Recruiting and interviewing

The Recruitment Process

Describing the job

The first step is to know what the job or role is that you want carried out. This may sound obvious, but many recruitment failures have arisen because the appointee discovers the job they find themselves being asked to do is not the one they believed they were recruited for.

Invest time in deciding on the role and describing it. At the very least, list the functions. Better yet, describe what it is you want the appointee to achieve, i.e. identify the results to be produced. Specify the decision making and financial delegations; the reporting structure and other working relationships. Then describe the person, in terms of knowledge, skills, experience and attributes, who you believe will best fill that role.

NB: a position description forms part of the employment agreement, and once agreed upon cannot be changed unilaterally - although it is recognised that they do change or develop to a relatively minor extent over time.
Example of a Position Description


The text of any advertisement (whether it is for a newspaper or as a leaflet) should be developed from the position description. It is important that applicants see a link between the advertised job and the position description itself.

Advertise widely - parish newspapers, community newspapers, daily (metropolitan) newspapers, notice boards in local shops or supermarkets, handouts through playgroups, kindergartens or schools. "Shoulder-tap" likely candidates. By limiting your approach (to shoulder-tapping and or parish newsletter, for example) you exclude potential employees. It is better to have 20 applicants with the need to shortlist, than two applicants and the need to interview them both because there is no-one else.

Always specify the nature of the application you want to receive (e.g., a letter specifying the applicant's qualifications and experience and/or a CV if that is appropriate), to whom it should be made and by when. Don't forget e-mail, fax and telephone contact numbers.


Short-listing people from applications, and sight unseen, is not easy, The CV can also give you an insight into the applicants thinking processes and how they communicate (for example, is it ordered or disordered, succinct or verbose, factual or puffery).

Shortlisting, if it needs to be done, should be carried out by the people who will be interviewing the candidates. Interviewing is best done by a team of two or three people.

List, from the person specification in the position description, the key or critical skills, knowledge or experience the successful applicant must have. Compare each applicant against your list. Many applicants can be set aside quite easily.

Next, return to those you decided to keep. If there are more than four or five, go over them again in more detail. Try and bring the list of interviewees down to four or five maximum, six at the outside.

Notify, in writing, those applicants who did not make it through the first screening process that they will not be interviewed. Those (if any) who were set aside in the second round, should be kept in case none of the initial interviewees are successful.

Notify the prospective interviewees of the time, date and place of the interview. Let them know who is on the panel, and that they can bring a support person if they wish.


The "best practice" technique for conducting job interviews is what is termed "structured behavioural event" interviewing. This is the practice of crafting open-ended questions, with the same set of questions being asked of all interviewees, so that the interviewee has to draw the answers from their own experience. It has been established that previous behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour; behavioural event interviewing provides you with the best opportunity to hear just how the interviewee behaved in certain situations. It removes from the interviewee the tendency to provide textbook answers, or answers that they think you might think are 'correct', of the sort that "what if" and leading questions can attract.
Examples of Behavioural Event Questions to use in Interviews

It is important also to ask all applicants the same set of questions. This does not mean that you should not ask follow-up or clarifying questions in addition to the set questions - where it is appropriate, you need to do that, and these, of course, could vary from interviewee to interviewee. To make useful comparisons between job applicants, however, it is essential to use the one set of questions that have been drawn from the position description.

You may not ask questions that could be construed as leading to discrimination. The prohibited grounds for discrimination are:

  • Sex (which includes pregnancy)
  • Marital status
  • Religious belief or ethical belief
  • Colour, race or ethnic origin
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Political opinion
  • Employment status
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation

There are some exceptions in relation to employment matters, but a general rule is: if in doubt leave it out or seek further advice.

Interviewing resources

Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) about Fixed Term Individual Employment Agreements

Example of a Position Description

Examples of Questions to ask Referees

Examples of Behavioural Event Questions to Use in Interviews

Using Referees

It is a good idea to ask for and consult referees. A word of warning: do not approach anyone to discuss the possible employment of a candidate unless you have the candidate's express consent for you to do so. This includes "mentioning something in passing to an acquaintance/friend etc" To do so is a serious breach of privacy.

Before contacting referees, think about the questions you want to ask. Write them down and ask the same questions of each of the referees you contact (as you have done with the initial interview) - that way you will be able to make valid comparisons. Again, as with the initial interview, you cannot ask questions that could lead to claims of discrimination.
Examples of questions to referees