Job interviews should be a worthwhile experience for both the interviewer and the interviewee. You should both come away from the experience feeling that you have learnt something about each other, and should both be able to use the knowledge gained and your impression of the other to form an opinion, and ultimately decide whether the company and candidate in question will be a good match.

If this is not the case, then perhaps there are improvements that you can make to ensure that future interviews aren’t a waste of time for either party. As an employer or recruiter, you should take the lead on planning the interview process, and this isn’t simply a case of drafting a set of questions to ask.

Staffing your clinic with the right team is crucial to the success of your business. Poor planning of interviews could lead to you hiring the wrong candidate, and missing out on the perfect new employee, so you must always take the following points into account.

The right timing

So you’ve advertised your vacant job role and you’ve shortlisted CVs, so all that’s left to do is to arrange interviews and choose your favourite candidate, right? If only it was that simple! Before you call a single candidate in, check that you have finalised all of the details you need for the interview, and all of the fine points you’ll need to confirm to actually employ someone. Jumping the gun and interviewing before you know exactly who you want, or before you have the necessary paperwork and finances in place, could lead to you losing the best applicants.

One of the most important things to consider at this stage is not whether you have a candidate ready to start work for you, it is whether you are ready to employ a new member of staff. Ideally, you should set out such details before you even advertise a vacancy. The job specification you write should not just be for the purposes of advertising a vacant role, it should be a carefully considered description of what you need that staff member to do when they commence their employment with you.

Make sure the list of duties and responsibilities are clearly defined, unambiguous, and specific to that particular role. Position that role in your company’s chain of command, so both you and your potential new employee know who they report to, and who they manage. You should also draft contractual information and the company policies staff need to adhere to, and plan the induction and training process. If all of this is ready before you interview, the process of exchanging contracts and commencing employment will be far smoother.

After defining what you need an employee to do via your job specification, you should also draft a description of the type of person who would best fit the role. If you also define the sort of person you want — in terms of personality, conduct, temperament — it will help your decision-making process. After all, part of the reason for meeting candidates in person is to see whether that person has the right character for your company; you’re not there just to run through their list of skills and experience.

When you get to the stage of arranging interview dates and times, make sure you allocate enough time for each person, and leave time between interviews to consider how each candidate has performed. Count up the questions you have drafted, allow time for your interviewee to give answers to each, and then add on an extra bit of time at the end to allow for your candidate to ask you any important questions they may have. You may be concerned about interviews being shorter than planned and having unusable spare time in the midst of your busy week, but it is far better to have spare time between interviews, than to have an interview that is too short for you to get an understanding of your applicant’s abilities. And if you do end up in that situation, arrange a second round of interviews if you need to, or propose a trial day, so you don’t have to commit to a permanent employment contract you’re not sure about, or have to go back to square one and re-advertise.

The right questions

If this isn’t the first time you’ve interviewed applicants for your company, then you’ll already have an idea of the questions you need to ask to elicit the key answers you need to hear. However, your interview questions shouldn’t simply follow the same standard formula for every role you recruit for. Your company develops over time, and so do your company’s needs, so revisit your interview questions on a regular basis, don’t stick to the same style year after year.

Do prepare your exact list of questions beforehand so you don’t have to think on the spot in the interview, but allow for flexibility. If the interview starts to take its course in a particular direction — and a direction that seems perfectly relevant — don’t be rigid and feel you have to stick to your planned order, or ask each and every question. If it seems appropriate, allow the interview to dictate the order and number of questions you ask. Just remember to highlight the most pertinent questions, and make sure you ask those.

If you’re unsure of where to start with interview questions, there is a whole host of websites to help you, and typing ‘good interview questions’ into your search engine will give you plenty of inspiration. Do take note of some standard interview questions, as there are undoubtedly certain ones that apply to all jobseekers, such as ‘why do you want to work for this company?’ but don’t follow someone else’s formula to the letter, customise your questions to fit your business.

Ask questions that are appropriate for the role and the level of responsibility. For example, it isn’t productive to ask a junior aesthetician questions that a senior manager should answer, just to challenge them. Doing this will unsettle interviewees, and probably not in a way that will help get the best out of them. And if you’re thinking about including an in-interview test or presentation, don’t spring it on your candidates, allow them time to sufficiently prepare.

It is usually helpful to both interviewers and interviewees if questions are not too vague, and instead are framed in context of the given role and workplace. For example, instead of asking ‘what are your best qualities?’ try asking ‘thinking about your key strengths, what could you bring to this role?’ It’s only a slight change, but one that is likely to stop candidates from giving you a vague overview of their personality, instead of a precise match of their qualities with the demands of the job.

Some standard interview questions are also so predictable that you are highly likely to get very similar answers from all of your candidates. If you ask ‘can you operate effectively in a team?’ and you are discussing a role where this is essential, all good candidates will probably answer ‘yes’. Try asking the question in a way that will give you more insight, such as ‘what makes a good team member?’

It might seem interesting and a bit different to ask a wacky question that may supposedly make your interviewee think outside of the box, but remember that asking an abstract question may also give you an abstract answer to process, and one that may not help you interpret your candidate’s ability. If you ask ‘what is your favourite animal and why?’ and you get the answer ‘my dog, because he’s friendly and loyal’, don’t you think you might have got a more useful answer by asking ‘what qualities do you see as the most important in the team members you work with?’

Finally, remember that an interview should be a two-way process. Tell the candidates something about you and your company, and allow them to ask their own questions too. The questions that they ask are also likely to give you an insight into their level of interest and their qualities.

The right attitude

Although it may be hard to do, don’t form an opinion of your candidates before they’ve even walked through the door. A CV will give you an idea of someone’s experience and skills, but it is unlikely to convey their true nature, or explain the real reasons for their career trajectory. If you’re interested enough in someone’s CV to invite them in for an interview, keep an open mind.

When you write your interview questions, you will obviously have certain preferred answers in mind. Your interviewees are all individuals, so while they may give you the right answer, it may not be in the exact sentences you envisaged. This is why it is of utmost importance that you listen to their answers carefully, and make notes so you can think about their responses again after the interview.

When you’ve finished interviewing, don’t leave it too long to inform your candidates about the result. Be courteous and tell candidates if they have been unsuccessful so they can move on. When you’ve decided who to employ, don’t just assume that you are in control, and that you are in the position of power where you have a humble candidate hanging on for you to award them their dream job. The best candidates are likely to be proactive and ambitious, and may have had other interesting offers. When you meet the right person for your business, snap them up quickly.