Perhaps the easiest way of preventing going off-piste is to prepare a list of questions beforehand using the job description, person specification and application form as a starting point. While it may feel a little rigid to reel off questions from a sheet of A4, the questions you prepare shouldn’t stifle conversation, simply act as a prompt. As well as ensuring you don’t miss asking anything important, scripting the questions should help to avoid potentially inappropriate topics of conversation.
As far as possible, it is preferable to ask candidates the same set of questions in the same order. Of course, there may be specific issues relating to a particular candidate that you may wish to address, such as gaps in their employment, but conducting interviews in a structured manner should help ensure you are treating applicants equally and reduce your risk of discrimination claims.
When it comes to interviews, the goal is simple: assess an applicant’s suitability for the role. If you’re unsure whether a particular question is appropriate, ask yourself whether it helps you to achieve this aim; if not, it’s probably best to steer the conversation back on track.
It’s always a good idea to thoroughly read and familiarise yourself with the employee’s CV and application before the interview. By ensuring you have a good understanding of their employment history, you can keep the conversation related to their skills and experience and avoid venturing into potentially problematic areas.
Employers may be forgiven for assuming that they’re in the driving seat in an interview situation – after all, if you decide not to hire a candidate, you’ll likely never hear from them again. However, with sites like Glassdoor, what happens in the interview room doesn’t always stay in the interview room – so even if you decide halfway through that the candidate isn’t right for the job, keep in mind that negative reviews may tarnish your reputation or deter other candidates from applying in future.