Interview Preparation Checklist

How can employers prepare for interviews to make them engaging, relevant and fair for all candidates? Explore our expert tips.
Interview Tips
September 3, 2022
Interview Preparation Checklist

Getting promising candidates to the interview stage can feel like an achievement in itself, but employers should never feel victorious ahead of time or procrastinate interview preparation thinking that the right hire is in the bag. Just attracting the right type of candidate to an interview isn’t enough.

It might make companies feel like they’ve already won — but in reality, this only means they stand to have much more to lose. For example, 83% of interviewees say a negative interview can change their minds about a company they once liked. In an instant, an advocate of your brand can become your biggest critic.

Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. When interviews go well, the opposite happens. In the same study, even more interviewees, 87%, said a positive interview experience could change their tune about a role or a company they once doubted, in this case making the once critic an advocate of your brand.

A lot is riding on the success of an interview. Here’s how you, as an employer, can get the right outcome, creating fewer critics and leaving you with an abundance of advocates.

Optimise the application process

Start on the right foot with your candidates by making the application process easy. Those applying are often looking for:

  • Abridged, short applications that take under five minutes to complete
  • Mobile-friendly application forms that can be filled out on the go, on any device
  • Detailed job descriptions to help create buy-in and provide context for cover letters

So, think about your current job vacancy content and find a way to half it. Think about what information needs to sit in the job description and which questions are essential to ask.

Are you doing too much of the work for the applicant? Should they be taking the time to independently research your company? Are you making applications seem too daunting or too vague to understand? Should you be saving some of the pre-qualification questions for a later stage, such as in the actual interview?

Sure, this doesn’t directly impact the interview itself, but it affects the way an interviewee perceives you before they even sit in the hot seat. It also has some sway over the quality and volume of applications you’ll receive, meaning some of the best interviews may never take place thanks to an off-putting application process.

Decide on an interview format

Add some structure to the interview by deciding a format ahead of time and creating an agenda everyone involved in the interview can follow. Those applying are often looking for:

  • A clear timeline showing how many interviews will take place and when
  • Confirmation as to whether they’ll need to prepare for a task or skills-based interview
  • Information about who's leading the interview and who the ultimate decision-maker is

So consider how best to hire for each role or department and create a format to fit. Think about the interview process from the interviewees perspective and share the details you’d like to know if you were in their position.

Are you inviting applicants to interview in a standardised way? Are you notifying them of how many people will be present before they attend? Do they have time to ask questions before the big event?

Interviews without an interview format or a format an interviewee hasn’t been informed of are disorganised and don’t allow the candidate to show their best self. On the other hand, interviews with set agendas help both parties, allowing you to more accurately assess aptitude and experience in a way that doesn’t put the individual under any undue pressure or stress.

Nominate a main point of contact

Create continuity throughout the candidate experience — most notably in the interview stage — by nominating a main point of contact. Those applying are often looking for:

  • The right person to research and connect with on LinkedIn
  • A person they can ask questions to pre-interview or even pre-application
  • Consistency in communications to enrich their experience and ensure they never miss a message

So, discuss which person should be nominated as the main port of call. This could be an HR leader, a recruitment manager or even a department leader, depending on how hiring works in your organisation.

Are you often organising interviews last minute and inviting whoever is free to attend? Do you always use the same email address to follow up with candidates? Can your recruitment content run the risk of feeling faceless?

Remember, the most engaged candidates will try every avenue to impress you — so give them the opportunity. Creating a named contact has many benefits, from allowing interviewees to build a relationship with their interviewer to eliminating the risk of missed messages. As much as this approach benefits the individual being interviewed, it’s also helpful for the organisation to keep people on file to consider for future opportunities.

Find a way to standardise interviews

Eliminate bias and make interviews more objective by standardising how you assess individuals at this critical stage of employment. Those applying are often looking for:

  • An experience that feels focused on their skills, not their background or demographic
  • Professionalism in all parts of the interview, as well as the post-interview process
  • Preparedness in interview situations that feel as though they would be identical for every candidate

So, brainstorm ideas for building on your interview format to create an experience that feels fair for everyone. Think of ways to prompt anyone who’s interviewing to create the same outcome, be it via written questions or by using purpose-built interview software.

Are you making interviews too informal and asking questions based on responses? Do you sometimes work from a pre-set list of questions and improvise in other instances? Can you confidently analyse interview data side by side, knowing you obtained equal information? Do you ever feel bias creeping into your hiring behaviour?

This is perhaps the most vital piece of interview information as it impacts candidate experience and your hiring decision. Unconscious bias, inconsistency and subjectivity all get in the way of assessing candidates in a way that is fair to them and helpful for the end outcome.

That said, the interview is just a small part of the hiring puzzle — albeit an important one.

The candidate experience, which spans from application to onboarding matters in its entirety, influencing how well your hiring mission goes but also having a much greater impact on brand perception down the line.

Improve your entire candidate experience for outstanding interviews, applications, onboarding and more

To discover more tips like these but for every aspect of the candidate experience (complete with up-to-date recruitment statistics), download our candidate experience checklist. The checklist is an active document for all employers to help create more than just interview excellence but perfection in all parts of recruitment.

Click the link below to get instant access today.

screenloop candidate experience checklist