how to hire and interview

The Ultimate Guide on How to Hire and Interview in 2020

Great news. Your organisations’ expanding and you’re tasked to lead a recruitment drive. You’re wondering now how to hire and interview for the best outcome. Naturally you want to do this as effectively as possible – and you want to do it right.

Because if you don’t, it can be costly, really time consuming and disastrous for your business on so many levels.

So what should you do or take into consideration?

diagram showing how to hire and interview guide process

Firstly, here’s a summary of the stages of the recruitment process/ lifecycle:

  1. Define the recruitment budget and who owns it
  2. Define the process. E.g., how many screening calls, interviews, reference checking procedures – and then follow them
  3. Ensure your staff are trained in how to interview
  4. Decide if you will advertise direct via your Applicant Tracking System (ATS), or retain Headhunters or recruitment agencies
  5. Producing a Job Specification (linked to organisational values). Ensure this spec’s produced with the incumbents and the hiring manager’s involvement – and ensure it’s also realistic
  6. Person Spec (linked to key behaviours). Again, if for an existing role, involve whoever’s currently in this function and their direct report
  7. Produce Interview Guide. The job and person spec define the interview guide and ensure the right questions about company culture and values are addressed
  8. Candidate shortlisting (your Applicant Tracking System can help with collaborative decision making on your interview shortlist)
  9. Interviewing: maximise the data you derive. Make decision based on data not just gut feeling. The data from interviewing also feeds future employee objectives, their CPD and PMS/EPE plans etc.
  10. Closing. The negotiation and offer process surrounding salary, conditions, Comps and Bens etc.
  11. Onboarding and induction. (Again, your ATS can help with this as well.)
  12. Exit and/or promotion and succession planning

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

The recruitment budget

It’s a simple question, but, who owns the cost of hiring in your organisation? Have you looked at this and calculated the cost to your operations?

Finding and hiring the right people is crucial to the success of every business and can be an expensive exercise, especially when you get it wrong and have to repeat the exercise.

Someone needs to take responsibility for this budget and ensure it’s not an open line item slipping through control.

Also consider the hidden costs strains on efficiency and output placed on the rest of an organisation when others have to carry extra responsibilities in between hires and during probation and onboarding periods.

So where are you wasting your budget?

In many organisations this is company-wide budget. But in our experience many places don’t look at this and so the cost of hiring can be expensive – and it’s one area where there’s a lot of money to be saved.

Especially if the cost can be restricted to each manager.  You can also choose to incentivise this. For example, at one place I worked with, the cost of hire was established at 15% of the salary cost. All savings made against this cost were put into the departmental social budget.

More money’s wasted in not focusing on this in organisations than you can imagine. The cost of using a recruiter alone is circa 20% of the persons starting salary.

The cost of advertising can be extortionate. ATSs can cut thousands off your cost to hire and advertise vacancies.

… then add up the price if the lessons are not learned and the process is repeated time and again.

The process

Candidates and your own team alike will want the process stages clearly mapped out. ‘Plan the plan then work the plan’ is the mantra.

Stick to the plan and everybody will know where they stand and the workflow will be fair and consistent and clear to all involved.

Your communications will need to state what the following stages of the process will/might be. For example you may decide you will conduct two screening calls per candidate to clear any primary issues to qualify them, followed by first and second/final interviews, plus any relevant referencing, certification checking, medical etc. etc.

Ensure that you have a distinct flow and that the awaiting process is clear and easy to understand.

Are your staff trained how to interview?

Then there’s interviewing the candidates and making a hiring decision. Hiring is not a right. It’s a learned skill. Use real data derived from your interview guide to judge candidates so that decisions are not made on instinct alone.

If you or your managers aren’t trained in interviewing technique, then invest and facilitate training for them to develop this skill. Trust me, this will pay dividends immediately.

The best hiring is done through behavioural interviewing related to company culture. ‘Past behaviour is the way to predict future performance’. Hiring on skills alone is inadequate.

You need agile people who are capable of learning, upskilling and lateral movement. You need the people who say ‘No I don’t how to do that, but I’ll learn how to – or find someone that can’.

If you’re worried someone that ticks all the boxes but the skills, then consider offering them the chance to train or study. I’d wager the delay would be worth it in the long run.


Advertising the role

How do you get job spec in front of the right people? How do you best source valuable applicants’ CVs and attract the right kind of ‘Jedi’ candidates?

To make the best impression in hiring people for your business there are, in my opinion a few golden rules. Having taken a tech company from 5 to 800 people in 3 years (that was sold for 1 billion, among a few other similar scale ups) I can only give you advice on what worked for me.

Lots of firms spend eye-watering money advertising on job boards and relevant publications, or go to recruiters – or all of the above. All costing a lot of money $$$. Recruiters being the most expensive.

Lazy hiring managers, who have no accountability for the hiring budget, will go to recruiters. This is where the costs begin to mount up. A good HR manager or Consultant will know how to source the best CVs.

The recruitment industry is a multi billion industry, which for the most part is unregulated with a very low cost of entry. This has lead to the industry as a whole getting a bad name.

On occasions I’ve heard Recruiters being compared with secondhand car salesmen (I don’t mean to offend any profession).

Recruiters should only be used if the role will be difficult to fill, you’ve already exhausted your own options and methods (won’t happen if you use a smart Applicant Tracking System though!)

They could be a solution when there are so many people in the marketplace that you want to use a recruiter to short list the best three.

Mostly though, using recruiters is an easy way out for those with their eye off the ball – and costs. This lack of diligence is the reason the recruitment industry is so big. (I can say this as I have both worked as a recruiter and on the other side of the fence.)

Strong Applicant Tracking Systems integrate with major job boards as well as the company marketing mechanisms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn et cetera, to get your advertised position in front of the right people.

You also need an automated referral program that not only yields good candidates, but gets the employees involved in building the company and cultural buy-in.

Good recruiters can be worth their weight in gold in finding specialised candidates. But you’ll need time to identify these good recruiters. And it’ll take them some time to understand what best fits in your organisation.

We figure that every incoming CV has an average value of c3K. Yet many companies don’t even respond to them. Not responding to CVs is a poor reflection on a company and can damage the company brand.

When people send in their CVs, they’re exposing themselves in a vulnerable way, explaining their qualifications, their experiences and their ambitions.

The least you can do is acknowledge this with a kind regret letter if you have no role for them. Again, the ATS automations will take care of this for you …

HR professionals are known to treat recruiters with distain. This is my experience, having worked and networked as a Recruiter, an in-house Recruiter, a HR Manager/Director and now as the CEO of a cloud People-Management Solution. 

I don’t think HR professionals generally enjoy being sold to. Yet a good recruiter can make a HR professional look really good.

The job specification

The first document required’s the job spec. So who should write it?

Answer: the Hiring Manager should write it with input from job incumbents and all the people who will interact with this person.

  • The spec should relate to the corporate behaviours and values you’ve established  – or should – and communicated to your organisation
  • You need the successful candidate to buy in to and perform to those values so that you can achieve your goals
  • Some organisations involve their customers in this process if the person is, or will be, customer interfacing

Once that’s done what’s next?

The person specification

The second document required is the person specification. Can you guess who should write this? Yes. You. The hiring manager, incumbent employee, relevant customers and other personnel that will interact with the new hire etc.

  • Most important is to hire to the right behaviours you’ve identified that are core to your company culture
  • The right characters will enhance output and remain assets, stay longer, be happier and contribute more to the overall effort
  • Focusing on skills or qualifications alone will only limit you, slow you down and make you regret not reaching out for the livewires
  • You can teach skills but its a lot more challenging to alter someone’s behaviour

The interview guide

This’ll be a lot easier once you’ve invested in training your managers how to interview.

But the principles of keeping to the job spec and person spec, related to company behaviours and values will ensure you get to the right shortlist and eliminate candidates that will cost time and money.

  • To ensure equality and fairness follow the process and ensure all candidates get asked the same questions
  • Make sure you respond to all unsuccessful candidates. This is essential to maintain a good employer brand and actively demonstrate your corporate values and behaviours
  • It’s essential that the direct report to the role is the appointed hiring manager
  • They must be central to/kept in the loop at all stages of the process
  • Preferably he or she will be the one to make the final hiring decision


Your Applicant Tracking System will help you shortlist your final candidates and compare notes and feedback with your colleagues involved with the process.


Screening and sorting interesting applicants – sticking to your plan by using the spec you distribute and communicate – is much easier with a good end-to-end recruitment management system. (That’s another name for an ATS.)

What you want to avoid is strong candidates ‘slipping through the cracks’. An automated system will prevent this and pay for itself time and again with costa slashed from job boards and recruiters.

An ATS also automates communications about successful/unsuccessful applications and next steps etc., which brings us neatly onto …


As we said above, interview training is a no-brainer of an investment that will repay you in bucket loads.

Joining Esat Digifone in January 1996 I was in the first 10-15 employees hired. Digifone had won the second mobile licence in Ireland. It was all very exciting.

I was hired as I had extensive tech recruitment experience and I wanted to embark on a career in Human Resources. A great motivational match.

I thought I knew everything about recruitment. But when my Boss told me I was going to the U.K. to be trained in behavioural interviewing I thought ‘happy days!’

When I arrived in the sleepy village of Wooburn Green (coincidentally, when I later moved to O2 UK I  lived in Wooburn Green) I had no idea how intense this programme would be.

We spent the week leaning about behavioural interviewing and also how to train people in this technique. 8am – 6pm with 3 hours prep to be completed by the following day.

This behavioural interviewing programme was my road to Damascus.

Over five days I was made to question how I ‘d worked for the last 7 years and was, not only converted to behavioural interviewing, but would become an evangelist.

When returning to Digifone I set out on my mission and firstly got the initial start up team to agree to our preferred behaviours.

In order for someone to be hired into Digifone every candidate had to first be acceptable on these three behaviours:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Teamwork
  3. Customer focused

This was agreed and I set about training everyone in the company how to interview using our formula and documents.

Behavioural interviewing techniques became part of the induction programme for every manager that was hired or promoted.

My next task was to select recruitment software – a pre cloud applicant tracking system if you like. 

3 years later Esat Digifone had grown to 800 people and had taken 43% of the Irish Mobile Market. In 1999 The Esat Group was sold to BT for £1 billion with Digifone as the jewel in the crown . (Later rebranded to O2 Ireland)

(To find out more about behavioural frameworks, recruitment or people management/HR software or  how to scale a tech company, please  get in touch with us at HRLocker. We offer free first-call HR support to customers).

Most important in the interview is to collect data. And then use it. Use it to match your desired job and person spec, behavioural profiles and values.

And, for the successful candidate, use it to set up their pathways in CPD and EPE/PMS as they embark on their journey with you.

Other notes from interview are also useful for employee induction.

More on that further on.



 Great news. You’ve followed the process and pinpointed your next superstar. Now it’s time to nail the deal.

Unless the market dynamics of supply and demand are against you, then the spec you produced and the process involved will have made it clear what you’re prepared to offer. Therefore closing should be straightforward and within your budget and wider, stated working conditions advertised.

If you defined and gave ownership of the budget to the hiring manager, then this would’ve been advertised. And, if the market was not accepting of this then you’d have to review and start again.

If you’ve got the right fit and it’s in the budget, then the job’s been well done.

Whether you choose to deviate from this is up to you. Only you can decide if prima donna requests are within your advertised-and-actively-demonstrated behaviours and values …


A smooth onboarding process allows your new hire to feel welcome, inclusive and to settle in quickly.

Be sure to use the interview notes as part of induction as the interview was effectively their first appraisal.

These notes start a conversation to understand the strengths and development needs of your newest recruit so you can set meaningful objectives going forward taking their strengths and developmental needs into consideration.

Again, the Applicant Tracking System will help on boarding, seamlessly transferring successful candidates over to the main HR system so that they enter a new set of workflow automations for induction and throughout their time in your organisation.


One ‘terminated’ you’re obliged to keep records for a certain number of years to meet compliance. A good HR system will allow this. But you should always have good processes in place for succession planning, especially for strong leaders.

Similarly, for sideways/lateral or upward promotions  you need to end the flow related to this role and start it again for the next target – using the incumbent to optimise the job and person specs and so on and so on. (Remember, you hired agile live-wires that can fit in anywhere and slot into a range of roles!)

Plus the best employees also don’t always make the best managers.)

Whether you choose to formulate an exit process of interviews etc. is up to you. You should pin this to the behaviours and cultural values from start to finish in my opinion.

Please contact HRLocker for any advice on People Management issues. We’re always interested to hear about individual business challenges and offer our advice.

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The Ultimate Guide on How to Hire and Interview in 2020 was last modified: May 17th, 2021 by Adam Coleman

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