Best Practice: Interviewing Job Candidates
- Different hiring policies and procedures apply based on the type of employee being hired and may impact aspects of the interview process.
- All candidates should be treated equally to ensure fairness, equity, and non-discrimination in hiring.
- A well-planned interview process utilizes appropriate methods to quickly narrow a field of candidates.
- An effective interview process focuses on the qualifications most important to succeed in the job position.
- Asking the right types of questions will lead to the discovery of meaningful and objective information.
Different hiring policies and procedures apply based on the type of employee being hired and may impact aspects of the interview process. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the appropriate hiring process.
Conducting a fair interview process helps ensure not only compliance with employment laws and regulations, it also minimizes bias that might otherwise interfere with identification of the best candidate.
During each stage of the interview process, all candidates should receive equal opportunity and consideration. This means communicating in the same manner, asking the same questions, using objective ranking standards, and evaluating the same criteria prior to each decision about candidate suitability.
The University of Illinois will not engage in discrimination or harassment against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, order of protection status, genetic information, marital status, disability, sexual orientation including gender identity, unfavorable discharge from the military or status as a protected veteran and will comply with all federal and state nondiscrimination, equal opportunity and affirmative action laws, orders and regulations. This nondiscrimination policy applies to admissions, employment, access to and treatment in the University programs and activities.
Care should be given to designing interview questions that avoid disclosure of these subjects. If a candidate volunteers such information it should not be recorded or considered for evaluation purposes. Politely steer the conversation back to questions related to job qualifications.
Once a group of candidates has been assembled your goal is to identify the individual best qualified to fulfill the job responsibilities. No matter what employee group you are hiring for, whether you are the sole decision maker a member of a team of stakeholders, you will need a process that is both efficient and effective.
A well-designed interview process will provide the insight necessary to identify the best candidate while simultaneously reducing the length of the process and time to hire.
Different hiring situations call for different approaches to planning the interview process. You may have a large initial pool of candidates, many stakeholders involved in the hiring decision, or a high degree of detail and nuance required to make informed decisions.
Hiring decisions can be structured in stages and utilize various methodologies, so long as candidates are afforded equal opportunity and considerations at each stage. You might assess particular qualifications using one methodology, rank the responses objectively, and then invite the top respondents for a second round using a different methodology. Some methodologies include:
- Email questionnaires
- Phone Interviews
- In-person one-on-one interviews
- In-person panel interviews
For more information on planning an efficient interview process work with your recruiter and review the Interviewing Best Practice Guide
Use these helpful pre-interview and post-interview checklists as you prepare for and complete the interview process.
Identifying the Key Job Qualifications
Each job position is unique, requiring particular experience, technical knowledge, and professional competencies for success. Accurately defining these qualifications can be a difficult task, and yet is crucial to making sound hiring decisions.
By clearly defining the experience, knowledge, and behavior-based qualifications necessary for the job position you create a solid framework to evaluate candidates.
Define Objective Priorities
Once you have a comprehensive list of qualifications you can rank the relative contribution each makes to the job position accordingly. By weighting the importance of qualifications you can focus your interview strategy on consistently collecting the most meaningful and relevant information with which to compare candidates.
For examples of how to prepare an objective evaluation and comparison chart, see the Interviewing Qualifications job aid
Planning your questions in advance helps to ensure you focus on the qualifications most important to the job position and that you assess each candidate against the same criteria. See the Developing Interview Questions job aid
Score the answers on an objective scale (e.g. not satisfactory to excellent, or 1 to 5) and keep notes of observations you make that are related to the candidate’s qualifications. See the Candidate Score Sheet job aid
The manner in which you ask a question can impact what the candidate reveals about the relevant qualification. By choosing the question format carefully you can gain better insight into each candidate’s experience, knowledge, and professional competency.
- Preliminary (screening) questions are used to reduce a candidate pool by “screening in” or “screening out” candidates.
- Traditional questions are direct questions about a candidate’s background.
- Technical questions focus on specific technical aspects of completing the job.
- Situational questions ask the candidate to describe how they would handle typical workplace situations.
- Case questions describe a hypothetical situation and ask the candidate to solve it.
- Behavioral questions ask the candidate to describe actual real-world situations, actions they took, and results of those actions.
For more information about planning and conducting interviews, see the Interviewing Best Practice Guide.
For more information about developing interview questions, see the Developing Interview Questions Toolkit.
UIC101: Structured Behavioral Interviewing
Structured Behavioral Interviewing is a process shown to enhance equal employment opportunity, increase employee retention, reduce costs, and improve compliance.
What this module includes:
- Benefits of Behavioral Interviewing
- How to prepare for the interview
- How to conduct the interview
- How to make objective hiring decisions