The Complete Guide to Conducting Job Interviews Effectively | NuSmart HRMS

The Complete Guide to Conducting Job Interviews Effectively | NuSmart HRMS

Job Interview Guide for Employers

Job interviews are a vital part of the selection process for finding the right person for the right job. The candidates will want to present themselves in the best possible light and it will be important for you and your company to demonstrate your professionalism to win the best possible employees.

Since everyone is different, each interview will be different, and it is important that HR professionals prepare the interview process carefully so that the best result can be achieved.

Here are some suggestions to assist you in preparing for the interview, and for you to gain the information you need to make a sound hiring decision. These recommendations serve only as a guide and are not rules.

Having the Goal of the Interview in Mind

First Impression Counts!

We always hear consultants advising candidates to project themselves well and make the first impression count. Similarly, the first impression of the company given by the HR professional or interviewer to the interviewees count as it will set the tone for the interview as well as create the eagerness for the right candidate to join the company.

The Aim of the Interview

The interview is to enable the HR professionals and hiring manager to gain sufficient information of the applicants to make a sound hiring decision or to create interest for a second meeting. The questions asked should be designed to assist the interviewers to predict the candidate’s future behaviour and performance. To do this, the interviewers need to prepare some specific questions related to the key selection criteria for the role as well as the rating or scoring matrix.

These questions are often referred to as targeted, behavioural description or experiential based questioning, but essentially, they ask for specific examples that will demonstrate how the person has behaved or performed in the past.

One key advice to HR professional is that if it is not to do with performing the job, then don’t ask the question. Obviously, questions relating to age, marital status and the like must not be asked unless there is an absolute requirement or a definite relationship with performing the role.

Checklist for Interview Preparation

Your preparation for the interview is an important step. A quick checklist follows:

  • Ensure reception is briefed to ensure candidates are appropriately greeted and that you are advised of their arrival.
  • Ensure any other interviewers are fully briefed regarding time and location of the interview and agree on the interview questions (or roles) beforehand.
  • Ensure also that a de-brief time is set-aside after the interviews to compare notes.
  • Read the position specification to refresh your memory, the candidate’s resume and consultant report and make notes where appropriate.
  • Prepare to ‘sell’ your organisation.
  • Think carefully in relation to Equal Employment Opportunity, Diversity and Privacy Issues to ensure that your questions are job related.
  • If your company has a visitor’s book, ensure that the privacy of your candidates is protected and that their information cannot be seen by subsequent candidates or ‘interested’ internal staff.
  • Look to ensure that candidates do not cross paths and if needs have an ‘in’ one door and ‘out’ the other policy.
  • Book a confidential room or office for all interviews and check it for tidiness and its availability; and
  • Coordinate water and fresh glasses.

Simple Steps to Conducting the Interview

These following steps will ensure a smooth interview:

  • Greet the candidate and introduce to all present.
  • Invite them to make themselves comfortable and explain the interview process. Comment that you will be taking notes to capture the important information that will be discussed. Explain that, in addition to the questions that will be asked, you are also interested in any questions the candidate may have.
  • You might want to commence the interview with something like “Tell me what has interested you about this role and what do you know about our company?”
  • Another one to break the ice is “We have had a good look at your resume and application along with the consultants report”. “In your own words tell us about yourself”; and
  • You should then move directly into the specific targeted or behavioural questions that you have prepared. During this questioning, use open-ended and follow-up questions like “What are your responsibilities in your current job?” “So, what results did you achieve?” “Can you think of another example or situation where things did not go as well?” and “What did you learn from that situation?”

An example of Behavioural or Competency-Based Interview technique is below.

Remember that these questions often take additional time because you are asking for specific examples. Candidates will quite often need time to think before answering. Be patient, perhaps hint or prompt in the areas you are looking for to assist them in coming up with a suitable example and ensure that they are giving you a specific example, not a textbook answer.


A good set of questions should cover the following areas:

  • Knowledge – how well does the candidate know the subject matter of the job?
  • Skills – how well has the candidate been performing such job in his previous and/or present employer? What were his/her achievements?
  • Attitude – how is the conduct and mentality of the candidate? Is he/she a team player as well as able to work independently?


These questions will provide you with the evidence you need to make a sound hiring decision. After you have asked your questions, ask the candidate if they have any questions to ask of you and conclude the interview by giving the candidate a time frame for decision and the likely next step.

It is important that during the interview session, you should try to do the followings:

  • Try to draw the candidate out and allow him/her to talk.
  • Don’t sell – interview. The candidate should be talking most of the time.
  • Attempt to determine the candidate’s goals.
  • Try to avoid snap judgement.

Initial Interview De-brief: Seeking Consensus on the Candidate

Ideally, as soon as the interview is over and prior to the next interview, you should allow time to de-brief with all involved and seek consensus on the candidate regarding:

  • Education, Experience, Skills
  • Personal qualities
  • Match with the organisation and the role, and
  • Identify those areas that you wish to have further reference information.

An interview assessment sheet will be of great help here. A sample of interview assessment form is below.

Behavioral or Competency-Based Interview Technique

Studies have shown that past behaviour is the best indicator of future performance, and behavioural or competency-based interview is where the interviewer required the interviewee (applicant) to demonstrate a particular skill by providing example of situation where he/she faced in the past and what he/she did in that situation and what was the result or outcome.

Answering such questions will enable the interviewer to have an idea of how well the applicant can handle the work or job and to fit into the organisation with the other employees.

Most of these questions will focus on the following competencies:

  • Communication
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Conflict resolution
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability
  • Commercial awareness

Due to the way the applicant answers such a question, behavioural or competency-based interview is commonly known as the STAR interview technique. The best way to communicate clearly the answer is to structure the answer as follow:

  • Situation – describe the specific event or situation
  • Task – describe the specific role or tasks to be undertaken
  • Action – explain what, how and why it was done
  • Result – describe the result or outcome of the action taken

Please note that interviews using behavioural or competency-based interview technique will require at least 1 to 2 hours of interviewing time. It is common that during such interview, the number of competencies covered may be 3 to 4 areas especially when interviewer needs to probe further on the process of the action taken.

Some examples of behavioural or competency-based interview questions are:


  • Describe a situation in which you had to communicate a difficult message or bad news to an individual or a group.
  • Describe a time when you can gain support for an unpopular decision. What communication strategies did you use?


  • Tell me about a project that you initiated in your company. What did you do? Why? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about a time when you notice that a project or piece of work that your manager and you are working on is not going according to plan. What did you do? What was the outcome?

Interpersonal or Teamwork

  • Most of us have worked with people with whom we don’t get along very well. How have you handled this in the past? Give me a specific example.
  • Tell me about a specific time when a team member wasn’t contributing to a project you were working on. What was the situation, and what steps did you take to resolve the problem? What was the result?

Problem-Solving & Decision Making

  • Describe a situation in which your manager was not available, and a problem arose that needed immediate attention. How did you handle it?
  • What kinds of problems do you deal with in your present or last job? How do you address them? Share some examples.
  • Describe a situation in which you had to decide without having all the information you needed. How did you make this decision?

Commercial Awareness

  • Describe a time when you have come up with an initiative which had significant competitive advantage. What did you do? What was the impact on the business?
  • Tell me about a time when you challenged an idea you thought didn’t made commercial sense. What did you say? How did the people react to the challenge? What was the result?


  • Have you ever disciplined a poor performer or fire an employee? What were the circumstances? How did you handle it?
  • One of the most difficult leadership challenges is getting results from people over whom you have no direct authority. Can you give me any examples of how you’ve done that?

Interview Assessment Form

Name of Candidate
Position Applied For
Score Rating Description
0 No Evidence The candidate did not meet the requirements in the job profile.
1 Much Less Than Acceptable The candidate met a few of the requirements in the job profile.
2 Less Than Acceptable The candidate met some of the requirements in the job profile and demonstrates the potential to develop the rest.
3 Acceptable The candidate met most of the requirements in the job profile and demonstrates the potential to develop the rest.
4 More Than Acceptable The candidate met all the requirements in the job profile.
5 Much More Than Acceptable The candidate exceeds the requirements in the job profile and shows the potential to advance quickly.
Competency Definition Score
Communication Listens, understands and passes on information in a readily understood manner, whether verbally or written, ensuring the understanding of others.
Integirty Shows honesty and makes sure that one’s action fit with one’s values. Is open and honest in keeping their principles even in difficult situations.
Initiative Takes action to achieve goals beyond what is required. Is pro-active rather than one who accepts passively. Seeks solutions to problems before being asked or directed. Volunteers to help others when own workload is light.
Interpersonal Able to relate to others; awares of the needs, feelings and culture of others. Demonstrates effective social and working relationship.
Technical/Professional Proficiency Possesses a satisfactory level of technical or professional skills/knowledge in job-related areas and keeps abreast of current developments and trends in areas of expertise.
Creativity/Innovation Identifies ways to develop new or improved processes, methods or systems and creates or generates innovative or creative solutions. Thinks outside the box.
Business Acumen Demonstrates an understanding, insight, acuteness and intelligence in the areas of commerce and industry. Understands the impact and implications of decisions on other departments, customers as well as the community at large.
Commitment to Learning Demonstrates a commitment to professional development by proactively seeking opportunities to develop new skills and knowledge needed to continually enhance one’s performance.
Planning & Organising Develops plans to accomplish work operations and objectives. Arranges and assigns work to use resources efficiently. Develops strategic plans, organisational structures, and systems to fulfill organisational goals.
Problem-Solving Identifies and analyzes problems, explore alternatives and determine possible solutions. Actively work to resolve issues.
Decision Making Synthesises information from various sources to make a judgement, taking into account the impact and implications of decisions and stands by decisions made. Takes and commit to a course of action without delay and commit to a side or position.
Strategic Thinking Uses a variety of information from internal and external  to the organisation to identify issues and trends. Takes a long term perspective to think ahead and forecast viable options and likely outcomes.
Achieving Results
Result Focued Able to meet challenging goals and achieve standards of excellence. Ensures follow through and is proactive and persistent in achieving results.
Customer Service Orientation Makes efforts to listen and understand both the internal and external customer’s problems, requests and needs, and gives high priority to their satisfaction. Develops and maintains good relationship with the customers.
Attention to Details / Quality Awareness Accomplishes tasks through concern fo all areas involved, no matter how small and shows concern for all aspects of the job. Accurately and regularly checking progress and tasks, and checks for errors or omissions before submission/dispatch.
Continuous Improvement Takes action to improve existing conditions and processes regularly. Uses appropriate methods to identify opportunities, implement solutions, and measure impact.
People Management
Leadership Sets direction and leads by example. Able to motivate, inspire and sustain the contribution and involvement of others in their work, personal development and goal achievement.
Collaboration / Teamwork Works effectively with others in and outside the organisation to accomplish organisational goals and to identify and resolves problems. Defines individual and shared responsibilities and encourages trust among one another. Listens to ideas from different groups.
Staff Management Manages the work and performance of employees through providing guidance and feedback. Identifies strengths and weaknesses of employees, and provides developmental plan for them.
Change Management Views change as an opportunity and prepares people to change. Plans and implements change initiatives. Supports innovation and creativity through encouraging staff to accept and resolves challenges. Remains flexible to meet constantly changing and sometimes opposing demands.


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is it a common practice to ask applicants to complete an Employment Application form?
    More companies are doing away with applicants completing an Employment Application form as they become more environmental conscious. However, with companies using Applicant Tracking System (ATS) or HR Management System (HRMS) with ATS, applicants can complete the Employment Application form online without having to print out a hard copy of form.


  1. Should employers send a reply to candidates to acknowledge receiving their application as well as outcome of their applications? Yes, it is a good courtesy and practice to acknowledge all the applications as well as to send a reply to those rejected. In the past, it is time consuming and costly to send out letters to the hundreds of applications. However, with technology and Application Tracking System, company can use auto reply to acknowledge applications and to send out standard rejection notification to hundreds of applications at a click of a button.


  1. Should employer issue a Letter of Offer first to the selected applicant before giving the person the Employment Contract or Agreement on the commencement day?

It is not a common practice anymore to issue a Letter of Offer first followed by the Employment Contract or Agreement. Today young applicants would like to review the Employment Contract and sign it before commencing work. They want to know and be sure what are the terms and conditions offer to them prior committing to the job. Hence, most companies have done away with the Letter of Offer and instead issue the Employment Contract or Agreement once the candidate is selected.

  1. Should company conduct reference checks on the selected candidate before making an offer when most of the reference check returns are always positive as the referees are friends of the candidate?

Yes, companies should conduct reference checks on the selected candidates before making an offer to ensure that there are no adverse comments about the candidate from his/her ex-companies. It is important for HR personnel to know what the questions should be in a reference check form should be.

Many reference check forms are seeking information about the candidate’s employment period, position, last drawn salary, past performance ratings, disciplinary cases, etc. Such information may not be helpful to evaluate the candidate properly. Instead, reference check form should focus on questions about the candidate’s competencies such as communication skill, teamwork, problem-solving, leadership, initiative, conflict resolution, etc. as well as his/her strengths and weaknesses.

How can we (NuSmart) help you?

NuSmart is on a mission to build better workplaces through HR Software, Payroll Outsourcing, HR Consulting, and HR Training.

Human Resource Management System (HRMS)

Our HRMS (NuSmart) comprises of various HR modules such as Recruitment, Employee Data, Attendance, Leave, Payroll, Performance Management, Training, Expenses Claims, Assets and Loan Management.  It is one of the most complete HR systems in the market and is available on both Web portal as well as Mobile Application (both iOS and Android).

With our system, HR staff can prepare and issue job description and employment contract to employees without printing out hard copy. This will help save time of the HR staff and increase efficiency. It will also ensure confidentiality and consistency.

Our Recruitment module can help companies with their recruitment process and some of the features in our recruitment module are:

  • Job Description – HR can develop the job description of positions and store them within the HRMS.
  • Job Advertisements – our system allows HR to post job advertisement on external job boards and company’s career page from the HRMS.
  • Job Applications – all job applications from various job boards will be linked to our recruitment module and HR does not have to go to different job boards to review all the applications.
  • Replies – our system allows HR to send out auto acknowledgement and rejection reply to applicants.

Finally, our Recruitment module is linked to our Employee Data module so that HR did not have to refill the details of the selected candidate.

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