Interviewing for Employers – Tips for a successful hire

Interviewing for Employers – Tips for a successful hire

Interviewing candidates is part art and part science. Take a look at our tips below to make sure you’re on track to undertake a successful round of candidate interviews.


The job interview is a powerful factor in the employee selection process in most organisations.  While it may not deserve all of the attention that it receives, the interview is still the most powerful hiring tool.


Background and reference checking as well as psychometric testing can build a more complete picture of your candidates abilities; Hopefully, you have these checks of factual information to your hiring arsenal already.  But the job interview remains your key tool in assessing the candidate’s cultural fit.  It is also the tool you can use to get to know your candidates on a more personal basis.  The interview process also helps potential employees gauge whether the fit is right for them too.


Many of our clients discuss with us what they should and shouldn’t ask in an interview and generally what is expected of them.  We often get asked how do you know someone is a good candidate and how can you minimise the risk of a making a bad recruitment decision.


In response to this, we cannot over emphasise the importance of employers to properly prepare for and conduct an interview in a meaningful way. Employers must realise that an interview is a two way street – a unique opportunity for both candidate and client to get to know as much as possible about each other. It is just as important that a client is prepared and puts its best foot forward in interview as a candidate, particularly in a candidate driven market!


Many failed recruitment decisions tend to arise as a result of behaviours demonstrated by employees rather than technical ability.  It makes sense therefore to focus on eliciting as much information as possible from the candidate as to how they will behave and perform in a particular environment and circumstance, what habits they possess, what motivates and demotivates them and how they respond to particular management styles.  These issues are behavioural issues and an effective way of gathering this information is by asking behavioural based interview questions.  This points below focus on this type of interview.

Firstly, it is important to ask yourself what the absolute bare essential requirements are for the job.

Think about what specific skills the candidate will need to possess in order to perform the required tasks, what kind of culture is present in your firm or company and what kind of behaviours fit well within this culture.  Make a list of these.  Spend some quality time familiarising yourself with the candidate’s resume.  Jot down any questions you have about issues arising from the resume or highlight areas of interest which you would like to learn more about.  You may find under the hobbies section the candidate is into triathlons or karate – these may be interesting areas to explore to gain further insight into their discipline or drive.  Get a real feel for the candidate’s background so that you don’t waste time asking questions such as ‘When did you complete your law degree?’ or ‘When were you admitted to practice?’; think about what you want to achieve and learn from this interview.

Most candidates will be nervous before and during an interview.

In order to get the best out of them, make every effort to get the candidate to relax.  Greet the candidate warmly.  Make sure they are seated in a comfortable position.  Think about where the interview should take place – make sure the space is one that you think accurately portrays your organisation in the way you want it to be portrayed.

Try to avoid interviewing from behind your desk. Step out from behind your desk and arrange the seating such that you and the candidate are equals.  Offer something to drink and lead in with idle conversation.  Then, explain why you have invited them to meet with you and how the interview will proceed.

It is also a good idea to tell the candidate something of your own background and how you fit within the firm or company.  Remember, if the candidate feels comfortable you are more likely to embark on an open and candid discussion and learn as much as possible about their background and experiences.

A good interviewer should spend more time listening than talking. The 80/20 rule applies here!

Aim to spend around 80% of your time listening and 20% talking. The more you talk, the less you learn about the candidate! Here are steps to follow throughout the interview process:

  • Let the candidate know about the interview process and what you would like to gain from the meeting
  • Discuss the particulars of role, the reason why the vacancy has arisen and how it fits within the team/company
  • Ask the candidate how they are going in their present job and what is prompting them to consider alternative job opportunities at this point in their career

Discuss with the candidate their previous work history and how they ended up in the position they are currently in

A good interviewer should spend more time listening than talking. The 80/20 rule applies here!

Aim to spend around 80% of your time listening and 20% talking.  The more you talk, the less you learn about the candidate!  Active listening is a key ingredient to gaining a thorough picture of the candidate.

  • Make eye contact
  • Be present and remove distractions
  • Interviewers should be relaxed, yet attentive
  • Paraphrase your participants words and reflect them back
  • Empathise – try to see it from their point of view
  • Where appropriate – refer back to something they mentioned earlier in the interview. It’s ok to come back and ask for a deeper understanding or challenge them for more information
  • Don’t interrupt or try to impose your solution on a candidate
  • Interviewers must be open minded – don’t judge someone on the method in which they achieved a success outcome, you should be measuring them on how they outlined and communicated it to you.
  • Pay attention to body language and the words your participant is using to describe their experience


The following is a list of behavioural type questions interviewers can ask to elicit a keen understanding of how candidates might respond to situations in the workplace.


Conflict, hostility, time demands and criticism: (To determine if the candidate can maintain a mature, problem solving attitude while dealing with conflict, rejection or time demands)
  • Give me an example of a time at work when you had to deal with unreasonable expectations placed on you.
  • Sooner or later we all deal with criticism in relation to our work. If it has happened to you, how did you respond to such criticism and describe the context in which it arose.
  • Tell me about a high stress situation when you were required to keep a positive attitude.
  • Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and how you prioritised your tasks.


Analytical Problem Solving: (to determine if the candidate is able to use a systematic approach in solving problems)
  • Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  • Give me an example of a time when you used your fact-finding skills to solve a problem.
  • Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventative measures – whether alone or as part of a team.

Decisiveness: (to determine if the candidate is able to make decisions quickly and take action)
  • Describe a time when you were under pressure to make an immediate decision. Did you take action immediately or were you more deliberate?
  • At times it is important to be hard headed about decisions you make, particularly when others don’t like it. Give me an example of a time when you stuck by a decision even though it was under attack by others.
  • Describe a situation in which you had to draw a conclusion quickly and take speedy action.


Spoken Communication: (to determine if the candidate is able to clearly present information, influence or persuade others through oral presentation, and can listen well)
  • What types of experiences have you had in talking with clients? Tell me about a time when you had to communicate under difficult circumstances.
  • Tell me about a time when you used your communication skills to influence someone’s opinion.
  • Careful listening and effective communication go hand in hand. Tell me about a time when your ability to listen helped you to communicate better.



Motivation of Others: (to determine if the candidate is able to create positive energy in both individuals and groups)
  • Give me an example of a time when your positive attitude caused others to be motivated or energized.
  • Give me an example of something you did which helped build enthusiasm in others.
  • Tell me about a time you used competition, recognition or reward to encourage others and create positive motivation.


Commitment to Task: (to determine if the candidate is able to start and persist with courses of action)
  • Give an example of a time in which you found it necessary to dedicate long hours to a job.
  • How do you keep yourself motivated when working alone?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work hard to reach a particular goal – be specific about what you achieved.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.


Interaction: (to determine if the candidate is able to communicate effectively with others)
  • Describe a time when you were successful in dealing with (1) a client and (2) a colleague because you built a trusting relationship.
  • Tell me about a time when you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you or vice versa.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to deliver information or news to (1) a client and (2) a colleague which you knew they were not going to be happy to hear. Please be specific on how you delivered this information.


Additional Questions:
  • Give me an example of a time management skill you have learned and applied at work.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had to conform to a policy or rule which you did not agree with.
  • Give me an example of a time when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  • Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
Ask early on in the interview process what is important to them in an employer.

Hopefully these questions have assisted in finding out more about the candidate you are meeting with.  The questions are designed to get candidates to share with specific experiences in their work life that might illustrate the skills you are looking for.  If you are happy with the answers provided, it is now time to sell the role.  This is a very important part of the interview process.


Do not assume that just because you are interested in the candidate that they are interested in you.  Many employers tend to underestimate the importance of this, or, ignore it all together.


To recruit effectively, you must be able to articulate the unique benefits of your team or company consistently and persuasively.  In order to do this, it is essential to identify the candidate’s trigger points – in other words, what makes them “buy in”.  Some of the important factors candidates consider when selecting a potential employer include:

  • Reputation of the team/company and financial stability
  • Reputation for having “good people” within the team
  • A visible career path
  • Proper resources
  • Evidence that they will have a life outside of law
  • Salary and benefits
  • Knowledge that the work they do will be interesting, stimulating and challenging


One way in which to sell yourself or the company to the candidate is to highlight what you have achieved in your time with the firm/company and what you are proud of.  Be prepared to address what makes the team special, how sociable the team is and what it is that makes practising with you and your team attractive and enjoyable.  Discuss the career paths of previous successful recruits in the team.

Candidates in turn will want to ask questions concerning business involvement, training, performance reviews, promotion and salary issues and management style. You will need to approach these questions with clarity and confidence.

Good Luck and Happy Hiring!