The Interview

The Interview

Hiring to match your company's values

In a bid to hire employees who will make a lasting, positive contribution to an organisation, hiring managers look beyond a job seeker’s credentials and technical skills.

While knowledge and track record remain vital to filling any role, employers who recognise the importance of aligned values between candidate and company will go a long way to achieving greater productivity, compatibility and length of service from their new hires.

Employers wishing to make the right hires can make a positive start by taking steps to understand what makes their organisation and people tick. This can be achieved by:

  • Observing their employees at work and assessing the work patterns within the business from an outsider’s perspective.
  • Investigating what impact the immediate working environment (space, light, decor, etc.) has on employees and on work practices.
  • Questioning staff (in an objective, non-judgemental forum) on their working arrangements and what they like/dislike about their working arrangements.
  • Assessing and outlining your employee value proposition, what your organisation can offer and how you are perceived as an employment prospect by external candidates.
  • Comparing the working environment and outlook of the business to that of other similar companies.

Find the one that fits

While understanding the make-up of your organisation can help you improve the company’s existing environment and provide you with an insight into who you should or should not hire, you will also need to focus on the individual characteristics of your candidates to ensure they’re right for your business.

The safest way to assess potential candidates for the right fit is to conduct a series of behavioural and motivational questions as part of the interview process.

Employers can quickly find out whether a candidate will fit in to an organisation by asking them a few common behavioural interview questions such as: “What’s your idea of an ideal job?” or “why do you feel you are the most suitable candidate for this job?”

With more 40 years’ recruitment experience, our specialist consultants can help with all your recruitment needs, finding the best candidates available for your business.

How to conduct a competency-based interview

Competency-based interviews can provide employers with a detailed insight into how a candidate might perform any given task and whether they’ve got the experience and skills you’re looking for.

In the frame

Framing competency-based questions, relevant to a role or organisation, will allow you to better assess whether candidates come up to scratch on any number of skills such as: leadership, communication, decisiveness, delegation, risk taking, team work etc.

What are the indicators?

While employers will no doubt have a clear idea of the type of candidate they’re looking for, the process of scoring candidates by their answers to competency-based questions can prove an ultimate deciding factor. For example, for a fairly straight forward question such as: “Tell me about a time when you identified a new approach to a problem”, you should be able to gauge on a scale of one to five, whether a candidate has “no skill/experience” or has “excellent skill/experience” in the relevant area.

It is also possible to gauge a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses through their answers by assessing whether they demonstrate a willingness to learn, an ability to perform or, if they show a negative approach towards a task.

Key competency questions

With 40 years of recruitment experience, we know the value of competency-based interviews and have worked out a list of key competency questions, grouping them into five areas, illustrating a wide range of skills.

Individual competencies - These refer to a candidate’s flexibility, decisiveness, tenacity, knowledge, independence, risk taking and personal integrity.

A typical question might be: tell me about a time when your work or an idea was challenged.

Managerial competencies - These refer to a candidate’s ability to take charge of other people; leadership, empowerment, strategic thinking, corporate sensitivity, project management and managerial control.

A typical question might be: tell me about a time you led a group to achieve an objective.

Analytical competencies - These refer to a candidate’s decision making abilities, innovation, analytical skills, problem solving, practical learning and attention to detail.

A typical question might be: tell me about a time when you identified a new approach to a problem.

Interpersonal competencies - These refer to a candidate’s social competencies, leadership and ability to work as part of a team.

A typical question might be: describe a situation where you brought people together to work as a team.

Motivational competencies - These refer to a candidate’s drive, resilience, energy, motivation, result orientation, initiative and quality focus.

A typical question might be: tell me about a time you worked especially hard and felt the greatest sense of achievement.

When conducting a competency-based interview, employers should be looking for authentic answers where candidates are being themselves by providing real life examples which relate to their actual life and work experiences. Remember, these are not trick questions; they are designed to create the best match between an individual and an organisation.

Asking the right questions

Asking questions during an interview will not only give you answers, it demonstrates you have initiative and that you have enthusiasm for both the position and the company. This is sure to impress any employer.

Below are some examples of questions you could ask. Be sure to listen carefully during the interview in case your questions are answered.

  • How is performance measured and how often is it reviewed?
  • What long-term career opportunities are available and how do you support the up-skilling of staff?
  • What are the key challenges of the role, particularly in the first six months?
  • How many people are in my team and what are their roles?
  • With whom will I be working most closely?
  • How would you describe the culture of the company?
  • What is the leadership style of the upper management team?
  • What are the major plans for the company in the next five years?

What's really important on a CV?

Developing an effective CV can be a long and tedious process, especially when you are tailoring your experience and skills to match the job spec for each role you apply for.

Understanding what is most important on a CV is useful when beginning your search for a new job. Knowing what recruiters are looking for when scanning the thousands, of CVs they will come across, will help you stand out as a top candidate and may assist you in reaching the interview stage.

We surveyed 2,000 members of the public and 480 recruiters, and compared their opinions to find out what’s important on a CV. Use our interactive chart to see which aspects of your CV matter more than you think and which aren’t worth worrying about.

What’s really important on a CV?

For advice on your CV contact us today, or browse our job listings to find your next role.

Getting talent from interviews

If you have reached interview stage for the role you are recruiting you will have already drawn up a job specification and looked through candidate CVs. Here we give employers some advice as to how they can maximise their efforts and manage their time at the interview stage.


Though this may be a luxury for some, preparing for your meeting does help.  Before the meeting, read through the candidate CV again. Candidates should know their CV inside out to speak with conviction, so likewise, you should be in a position to ask them pertinent questions.

Although the hiring power ultimately lies with you, they too will be assessing whether they want to be working for your company; in effect interviewing you. They will also have a first impression.

Shaking their hand and making good eye contact is often said to be the most important part of the interview. Bear in mind, the candidate may be nervous.  Try to put them at ease with an ice breaker such as asking how their journey to the meeting was. Nerves are not necessarily a bad thing, it gives you an idea of how they deal with pressure and how they will deal with strangers when potentially starting with you.

The interview

The first thing you should do is set the agenda. Just explain very briefly how the meeting will be structured. This is logical, it also gives you control of the meeting. Introduce yourself and also give a very brief overview of the company, your department and the role on offer.

A basic thing to be aware of is how you phrase your questions. The interview will not progress if you ask closed questions. This is when you limit the candidate’s response to a one word answer. The best suggestion would be to ask questions with an open word such as who, what, where, when, why or how. Another technique would be to give the candidate a statement and then asking them to expand such as ‘You have had a lot of experience in managing teams. Tell me about it’. If using this, just bear in mind the candidate may not give you the information you want to hear so be prepared to prompt them with further questions.

Below we suggest four different ways to structure the meeting.

Chronological – here you take a ‘whistle-stop tour’ of the candidate’s CV from past to present. If you want to see how the candidate has developed their skill set over time, this may be the most sensible approach

Competency – if the role you are recruiting requires a certain skill set, this may be a better way to ask them questions. Pick out the key skills the candidate will need for the role for example, creativity, leadership and resilience and ask questions around these attributes.

Role specific – if the vacancy is very specific, this could be the most effective way for you. This tends to be used for temporary roles also.

The ‘informal chat’-  another method used for temporary roles, though some interviewers use this for permanent recruitment too. It can be seen as a good way to build relations with the candidate quickly, however, it may not give the right impression of the role, department or company.

Ending the meeting

Once you have asked all you need to, give the candidate the chance to ask any questions. On top of being another chance to sell the benefits of working for you, it will also give you an insight into what is at the forefront of their mind with regards to the role. It may be appropriate to ask what their notice period is.

We generally advise people not to offer candidates’ positions at the end of the interview; it gives the chance to properly assess if they are right for the role.

Always remember, Zenrecruitment consultants can give you more assistance to tailor interviews, so please get in touch.