We are often asked by clients for sample interview questions for certain roles. This tends to be by smaller companies who perhaps have a small HR function and who have never had reason to write a formal interview process or script.
With this in mind, we thought it would be useful to outline how to draw up a standard interview script. It may sound simple but there is more to it than googling ‘top ten interview questions!’ – at least if you want the interview to effectively assess potential candidates!
NB. I have kept this intentionally simple. If we were designing this for a client from scratch we would need to go into more detail, designing a competency matrix as the foundation before writing both the job description and subsequent interviews.
Why have a standard interview?
There is a balance here between making the process too standardised and having an informal process which purely relies on personal opinion rather than hard evidence. If the process is too formulaic, you may miss out on some of the candidate’s less tangible qualities. If you have no process at all, chaos tends to ensue with each hiring manager looking for something different, no audit trail and worst case scenario, questions being asked which are discriminatory or even illegal! Also, a big problem companies face when recruiting is that the people doing the interviewing may have had no interview training and be nervous themselves when called upon to interview. Having a (good) interview script can help give inexperienced interviewers confidence.
What are the competencies/capabilities you are looking for?
This should be the starting point for any recruitment process. Of course there is more to it than that (culture fit, personality etc.) however at the very least, you need to know that the candidate has the capability to do the job before you factor in their potential ‘fit’ with the company. If you don’t have one already, it is worth drawing up a list of competencies for the role you are recruiting for. These should be a clear guide to the specific skillset required, ideally with key measures for each competency attached. Keep the list brief – any more than 6 competencies and it will be very hard to assess these effectively. Think about what the absolute pre-requisites are and ask yourself “what will the person be doing to demonstrate success in this role” and “how will we measure their success?”. The format should look something like this:
Once you have your competency matrix agreed with the key stakeholders, you can use it as the basis for the job description and the interview process.
What structure do you want your script to have?
For a straightforward interview, e.g. for the first stage of a process before an assessment centre or where there will be a 2 stage process with a structured interview first followed by an OJE or sign off interview at final stage, then I would suggest the following: a combination of a competency based interview and a more fluid set of questions to assess culture and team fit. That way, you will be assessing in a rounded way while still providing a robust audit trail and a consistent set of questions for every candidate.
How many questions?
This is a tricky one. Ideally, an interview like this should last between 1 and 1.5hrs – anything less and I would question its validity. However, different interviewers will have different styles – some more verbose than others and some more skilled at keeping an interview moving if the candidate’s responses are too long-winded. I would use the competences as a guide and aim to ask 2 questions per competency. This will keep the interview balanced and then you can allow additional time for the more open, culture based questions.
What format should it take?
Again, simplicity is key here. Having worked in-house and knowing how difficult it was to get any interview feedback from hiring managers at all let alone anything in writing, it needs to be a document which is easy to use. There should be enough space for notes and there should be specific enough questions to guide the interviewer about how much detail they need to give in terms of feedback.
To score or not to score
It is possible to assign a mark for each question, enabling you to give a total score for the interview. This can be done by apportioning a score per competency e.g. if you have 5 competencies for an Area Manager role, you could assign 4 points per competency, giving you a total of 20 possible marks.
The scoring for each competency is based on a scale for instance:
4 Excels in demonstration of capability
3 Demonstrates capability
2 Demonstrates some areas of capability however has some development areas
1 Does not adequately demonstrate capability
If the assessor feels the candidate has excelled in their demonstration of the competency, they would get the full 4 points and so on. This tends to work particularly well when used as part of an overall assessment process.
We have created a free Area Manager interview script template, download here: