Step 7 - Interviewing Applicants

The Selection Committee:

Preparing Interview Questions
Preparing for the Interview
How to Conduct the Interview
Do's and Don'ts During the Interview
Roles and Responsibilities of Presiding Members
Roles and Responsibilities of Commitee Members
Tips for Effective Telephone Interviewing
Checklist for Interviewing
Interview Grid
Sample Interview Questions
Interview Travel Expenses


Preparing Interview Questions

Prepare a set of questions that assess the applicants against the selection criteria specified in the position description.

Questions should test the skills, experience and knowledge required for the job:

  • knowledge of the applicant (eg. 'Can you tell us what you understand by the terms equal employment opportunity?')
  • experience of the applicant in carrying out tasks relevant to the criteria (eg. 'Can you tell us how you have organised a conference?')
  • skills of the applicant (eg. testing computer skills or giving a short presentation).

Determine how the applicants will be rated against the answers they give to each question.

Ensure that no question is irrelevant to the position or addresses inappropriate issues such as age, disability, marital status, political/religious affiliations etc.

Avoid a line of questioning which places undue emphasis on local knowledge or experience.

Preparing for the Interview

The Selection Committee should develop interview questions at the shortlisting stage. If this is not possible, each member should draft possible questions against the selection criteria. The Selection Committee should then meet before the interviews and agree on the final questions.

The Presiding Member of the Selection Committee should make arrangements for the interviews. However, if required your HR Consultant/HR Officer can manage this task.

If making interview arrangements:

  • agree on a date, time and location with Selection Committee members
  • book a suitable venue for interviews
  • contact all applicants, arrange interview dates/times, and advise of location
  • confirm with Selection Committee members interview dates/times and location
  • make arrangements for additional forms of assessment if they are to be used, and
  • follow up any additional information needed such as equivalence of overseas qualifications or experience.

An Interview Grid should be prepared for all shortlisted applicants in the order for which the interviews will be conducted, and circulated to Selection Committee members. This should include:

  • the agreed questions
  • the essential criteria tested
  • space for notes, and
  • a provisional rating

Special Needs

Ensure that all interview and/or additional assessment venues are accessible for people with disabilities. If this is not possible, make arrangements for a suitable alternate venue if an applicant indicates special access needs.

Ensure suitable arrangements are made for any applicant with special needs:

  • at the interview eg. a sign interpreter for a hearing impaired applicant OR
  • where additional forms of assessment are to be used eg. technical aids for applicants with disabilities.

How to Conduct the Interview

Before the Interview

The Presiding Member of the Selection Committee should:

During the Interview

The Presiding Member and/or Selection Committee members should:

  • Introduce each applicant, explain the purpose and structure of the interview and that some committee members may take notes.
  • Put applicants at ease - ask an early 'ice-breaking' question.
  • Review relevant details of the application to give the applicant an opportunity to add further information.
  • Question all applicants against the same criteria.
  • Ask all applicants the same core questions - probing is allowed.
  • Ask supplementary questions to clarify/for further information.
  • Actively listen and seek clarification.
  • Ensure that there is no discrimination during the interviews.
  • Obtain sufficient information from applicants to ensure accurate decisions.
  • Explore with applicants any features of the job considered difficult.
  • Ask applicants if they wish to discuss matters that may not have emerged in response to core questions.
  • Advise applicants about the timing of the decision-making and notification of the outcome of the process.

Do's and Don'ts During the Interview

Interview Do's:

  • Be prepared.
  • Establish rapport.
  • Be an active and positive listener.
  • Create a positive interview environment.
  • Be familiar with the job description, job specification, and applications.
  • Seek information to satisfy all essential criteria needed for successful job performance.
  • Ask behavioural interview questions requiring examples to support responses.
  • Be consistent when asking questions - ask the same core questions of all applicants.
  • Ask follow-up or probing questions to verify actual behaviour and/or performance.
  • Focus on more recent work experiences than earlier work situations.
  • Take notes to recall information.
  • Take time to determine the applicant's 'fit' with the organisation.
  • Rate applicants according to merit.
  • Provide feedback to applicants if requested.
  • If required, have a second interview or meeting to get more information.

Interview Dont's:

  • Ask long, complex questions.
  • Ask direct or closed questions when you require more information than yes or no.
  • Express judgements or personal opinions in questions or observations.
  • Ask discriminatory questions about marital status, pregnancy, family responsibilities, sexuality, race, disability, political or religious beliefs, or age.
  • Make uninformed or rash decisions.
  • Ask leading questions.
  • Keep the applicant waiting for too long.
  • Talk too much and not allow the applicant the opportunity to do most talking - good applicants expect to do most of the talking to sell their qualities and attributes.
  • Introduce new criteria or questions that are not specific to the job.

Roles and Responsibilities of Presiding Members

Before the Interview:

During the Interview:

  • Introduce each applicant, explain the purpose and structure of the interview and that some committee members may take notes.
  • Create an atmosphere that puts the applicant at ease - early 'ice-breaking' question.
  • Ensure all applicants are asked the same core questions - probing is allowed.
  • Ask supplementary questions to clarify/for further information.
  • Give each applicant an opportunity to add information by reviewing relevant details in the application.
  • Ensure that there is no discrimination during the interviews.
  • Should any candidate receive an adverse report from a referee, and without breaching confidentiality, create an opportunity for the issue to be addressed.
  • Obtain sufficient information from applicants to ensure accurate decisions.
  • Advise applicants about the timing of decision-making and notification of the outcome of the process.

Following the Interview:

  • Seek initial rankings from all members without discussion.
  • Ensure that committee members confine discussion of applicants to relevant information. Try to negotiate a unanimous decision. If this is not possible – a majority is acceptable. Where the vote is tied, the Presiding Member has a casting vote.

Roles and Responsibilities of Commitee Members

During the Interview:

  • Each applicant is assessed against the position and the selection criteria and asked the same core questions.
  • Actively listen and seek clarification.
  • Ask questions which give the applicant the opportunity to respond to any issues raised by referees.
  • Obtain sufficient information to make accurate decision.
  • At the end of the interview applicants may discuss matters that did not emerge during the interview, add any information or ask any questions.

Following the Interview:

  • Make rankings on the basis of your own notes and assessment of each applicant's performance in relation to the selection criteria.
  • Confine discussion to relevant information.
  • Decide with other Selection Committee members on the applicant to be recommended for appointment and any other applicants eligible for appointment.
  • Sign the HR13 Selection Committee Report form.
  • Provide post interview feedback to the Presiding Member for unsuccessful applicants in terms of the selection criteria.

Tips for Effective Telephone Interviewing

The Presiding Member should introduce each panel member to the interviewee at the start of the interview.

The Presiding Member should outline clearly the structure of the interview (eg. begin with an overview of position, a series of questions will be asked, there will be opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview...).

Remember to articulate words clearly and project your voice.

Keep interview questions concise and brief to allow the interviewee to respond appropriately and to minimise confusion.

Re-introduce yourself each time you take over the speaking role from another interviewer (e.g. "This is Dr X again...").

Try to verbalise non-verbal responses so that the interviewee has an idea of your reaction (eg. "There are nods of agreement among selection committee members..." or "...a few of us are looking a little puzzled... perhaps you could elaborate on your last point...").

Technical Tips for Telephone Interviewing

Ensure any outside noise or potential interference is blocked out.

Sit close enough and face the voicepoint/speakerphone directly to ensure you are heard clearly (approximately 1.5 metres as a guide).

Avoid moving the voicepoint/speakerphone while in use as this causes distraction.

Avoid holding paperwork up in front of you which may obstruct the sound of your voice into the voicepoint/speakerphone.

Regularly check with the interviewee to ensure they can still hear you clearly - sometimes there may be a problem with the line where the interviewee may not be able to hear questions properly or the line may have dropped out.

Allow sufficient time for telephone interviews. Remember you are relying on non-verbal cues so care needs to be taken to ensure the applicant is clear about what is being asked of them and who is directing the conversation. Also, you may not be able to connect instantly - perhaps arrange to telephone the applicant a few minutes before to make sure you have contact. The same applies for external committee members who need to be connected via a conference call.

Checklist for Interviewing

Click here to download the Checklist for Interviewing (PDF).

Interview Grid

Click here to download the Interview Grid (PDF).

Sample Interview Questions

Interpersonal and Communication Skills:
  • Tell us about a time when you were able to demonstrate excellent written communication skills?
  • Describe an instance where you effectively communicated with your boss/colleagues in order to undertake a task?
  • Tell us about a time when you had to resolve a conflict or handle a grievance?  Outline the steps you followed to ensure a positive outcome.
Leadership/Management Ability:
  • Every manager has to delegate certain tasks at some stage.  Describe a work situation in which you delegated responsibility successfully. 
  • Provide an example of a team performance issue that you resolved.  What was the situation?  In hindsight, is there anything you would do differently now?
  • Describe your management style.
Outcome/Result Focus:
  • Describe a time when you achieved what others thought was near impossible?  What feedback did you receive?
  • Tell me about your last research project.  What were the outcomes?  What would you do differently?
  • Tell me about a situation where you had to rely on others to achieve your outcomes.  How did it make you feel?
Technical Skills/Knowledge:
  • What computer packages/applications have you utilised in the workplace? What documents/materials did you produce using these applications?
  • Describe a situation when you effectively demonstrated you technical expertise in the workplace.  How was this knowledge/skill received?
  • What specific training would you require if successful in this position?
Strengths and Weaknesses Questions:
  • What has been your greatest achievement/success to date? 
  • What would your current/previous supervisor say were some of your strengths?
  • Describe a situation where you had to work autonomously to achieve a desired result.
Decision-Making Ability:
  • Tell me about a work emergency or crisis which you had to handle.  What was your role? What did you do?
  • Describe one of the most difficult decisions you have had to make in the workplace.   How did you overcome some of the hardships?
Customer Service Focus:
  • What is your definition of "excellent" client/customer service.  Tell me about a time when you went beyond the call of duty to help a client/customer?
  • Describe a situation that illustrates how you developed a positive relationship with a client.
  • Tell us of a situation where you successfully handled a client/customer grievance.   What steps did you follow?   What was the outcome?
Attention to detail:
  • How do you ensure accuracy in your work?  Give me an example of a situation where accuracy was critical.
  • Provide an example of a time where an error was discovered in your work.  How did you handle the situation?
Initiative:
  • Tell me about a time when you demonstrated your initiative in the workplace.
  • Tell me about a time where you had to bend the rules to get something done.  What was the outcome?
Innovation and Creativity:
  • Describe an example where you had to think on your feet and came up with a creative solution?
  • Tell us about a situation which resulted in an unsuccessful outcome.
  • What kinds of problems have people recently called on you to solve? Tell me how you solved the problem.
Teamwork Skills:
  • What are some qualities of a team player?
  • Tell us about a time you contributed to a team situation to complete a task?
  • Tell me about the best team that you have worked in and why it stands out positively in your mind.
Resilience
  • Recall a time when you made what you consider a mistake or a bad decision on the job. How did you handle the situation?
  • Describe a time when you responded to change in your workplace/environment?
  • Describe a time that you had to deal with an irate customer/student/colleague and how you dealt with the situation?

Interview Travel Expenses

Click here to go to the Interview Expenses Policy.