How to interview
When the time comes to take your seat at the hiring side of the interview table, it can strike fear into even the bravest secretary’s heart. Getting it wrong could have serious implications, but with a bit of pre-planning you can achieve your objective of recruiting the ideal candidate, and hopefully get a few brownie points on the side.
Having a clear goal is the essential criteria for any interviewer. Identify the skills, attitudes, abilities and experience the position requires. If the role has a job description, use it to form a framework for the type of person you are looking for.
When the applications have been received, read them thoroughly and match candidates with the assets on your framework. This will enable you to shortlist candidates and have a set pattern of how you consider each CV.
Deciding on a set of questions can be very difficult – it’s important to think about which questions will draw out the specific details to establish that the candidate has the personal skills to match the skills on their CV. If you don’t feel confident in setting your own questions, why not ask for assistance from your personnel department, or from colleagues with more interviewing experience.
Keeping the same questions for each interview will bring uniformity to the exercise and ensure a fair interview for all. Structure the interview and keep notes. Have a pre-printed list of questions with space to write your own notes and comments. You can then look back over them to refresh your mind when making a final assessment.
Include time in the interview for the following main points:
- An outline of the job description, roles, responsibilities, duties and expectations
- Details of the interviewees’ current role, aims and current salary and benefits. Remember to check facts and expectations… there can be a vast difference between a person’s current salary and what they are hoping for in their next position
- An opportunity to have questions put to you about the company, the role and the general working environment.
Making a candidate feel relaxed and at ease during the interview is the key to getting honest, informative, and waffle free answers. Interrogation is not the way - no-one interviews well under pressure! Look out for body language. Subconscious movements, expressions and eye contact - whether positive or negative - can give an insight into a person’s true aspirations.
Although you are conducting the interview, be aware that you are also under scrutiny. A candidate may not accept a position if they didn’t get the right impression about the company during the interview process.
Answering interviewees’ questions is inevitable so know your stuff! Have company literature to hand especially if you have pre-printed professional documents. Brush up on company policies and procedures, especially relating to holiday entitlement, pension, life assurance and company cars, if necessary.
The final decision should always be based on your original key criteria, and not solely on personal opinion. If you are unsure, why not invite a couple of the leading candidates back and ask a colleague to sit in with you. Remember that it is sometimes better to hold out for the best candidate and re-advertise than employ someone unsuitable and watch them leave in 3 months time.
Suzanne Brown is a freelance secretary, writer and mum. Between nappy changes and sleepless nights she can be found chained to her laptop working on her latest masterpiece