How To Conduct a First-Round Job Interview: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to conduct a first round job interview

How To Conduct a First-Round Job Interview: A Step-by-Step Guide

Job interviews are a crucial part of the application process. An ideal job interview not only allows you to learn more about the candidate’s fit for the role, but it also allows candidates to learn whether the role and the company is a great match for them.

Yet, conducting an effective job interview that lands you the best talent takes knowledge and preparation. To help you, we have come up with a first round interview structure you can use when hiring for your next role.


Job interview

What to do before the job interview?

To prevent any inconveniences from happening, you should send an email to the candidate when you confirm the first-round interview. The email should let the candidate know what they can expect from the interview. Is the interview going to be conducted on-site or through a video call?  Let them know. Is the office difficult to find? Leave them directions.

Sending an introductory email to the candidate is a great way to ensure the interview starts off smoothly. The more you help the candidate prepare, the more you’ll get to see the real them during the interview.

Additionally, just as the candidate is preparing for the interview, so should you! Before the interview, you should have mapped out the role you are hiring for and what questions you are going to ask the candidate. Sounds obvious, but you should also make sure you read the candidate’s CV before the interview. 

Use this interview structure to conduct a first-round interview:

1. Introduction

If it’s an on-site interview, you don’t want to jump straight into the interview. Instead, when the candidate arrives, show them around the office first. Offer them coffee, and if possible, introduce them to other employees. Remember, you want the candidate to leave the interview with a positive feeling about your company! Being hospitable is a great way to leave a good first impression.

Once you have settled down, give a brief introduction of yourself and the company. Then, give an overview of what’s going to happen and how long it will take.

Pro tip: Use an ice breaker to set a relaxed environment for the interview. It is always safe to ask candidates simple questions such as “How has your day been?” or “Was the office easy to find?” Or if there’s currently an ongoing topic in the world, you can also ask their opinion about it. Avoid asking about sensitive topics such as politics and religion.

2. Motivation

After the introduction, it is good to ask candidates about their motivation. What made them apply to this position? Maybe they found something in your job advert that attracted them. Or perhaps someone referred them to the role.

Ask candidates about their resume. Make them go over the most relevant experiences that might have led them to apply to this position. But don’t make them go over all the points, otherwise it would make it seem like you haven’t read their CV before the interview.

Pro tip: Finding out the candidate’s motivation helps you sell them on the role later.

3. Role

Once you have found out the “why” behind the candidate’s application, move on to assessing their fit for the role.

You should already have a list of questions you are going to ask the candidate before the interview. Of course, the questions you ask depend on the role you are hiring for. But we encourage you to ask behavioral and situational questions to get the most out of the candidate.

Think about the purpose of each question. Before asking something, consider what would an answer to this question let you know about the candidate. This is a great way to distinguish between the questions that are worth asking and that aren’t.

Pro tip: Build on the relaxed environment you have created. Don’t make the candidate feel like they have to sell themselves. Instead, encourage them to simply talk about themselves and their past experiences.

4. Values Fit

For the hire to be successful, you’ll also need to assess whether the candidate’s values fit with your company. Before doing that, though, you need to map out what your company’s values are. Is the environment formal or relaxed? Is the office always busy or do people work remotely? Based on your values and company culture, you want to ask candidates behavioral questions. 

Also, remember that the candidate is interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them. That’s why you also want to inquire about their personal needs. For instance, they might say they prefer to work alone. Can you provide that, or is your company more focused on teamwork? If you can’t meet the candidate’s expectations, be honest about it.

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5. Test (Optional)

Depending on the job role, you might want to consider conducting a skills test. This test should be carefully thought out before the interview, and have a clear purpose. For example, if you are hiring for a customer support role, you might want to test the person’s typing speed.

Pro tip: If you do conduct a skills test, let the candidate know by mentioning it in the introductory email.

6. Salary

It’s crucial you ask candidates about their salary expectations in a first-round interview. This is because salary barriers are difficult to overcome in the latter stages of the application process. You also don’t want to waste your or the candidate’s time.

Oftentimes, candidates want to find their way around the salary question. If that is the case, you can ask them to give a range which they would be happy with. If they don’t have a range, tell them a number, and see how they react.

Or if you don’t want to reveal your budget, ask them “how much money do you need to live well?” They must have some kind of opinion.

Pro tip: You shouldn’t pay salary based on the candidate’s expectations, but based on what’s fair. That means you have to do your prior research and see what would be a fair salary at this position. 

If the candidate asks for too much, you should ask them where they got the number from. Is that something that they used to earn? Or maybe the number is based on the research they have done on the market. Find out!

7. Questions

You should always leave time for the candidate to ask any questions they might have about your company, team or position. This provides a chance for them to understand whether this would be a role and an environment they would thrive in.

If they don’t have any questions, it isn’t necessarily a bad sign. It can also mean that the candidate has done comprehensive research about the company. It is also possible the  interview covered all the necessary points. 

8. Conclusion

Finally, let the candidate know about the next steps of the application process. Chances are you’ll need to conduct more than one interview to determine the best candidates. 

Also, if the candidate has interviews with other companies, you want to make the process as quick as possible.

Be honest about how much time it will take to give them a response. If someone involved in the hiring process will go on vacation, and it will have a direct impact on the timing, let them know!

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