How to Write an Interview Script – Actionable Tips for Recruiters and HR Teams by Mile Živković on Feb 5, 2019

No matter how technically advance the hiring process gets, there’s one element that never gets left out – the job interview. When you have a handful of your best candidates, it’s time to meet them in person and see the people behind the resumes and (hopefully) skills tests.

Even though interviews are reserved for only the top applicants, arranging and conducting them can be quite a lengthy and complicated process. Instead of shooting in the dark, you can make your job easier by preparing an interview script – a pre-made set of questions for each candidate that comes in.

Why should you prepare an interview script in the first place?

The hiring process may seem complicated as is, so why add another element to it and make it even more complex? The truth is, interviews are perhaps the most crucial moments when making an educated hiring decision and they need to be taken very seriously.

The first reason for preparing an interview script is to establish a clear interviewing process. Once you have a written script, each member of your HR team (the hiring managers, recruiters, administrative staff) will know exactly what happens in each interview that takes place.

The second important reason for having scripts is that they standardize the interview process. In other words, each and every applicant and potential hire will go through the same set of questions, which allows for an unbiased decision process and ultimately, better hires.

Start with warm-up questions

Before you get to the essence of the interview, it’s a good idea to ask some questions unrelated to the position in order to break the ice. Often times, the very beginning of the interview determines its entire course, so it’s worth it to take a few extra minutes and ease the candidates into the process.

Some of these questions include the following:

  • How did you find out about the position?
  • Have you heard about the company prior to seeing an open position?
  • Have you heard about the company prior to seeing an open position?
  • Was it easy to find us?
  • How did you arrive?
  • General topics such as weather.

Of course, these are not set in stone and you can choose your own, as long as the candidate feels comfortable as they start the interview.

Questions regarding candidates’ skills

This is the main part of the interview and one that should take up the most of your time. You can structure it as you please, but in general, there are three sections that should be contained here:

  • Required skills (the candidate needs all of these to go to the interview stage)
  • Desirable skills (the candidate doesn’t need to have all of them, but it would be excellent if they do)
  • Big pluses (not necessary to have them, but they’re a great bonus)

Of course, before going into the interview itself, you should know what each of these skills are. It’s also advisable to list each of these skills in the job ad. That way, applicants will have a good idea for what awaits them once they move further in the hiring process.

Assessing shared values

Skills are by far the most important part when deciding on the next member of your team. However, you’ve probably had a coworker or two that had all the skills to do the job properly but still wasn’t a good fit for your team. In this part of the interview, your aim is to find out whether the applicants’ values are aligned with those of your company.

Some of the questions you can ask here include:

  • How would a coworker describe you?
  • How would your supervisor/subordinate describe you?
  • What kind of management style can bring out your best work?

In general, your goal should be to get a feel for how the candidate thinks and whether they would fit into your vision of the company’s future.

Essentially, this is the part of the interview where you assess culture fit. As unpopular as this term is, testing for culture fit is crucial to avoid future disagreements with employees who seem like an excellent fit on paper.

For example, if your team relies heavily on teamwork, you probably don’t want to hire someone who performs at their best when they’re working on a project alone. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to hire someone who has a preference for flexible working hours for a job with fixed shifts.

Don’t give in to video

You’ve finalized your interview script and you have a list of questions and you may be sitting and thinking, “Hey, why don’t I tell the candidates to record a video with these questions instead of arranging an interview?”. While this may sound like a good idea, here are some reasons against it.

First, it raises the bar when it comes to applying. The more complicated the application process, the less likely it is that candidates will apply. Think of how long it will take for a candidate to record a video (probably not on their first try), upload it and send it your way. If you do have one-way video interviews, make sure they are later on in the hiring process when the candidate knows they are closer to being hired.

Second, it probably won’t save you too much time. The main purpose behind recorded videos is to show you how the candidate communicates and what their body language is like. For the actual interview answers, you’re better off asking in person.

General tips for writing interview scripts

With that out of the way, here are some actionable tips on how to write and structure your interview script so that it’s efficient and scalable.

1.     Estimate the time per question

Write down how long it should take for the candidate to reply to a question. In this way, you won’t get sidetracked with one question and run out of time for everything you have planned out.

2.     Leave room for candidates’ questions

A great candidate will have some questions for you, no matter how well you describe the company, the position and the processes. Make sure to dedicate a certain amount of time where candidates can ask anything that interests them about your company.

3.     Don’t stick to the schedule too much

No two interviews are the same, so don’t feel bad if you don’t stick to your ideal interview script. Not everything will go according to plan, so don’t panic if you have to make some changes. After all, you’re talking to living people and not robots, and your interview should flow naturally.

4.     Ask about previous projects they’ve worked on

One of the best ways to assess candidates’ skills is to ask about the previous projects they’ve worked on. If the candidate is familiar with the projects and can talk about them in detail – good news. If they beat around the bush and avoid the specifics, it’s a red flag that something’s not right.

5.     Don’t stick to the questions too much either

You don’t have to ask each of the questions on your list, if the interview goes in another direction. Also, you definitely don’t need to ask all of your questions if you can see right off the bat that the candidate doesn’t have the necessary skills to do the job.

Conclusion

No matter how (un)structured you want your interviews to be, having general guidelines will greatly help you make better, more informed and unbiased decisions. With a structured script, your interviews will be quicker, more efficient and you’ll be able to fill your positions more quickly.

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