members are questioning or writing notes.

Panel interviews can be more costly and difficult to arrange with multiple individuals to coordinate times and dates. Panel interviews can also be intimidating to the candidate who may not perform as well as in a more intimate interview situation. It can also be difficult to gain consensus amongst a larger panel and create a situation where no or multiple preferred candidates are identified by the group.

Panel interviews may use structured, unstructured or behavioural interview techniques. Examples of who might comprise a panel interview:

  • HR Manager
  • Manager/Supervisor to whom the role will report to
  • Incumbent in the role and/or peer to the role
  • Key internal stakeholder i.e. internal client, project team peer
  • Departmental head sitting above Manager or Supervisor to the role
  • Employee in a similar role from another department or team.


Group interviews are when an individual or panel interview a group of candidates for a role or a group of candidates are brought together and asked to interact while observed. More commonly used for bulk recruitment or graduate recruitment the group interview is used to identify candidates who display competencies such as leadership, problem solving and interpersonal skills. Group interviews often form part of an overall assessment centre to process multiple candidates when larger scale recruitment is required.

Group interviews can be economical and timesaving when selecting from multiple candidates and are an effective way for the interviewer to see how candidates interact with others.

Group interviews can be intimidating for less outgoing individuals and it is only suited to assessing specific interactional and interpersonal type competencies. Interviewers may overlook a strong candidate who does not operate well in such an environment.

Examples of group interview activities and tasks:

  • Work simulation activities – candidates are asked to participate in a discussion which simulates a task or activity they are required to do on the job i.e. brainstorm with other candidates on an idea, solve a problem or challenge.

Creating & Establishing Selection Criteria

The purpose of selection criteria is to assist in making objective decisions about the most suitable candidates for a position. Well thought out and constructed selection criteria can make selection decisions transparent and justifiable.

Selection criteria assists with identifying the factors considered to be essential or desirable to successfully perform the role you are recruiting for. The development of the selection criteria should be closely linked to the job analysis and design process and the position description used in the recruitment process.

In order to develop selection criteria, you will need to ask the following questions:

  • What does the successful candidate need? Establish what specific evidence of knowledge, skills, behaviour, education, qualifications candidates require to be successful in the role.
  • What level is required? Set the criteria and capabilities standards required drawing from the job requirements, position description and person specifications.
  • How important is it to the role? Determine which of the criteria are essential for the person to competently perform the job role and which are desired but not essential. This distinction is important in instances where no one candidate meets all the criteria or when all candidates meet the essential criteria and the desirable criteria can be used to assess.

Tip: When determining if knowledge or skills are essential or desirable, consideration should also be given as to whether the knowledge or skill can be easily learnt on the job. Those skills that can be easily picked up in on the job training or other development activities while still important to the role may be less critical to the selection process as it may not be necessary for the successful candidate to have the skill when they commence the role. This may widen the pool of appropriate candidates to include in the selection process.

The selection criteria can then inform which selection methods are used to identify the best candidate for the role.


It is important to be clear on your selection criteria when using an external recruitment provider to ensure they understand what you are looking for from the candidates they recruit for you. While a position description is useful, it can be interpreted in different ways. A good recruiter will work with you to identify your selection criteria, so they feel confident in recruiting relevant candidates for your selection process.

The following is an example of selection criteria for a receptionist role

Conducting an Effective Interview

A key requirement of an interview is that questions must be job-related and have a legitimate purpose of discovery. This ensures that information which may cause the candidate to be discriminated against in the selection process is not sought. All questions should be relating to the selection criteria and pertain to the individual’s suitability for the role.

Tips for preparing for a good interview:

  • Interviewers should have a strong understanding of the role and what it requires.
  • Interviews should be held in an appropriate location – somewhere quiet, well-lit and without distractions, ensuring there is enough space for all parties to sit comfortably.,
  • Details of the interview should be conveyed clearly ahead of time including directions to the location and details of who will be involved. Information should also be provided as to what the candidate can expect from the interview, how long the interview will take and what the candidate should bring or prepare ahead of time.
  • Relevant questions should be prepared ahead of the interview, and the panel members should be briefed on the format. Ensure the interviewers are familiar with the questions ahead of the interview.
  • All interviewers should have access to the candidate’s application ahead of the interview and be familiar with it.
  • Ensure enough time is allocated to the interview. Where possible don’t run interviews back to back this will allow time for interviewers a chance to review after meeting each candidate.
  • Put the candidate at ease at the start of the interview with some small talk, offering a beverage and ensuring they have everything they need before you commence.
  • Use the selection criteria, position description and the person specification as the basis for the interview.


During the interview

  • Provide introductory information at the commencement of the interview about the organisation, the team and the role.
  • Introduce the interviewers and provide relevant details such as who the interviewers are and how they relate to the position.
  • Outline the process that will be undertaken, including any other processes that are being used to source information such as testing or reference checks. i.e. ‘Today’s interview is part of the first-round interviews. We are interviewing 5 candidates at this stage. We will have a second round of interviews with the CEO later in the week, after which time we will conduct reference checks. We are looking to make an appointment by early next week.’
  • Outline the structure of the interview. Explain to the candidate what will happen throughout the course of the interview. For example, “we will tell you a bit about our organisation, we will then ask you to tell us about your previous experience and we will end with some behavioural based interview questions.” This assists with putting the candidate at ease.
  • Keep the interview relevant and informative
  • The focus should be on objective information gathering
    • Skills and knowledge
    • Work history and professional experience
    • Education and training
    • Personal attributes and behaviour
  • Ask the same questions of each candidate. This ensures that you are maintaining consistency and improves your ability to evaluate effectively.
  • Give relevant details as to why the candidate has reached this stage in the selection process i.e. ‘We are impressed with the breadth of your experience in the industry and particularly your achievements in your current role’.
  • The interviewer should give the candidate their full attention without distraction or interruption and allow the candidate to qualify any answers to questions and talk freely.
  • Interviewers should take notes to assist them in recalling the key points about each candidate (especially where many candidates are being interviewed) while being aware these notes may be made available to the candidate under privacy law requirements.
  • Be polite and attentive – remember you are representing your organisation.


Interview questions

  • After the provision of introductory information, in the interest of establishing rapport, begin the interview with easy questions and gradually build up to more complex, probing questions.
  • Where appropriate, use open-ended questions which allow candidates to express themselves and not just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example “tell me about your previous job” is more likely to reveal more information than “did you work for company X?”
  • Start questions with “why”, “what”, “when”, “where” and “how”.
  • Make sure the exact meaning of your question is clear by using simple and appropriate words. Do not use technical terms or jargon unless both the interviewer and the applicant understand the meaning.
  • Do not ask leading questions which imply what the answer should be. For example, ‘You didn’t like the client liaison aspect of the job?’ could be more impartially phrased ‘How did you feel about the client liaison aspect of the job?’


What not to do in an interview:

  • Avoid making snap judgements at the start of the interview based on appearance or first interaction.
  • Do not be rude, aggressive, patronizing or inattentive. Remember you are also representing your organisation.
  • Do not use terms such as “boy”, “girl” or other terms such as “darling”, “sweetheart” etc
  • Ensure your questions are not inappropriate or discriminatory. (see guidelines for non-discriminatory interviews)
  • Don’t take over the interview. Allow the applicant to speak openly and do not cut them short unless necessary.
  • Don’t lead the applicant in their responses or finish their answer for them.
  • Don’t take too may notes during the interview – it may distract the candidate and cause them to lose concentration or interrupt their train of thought.

Referee & Background Checks

Referee checks are when the recruiter contacts the candidate’s previous employers and asks questions that will assist in determining whether they are the right person for the role based on their performance in previous roles.

Some skepticism exists to the value of reference checks as candidates are able to supply the contacts of previous managers, employers or peers who are most likely to give a favorable report. Good questioning techniques can assist in getting value from a conversation with a previous colleague.

Referee reports and background checks of the preferred candidates should be undertaken before offering the position to a candidate.

When approaching previous employers for information regarding the candidate it is useful to have a short list of questions relating to:

  • Seeking confirmation of the term and type of employment
  • Confirming job role and responsibilities
  • Addressing previous employment issues raised by the candidate during the process
  • Confirming the reason for leaving the role

In addition to contacting previous employer contacts provided by the candidate at this stage in the selection process may also include:

  • Checking claims made on resumes in relation to previous employment history
  • Checking police and financial records for criminal records or bankruptcy etc.
  • Checking accuracy and authenticity of certificates, qualifications with educational institutions and training providers.

These types of checks are more important for some position types than others i.e. accountancy, finance, child care, medical roles, legal roles etc.

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