The ultimate interviewer’s playbook: steps to a flawless job interview experience 

Getting ready for carrying out brilliant job interviews involves careful planning, effective communication, and a thorough evaluation of your candidates. What’s important to remember is it’s never just the interview itself that makes or breaks the candidate experience, it’s what comes before and after that matters just as much! 

Small note at this point; if you are recruiting for roles where there is a wealth of talented people who all want to join your business, then you may not feel the need to make much of an effort on the candidate experience.  We’d say that if you are one of the lucky businesses in that situation, then it still matters.  Better for the new employee have a brilliant candidate experience and start their induction full of motivation, energy and will to succeed; versus a mixed first impression that they carry into day 1 of the job!  

Here we set out the priority before and during actions of how you can create an outstanding interview experience. One that helps you identify the best candidates and provides them with a five star experience of your organisation. 

Before the interview process 

Laying the foundations 

If you’ve read our previous blogs, you’ll have cemented in some of the important building blocks including who’s involved in the process, what exactly is it that you’re looking for, how you can effectively sell your USP and select the best people for the job. (If not, take a look after this). 

The CV sift – are they in or out? 

We know of someone in the past that when recruiting salespeople, they’d receive c.400 CV’s at a time (all on paper so you can tell how long ago it is).  The first sift was to split the CV’s into 2 piles and get rid of one.  The rationale was “we only want to recruit lucky salespeople!”. 

But you don’t want to do that! 

Using your job spec’ you need to give them a thorough read and identify who matches your essential criteria.  If you have limited candidates here, you may need to think more broadly about what is essential and what is nice to have. Be careful of trying to find that unicorn candidate who ticks every box. 

Familiarise yourself with their background, skills and experience to get a flavour or what they might bring to the role, your existing culture or the one you’re aspiring to create and the rest of team. Your unconscious (and conscious) biases’ are likely to creep in here, which is why it’s really valuable to have two sets of eyes on the screening process for a little more objectivity.  

It’s a little like writing an essay – you’ve gotta stick to answering the question – and you’ve gotta stick to your criteria! 

Also think about the human being the CV, have they talked about hobbies, interests etc?  When you interview, you’ll want to show an interest in the person and the team fit, as much as their ability to do the job. 

Competency questions or gut feel? 

Both can be relevant and both can be dangerous if you are over reliant on either one.  If you haven’t already, list out a standard set of questions, against your criteria, that you can ask every candidate. 

This keeps consistency in the process and you can evaluate the strength of answer across candidates easier. Competency based interviews can be really useful here, where you ask for examples of when candidates have had previous experiences “tell me about a time when you communicated a complex project to a group” for example and can be indicative of future performance.   

NB This may mean some extra prep work to identify those competencies if you don’t have a framework in place for that role. 

5 or 6 questions may be enough here on a first interview depending on your interview structure and timings.  It gives you an opportunity to get them comfortable first, question and dig a little deeper depending on the responses you get and allow them time for Q&A. 

Get them primed 

Great communication features throughout a great candidate experience and inviting candidates to attend interviews is no different. Once you’ve agreed who is interviewing – which MUST MUST MUST include the hiring manager, get some dates nailed and invite candidates to your chosen interview method with clear instructions of what to prepare and what to expect.  

Thinking about the structure of their role, if it’s fully remote, do you really need to see them in person?  If there are expectations they’ll work in the office at least some of the time, you’ll want to give them an opportunity to see where they could be working and meet some of the team. 

Inclusivity in your recruitment practice is paramount. Think about the diversity of candidates and offer adjustments to your process, for example some people who are neurodiverse may perform better if given a list of the questions ahead of the interview, some might have physical needs to access your spaces.   

Don’t be afraid to ask how you can make the interview experience as comfortable and supportive as possible. This isn’t cheating – it’s giving everyone a good opportunity and recognising difference.  

Set them up for success in the interview rather than try and catch them out. It will demonstrate your business culture and not only prime them for the interview, but prime them for what it will be like if they are successful! 

Get yourself primed! 

Interviewing can be a nervy process for the interviewers, particularly when it is a hiring manager who is new to interviewing or hasn’t done it for a while. 

Ideally 2 people interview to minimise bias and maintain good standards; agree who does what in the interview so that you show unity, confidence and teamwork to the candidate.  You may be surprised how much candidates will pick up on interviewer behaviour and will judge if you are unprepared! 

During the interview process 

If you’ve prepared well, then this can be the fun and/or easy part!  

Set the environment and the tone 

On the day, you’ll want to have created a warm, welcoming and comfortable space whether you’re online or face to face. Free from interruptions, notifications switched off etc, so plan ahead to make this happen for you and the other interviewers. 

Begin with a warm welcome, introduce yourself, outline the format of the interview and the overall recruitment process. 

Settle the nerves and be human. Remember you want to give them the best chance of showing you their best.  NB First impressions do matter and you’re human so you will have them!  Manage your bias and judgments here. Just because of a certain handshake or fashion choice, don’t let that get in the way of knowing if they can do a great job for you or not!! 

Consultant skills 

Questioning is key to understand the candidate.  Encourage your candidate to provide detailed responses, ask probing question to illicit more information about their experiences and their direct involvement in activities and projects. 

Listen!  This should go without saying, but listening actively is actually a really hard skill; particularly for hiring managers who infrequently interview or who have a “tell” or “talk” approach!  Watch out for your own listening sins.  Mentally finishing someone’s story when they’re still talking or jumping to assumptions about what they mean or be thinking of what we’re about to say next! Summarising and reflecting back what you’ve understood can be a useful way to keep focus and demonstrate a genuine interest in what’s been shared. 

Culture, values and behaviours matter! 

Giving a good, honest summary of your culture is really important, even if it’s not where you’d like it to be. It’s important candidates know what they could be signing up to, as well as where you’re headed as a business.  

Ask questions about previous working cultures, the kinds of culture they work best in and why, preferred work environment etc. It’s also really important to talk leadership here and why the hiring manager is important to be included in the process.  They will have their own style, and letting candidates know what is expected, such as “I’m really hands-off and give a lot of autonomy” will be music to some people’s ears; others needing more of a helping hand and regular contact may struggle with this approach. 

If the culture doesn’t fit the candidate, then this is a major red flag!  The culture is unlikely to change quickly or at all and is often the reason why people end up leaving a role; either by their own choice or by the company making that choice for them! 

What’s the job really about? 

Offer as much information you can about the role, where it sits in the wider business, their team (ideal if you can intro a couple of colleagues) and about the company. Allow candidates to gain a better understanding of what to expect and to ask questions.  

Your green purpose is a real USP here and what’s important is that you relate it as much as you can to the role and how it supports your mission. 

Especially in purpose driven businesses, candidates will want to interview you as much as you them. Give them every opportunity to ask questions and address any concerns they may have about the position or the company. Be transparent in your responses, don’t oversell as they’ll feel the disconnect when they join and you’ll either end up with a disgruntled new starter or you’ll be back to the recruitment market again. Costly and reputationally damaging. 


An effective job interview is a two-way street, allowing both the employer and the candidate to evaluate each other. Creating a positive and transparent experience helps attract the right candidates and contributes to a successful hiring process. 

It can be a huge financial decision to your business; add the salary, costs of training and onboarding, time from others in the business and that recruit who earns £25k may be a £40k investment decision you are making! 

Do what you can to make as many of the right decisions as possible and then when you do hire, look after that £40k investment to get the best out of them, rather than leaving them to it! 

Get in touch to discuss how we can help your hiring managers with recruitment and selection training that sets your organisation apart from the rest.

Coming up next in the final part of our ‘attraction series’; what happens AFTER the interview?

Not sure on how this applies to your business or what to do next? Get in touch and we’re happy to help contact the friendly wayvie team for a free consultation

The ultimate interviewer’s playbook: steps to a flawless job interview experience  was written by

Pete Starr

Pete is the Founder of wayvie, with a wealth of experience in learning and development, sales, and leadership. He’s passionate about helping green businesses excel by investing in their people. Pete’s expertise includes selling, account management, leadership development, performance coaching, and he’s an enthusiast of Wim Hof’s cold water techniques.

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