Improve your interviewing skills with barely any effort

Tom Smith

“What’s your greatest weakness?"

If you ask this in interviews, maybe it’s your interview questions.

Because, honestly? Why do you care? Why are you asking? What’ll you do with the answer?

Do you think they’ll talk themselves out of the job? You’ll only get an ingenuine, rehearsed answer anyway.

Most poor interview processes really come down to a misunderstanding of what interviews are actually supposed to be.

But, if it helps, it’s almost certainly not your fault.

I bet when you were hired, you were interviewed in a very similar way to the way you interview now.

So much of interviewing is just “we’ve always done it this way”. Unfortunately, the original way was probably – in a lot of ways – crap.

Sure, some parts have probably survived because they’re useful. Others because people just don’t really know better.

What should you do about it?

For that reason, the best advice I’d give anyone interviewing is this:

Ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.

What purpose does it serve? Because, take it from a recruiter, it should be one of two things: 

Attraction and assessment.

If it’s not helping you decide whether the candidate’s genuinely going to be able to do this job, or convincing the candidate that it’s worth joining you, probably bin it.

Wouldn’t surprise me if you thought interviews are just about assessment. Many people do. Candidates should be lucky you’re hiring – you’re a great place to work!

They don’t necessarily know that though. They might not care about you. You still need to sell the opportunity to your applicants. Who knows how many other interviews they might have.

Understanding this is key to improving your interview processes. You don’t even need to do anything massively different. Just make sure what you do do falls somewhere in the following matrix. If it doesn’t, bin it.

The Interview Matrix (or, you think that’s air you’re breathing now?)



The candidate








You gauge whether the candidate can do the job.


The candidate tries to sell themselves against these assessment criteria.


You sell the opportunity to the candidate.


The candidate tries to learn more about the role and company. 



When you’re assessing, everything you do should be geared towards getting evidence from your candidate that they can do what the job requires. And if they can’t do certain bits, what sort of help they’ll need. How you’ll get that evidence will vary, but you won’t go far wrong with competency-based questions, short tests, etc. You can gauge soft skills and culture fit if you need to here too.

When you’re attracting (you should spend time on this), you want to find out why your candidate’s moving. What they want. What they like. And how this role and your company can offer them that. What’s good about working there? Why did you join? What’ll get them to say ‘yes’ if you offer?

These are guidelines, though, not a hard and fast structure. You should be able to hokey cokey in and out of the matrix in a natural, personal way. And it should be personal – take an interest in who the person is, what they’re like. You might be dealing with them 40 hours a week for a long time if it goes well.

Best practice

So that’s the interview itself. Let’s get more meta: how can we improve interviewing?

1. Try and complete everything as quickly as possible. CV review – interview – offer. Saves good candidates getting offered elsewhere (and if they’re really good, they will). As few interview rounds as feasible. Get as many decision makers in on the first interview as you can. One interview if possible, ideally no more than two. Yes, give yourselves enough time to be confident you’ve got the right person, but don’t overdo it.

2. Don’t add more assessment than is necessary. What do you actually need to know? What’s essential? And by that, what’s genuinely going to be an indicator of performance? Are you sure these criteria aren’t something you could train in a cost-effective way?

3. If there’s some kind of assessment test, question, etc., make it as clear and accessible as you can.

4. Be flexible regarding travel, times etc. Make it as easy as possible for the candidate – they’re the ones likely going out of their way. If it’s via video, make sure all the links and stuff work, with clear instructions.

5. Be upfront about the process. Let candidates know what to expect. Let them know what you’re grading them on – they might be able to show you how relevant they are more easily.

6. Give feedback afterwards. You might want to see them again. Or, if they have a bad experience, it might deter future candidates.

A lot to take in, but probably not miles away from what you’re doing now.

But this is a blog. We try to be universal. Want a free, more tailored discussion on how to optimise your interview processes?

Book a 15-minute chat with me whenever suits you.