Business & Careers

How To Interview A Job Candidate For Your Biz

Tips For Business Owners + Managers From Lynn Watson Of Illawarra Recruitment


Your business is growing, the daily tasks are piling up, you’re diversifying and need a specialist or extra help…… it’s time to recruit someone new to the business.

Exciting, right? But it can be stressful if you don’t really know what you’re doing.

We get it because we’re doin’ it too!

So what do we do when we don’t know something?

We ask a local expert to help us!

Lynn Watson and her fab team at Illawarra Recruitment in Wollongong interview job candidates all day every day for their clients.

They’ve seen it all, heard it all and probably asked it all too!

So Lynn popped these awesome job interview tips together for local businesses who are trying to find that all-important right person for their business – so good.

Thanks Lynn!


You’ve advertised for someone new, read all the resumes and got a shortlist of potential candidates you’d like to interview. Nice work!

So, now what?

What do you ask each candidate? How do you ask it? What environment should you create?

These simple tips will help you feel comfortable and in control when managing the interview process.



1 // Create a job description


You should have done this already – it would have formed the foundation for your recruitment ad.

But if you haven’t, make sure you do it before you interview a candidate.

List the essential skills and experience the job is going to need so you can be laser-focused when you’re interviewing.



2 // Be warm and welcoming


This is such an easy thing to do.

You’re going to get a much better outcome from the interview if the candidate is relaxed and feels comfortable in the environment you’ve created.

Offer them some water and take a few minutes to talk about a light-hearted topic before you start the interview.



3 // Listen attentively


Remember YOU’RE interviewing THEM.

You should do some talking, and answer questions about the business, but they should do most of the talking.

Clear your mind, focus and listen carefully.



4 // Choose your questions wisely


Create a list of questions based on the essential skills AND soft skills you need the candidate to have.

The technical skills are what you study for, like computer proficiency, project management, IT, marketing, sales, accounting etc.

Soft skills are personal skills such as communication, teamwork, time management, problem solving, authenticity, leadership and the like. 

When choosing between two seemingly equal candidates, ‘soft skills’ are the key differentiator.

Research shows that when a new hire doesn’t work out, in 89% of cases it’s because the person lacked critical soft skills.

As an interviewer, you are always looking for the correct hard skills AND the correct soft skills. 



5 // Be methodical and take notes


Note taking is essential in any interview.

It allows you to keep track and remember what was said and how each candidate performed.

It’s great to have a template to work from to capture your observations – this will make it easier to compare candidates when everyone has been interviewed.


6 // Make sure you’re on the same page with salary expectations


This is such an important point and is quite often the sticking point between a candidate and a potential employer.

Be transparent from the start and ask them what their salary expectation is.

You can also ask them what they’re currently earning if it’s a similar role.


7 // Ask and ye shall receive!


Here’s some examples of good interview questions you can use.

Remember to use open questioning techniques. An open question is one that a candidate can’t just say yes or no to.

  • Can you tell me about yourself?
  • Why would you like to work for us?
  • How would you describe your working style?
  • What are your strengths?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you overcame a challenge?
  • Tell me how you would train others?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What achievement are you most proud of?


8 // Be organised


Getting organised and preparing for interviews is not only respectful to each of the candidates you’re interviewing but also a smart approach for you.

If you’re prepared and on the ball, you can run an effective interview.

Why is that so important?

Effective interviews expose potential red flags (yikes!), reveal strengths, ensure there’s a fit with salary expectations, values, attitudes and personalities.

It also gives you the opportunity to verify qualifications, skills and abilities.

You want to do that in the interview NOT once they’ve been in the job for a few weeks and it’s clear they don’t know what they’re doing.


9 // Complete thorough reference checks


How a person has performed in the past is a good indicator of how they will perform in the future.

Do reference checks by phone (not email) and listen carefully to the words AND the tone and feeling behind the words. 



And remember to seek help if you don’t have the time and/or expertise to manage the interviewing process too – Illawarra Recruitment is here to help if you need us! We believe it is important to recruit hard so you can manage easily. 


Love it – thanks Lynn! Fab advice, as always.



Illawarra Recruitment is a boutique agency making the recruitment process as smooth and stress-free as possible for clients and candidates alike! Over the years, Illawarra Recruitment’s experienced team has helped clients in the Illawarra, create happy workplace environments by finding them the best possible employees. Find out more about this awesome local business here.

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