Four steps to a successful job interview for your SME

Trying to build a team of fantastic employees for your SME can be a fraught process. If you’re uncertain about how to get the interview process right to ensure you hire the best possible candidate, start with these four steps: preparation, writing the questions, conducting the interview and the follow up.


Preparing for the interview is all about deciding what you want to get out of it. Based on this you can then structure the interview, determine the questions you will want to ask and decide whether you want the candidate to work on a test or case study. An upcoming article will delve deeper into the concept of avoiding unconscious bias in interview questions.

You should also know how you are going to sell the role and your company to the interviewee – particularly if they are coming from a large corporate and may not grasp the differences between working in big and small team environments.

Writing the questions

I recommend asking behavioural interview questions to identify whether your candidate has the specific skills and traits you are looking for. This technique uses past behaviour to indicate future performance such as “Tell me about a time you led a group to achieve an objective” or “Describe a situation where you got people to work together.”

Go back to your job description to write your behavioural interview questions, as well as looking at the applicant’s resume. You are better off asking five questions that get the interviewee really talking about their skills and experience than 20 closed questions that will only give you short superficial responses.

Conducting the interview

A basic structure of an interview would look like this:

  1. Introduce yourself and any other attendees
  2. Briefly outline the format of the interview
  3. Give an overview of your company and its culture
  4. Repeat the role description to ensure the interviewee is there for the right reasons!
  5. Get the candidate to provide you with a biographical overview of their career history including key achievements and reasons for each move
  6. Start asking your prepared questions and include indications of upcoming work and career opportunities whenever you can
  7. Let the candidate work on your test/case study
  8. Time for the interviewee to ask questions
  9. Close the interview by informing them about the next steps and if possible, when you will be able to make your final decision

Listen carefully to the responses and probe deeper if you feel like the candidate is evading questions. Pay close attention to the interviewee’s attitude and values to help you form a balanced opinion of their suitability. Finally, don’t forget to take notes for future reference!

The follow-up

Ideally, you’d send your candidate an email the same day, even if simply to express your appreciation for their time. While it’s still fresh in your mind, summarise your thoughts on each candidate and add them to your interview notes. You can use these summaries to make comparisons and decisions at a later stage.

Once you’ve chosen your new star employee, the final step of course, is the offer and salary stage. I will touch on this critical step in more detail in a future column.

Matthew Gribble, Regional Managing Director – Australia & New Zealand, PageGroup

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