Interviews during COVID-19 restrictions
COVID-19 has resulted in significant changes to the way we operate and will continue to operate for the foreseeable future. These changes are required to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 within our workplaces and the wider community.
While COVID-19 is circulating within the wider community, it is important that we continue to implement and maintain changes to working practices to reduce the likelihood of work-related transmissions and potential future outbreaks.
As such, we recommend that all recruitment interviews should take place remotely via Microsoft Teams as the preferred method to ensure physical distancing is observed until further notice. Where a candidate has no appropriate IT, risk assessments must be carried out before any face to face interviews take place.
The Chairperson of the panel is responsible for ensuring that the arrangements for interview are made in advance as follows:
- Check for candidates with special requirements, for example, disabled candidates should not be disadvantaged by the interview arrangements. The invitation email must ask the candidate to notify any adjustments required for the interview and for these to be confirmed before the interview. Reasonable adjustments should be made where appropriate, such as physical access to the venue/access to technology for video interviews, and any services/equipment that may need to be provided, for example a sign language interpreter.
- It is the individual's responsibility to request any special requirements; however it is the interview panel's responsibility to ensure that these are met where possible.
Video interview preparation
- Set up your interview slots as normal on Talentlink. You will need to edit the standard text to reflect the online nature of the interview. You can select the 'virtual' option for location. In future we will have more options on Talentlink to use a standard email for virtual interviews. This is in development stage at present.
- Once candidates have selected their interview slot, use the guidance document to help you set up the meeting invite using Microsoft Teams where possible or another approved video conferencing facility. Offer a contact telephone number in case of technical issues.
- Issue the candidate guidance with the meeting request.
- We recommend allowing a slightly longer slot. If the candidate is asked to attend at, for example, 10am then you should start the meeting at 9:50am to allow time to resolve technical issues. Candidates should be asked to join 5 minutes before their scheduled time. Make sure you leave enough time between interviews to allow for any technical issues/time delays and for panel members to discuss the scoring of the candidates after each interview, this will take longer remotely.
- Remember to reassure candidates that technical issues will not be used as part of the scoring.
- Carry out the recruitment checks by asking to see documents on the call.
Face to Face interview preparation (not recommended while COVID-19 restrictions are in place)
- Make sure that a suitable room is available to ensure physical distancing and that the reception/person meeting the candidates has a list of who will be arriving, the times of the interviews, a contact number and where the interviews will be taking place. Ensure an appropriate risk assessment is in place. Confirm who will be carrying out the recruitment checks.
General interview guidance
- Panel members should agree standard open questions before the interview ensuring that the assessment of knowledge and skills can be measured against essential and desirable criteria using behavioural interviewing techniques. The panel should agree who will ask which questions and in which order.
- As a guide, six to eight standard questions should be used.
- All interviews must be fair and consistent. All candidates should be asked the same questions, based on the criteria for the post. It may be appropriate to rephrase questions to encourage responses depending on a candidate's particular experience or ask further probing questions. It may also be necessary for the panel to clarify information submitted in the application form by the candidate.
- The standard of spoken English relevant to the job should be evaluated as part of the interview process. For example if a public facing role would need to talk about technical information or use jargon, the interview questions should check understanding and an ability to speak fluently in English about this.
- Panel members should ensure that the questions they ask candidates are not discriminatory or unnecessarily intrusive. The interview should focus on the needs of the job and skills required to perform it effectively.
- Where a presentation or test is included, candidates must be made aware of this in advance. The chairperson is responsible for ensuring arrangements are in place for any equipment or administration of test or presentations.
We use behavioural interviewing which is a type of structured interview where candidates are asked to describe particular past situations and how they have responded to them. This in turn helps to predict future performance and provides a detailed account of actual events from the candidate's job and life experiences. To develop this type of interview, please follow the key points below:
- Identify the essential and desirable criteria using the job profile and personal profile
- Develop appropriate interview questions based on each criteria. Some example interview questions are available at the end of this document
- Remember you are trying to assess the ability to do the job, not the ability to perform at interview
- Avoid using hypothetical and closed questions such as "what would you do if" (always ask what did you do) and avoid over-using closed questions (yes or no answers) without introducing a topic
- Remember to ask for details and clarify anything you are not sure about.
Conducting the interview
- Ensure phones are diverted/email alerts are switched off and a sign is put on the door of the interview room to avoid interruptions. For remote interviews, make sure anyone else in your house is aware you are on an interview.
- The chairperson should introduce those present and outline the format and timescales of the interview, advising the candidate that the panel will be taking notes. Panel members should not record subjective or personal data during the interview.
- Provide background information for the job and the relevant Service to the candidate.
- If required, the candidate would normally deliver their presentation at the start of the interview and before questions are asked.
- Tests may be appropriate to determine knowledge or skills such as typing, organisation, IT skills or subject matter but they must be relevant to the requirements of the post. Tests can be carried out before or after the interview depending on resources. For remote interviews, we recommend this is done after the interview. You may allow candidates to record their presentation in advance and send this before the interview.
- Ask the candidate the agreed questions and any follow up questions to gather all required information. The panel members not asking the question should take notes and then swap over to make sure the candidate has appropriate eye contact with the person asking the question at that time.
- Give the candidate the opportunity to ask any questions.
- Close the interview by thanking the candidate for attending and letting them know when they will be informed of the outcome.
- A written record of every interview must be made and kept for 6 months along with any notes; see Interview Assessment Record and Interview Scoring Matrix. Audio recordings of interviews must not be made. The chairperson must ensure all panel members sign and date the notes. This can be done by inserting electronic signatures.
- Interview Assessment Record
- Interview Scoring Matrix
- There are a number of checks which must be completed as part of the recruitment process using a risk based approach. Some checks need to be carried out at interview however these may be done by an administration assistant or authorised signatory. At a virtual interview, we suggest this is carried out at the end of the interview and led by the chairperson. The Chairperson must check and authorise these before any appointment is made. More details can be found in How to Carry Out Recruitment Checks and checks should be recorded on the appropriate recruitment checklist:
- Recruitment Checklist - External Candidates & All SSSC posts
- Recruitment Checklist - Internal Candidates exc SSSC posts
Under Data Protection legislation, an individual has the right to request access to any personal information held about them in a manual or computer-based file. A candidate, whether successful or unsuccessful, can ask the Council for access to interview notes, references and any other information held about them.
If a candidate requests for their information to be deleted, this cannot be done within 6 months of the interview date.
The interview panel has joint responsibility for selecting candidates based on the criteria set for the post. The scoring matrix should be used to score each candidate against the responses to the interview questions and any tests. Normally candidates should be scored after individual interviews by each panel member.
- Interview Scoring Matrix
At the end of the interviews each panel member must total their own scores. The scores of all panel members should then be added together to give an overall score. The candidate with the highest score should be appointed. An agreed scoring matrix should be kept signed by all panel members and with interview records.
For virtual interviews, we recommend that handwritten notes are photographed and emailed (password protected) to the chair of the panel to collate for the recruitment files. Typed notes should also be sent in the same way.
For Chief Officer recruitment, HR will hold the record of the panel's decision and reasons for this.
The chairperson must ensure that they are satisfied with the interview process and address any concerns during the process. All unsuccessful candidates should be notified using Talentlink.
All recruitment checks must be received and satisfactory before a formal offer can be made.
Example interview questions
- Tell me about a time when you have actively listened to feedback from employees or customers and have acted on that feedback
- Give me an example of when you have supported a colleague or employee when they have been under pressure
- Give me an example of where you recognised a colleague's contribution
- Describe how you keep up to date with the latest thinking in your area of expertise
- Give me an example of a situation when you involved customers in the solution to a problem
- Tell me about a time when you have taken a risk. How did you manage the possible outcomes
- Give me an example of a time when you have had to give a message that was hard for the customer or colleague to hear
- How do you keep colleagues and customers updated with information relevant to them
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer or colleague. How did you continue to show them respect even though they were difficult
- Describe how you have influenced a colleague to support you in achieving a positive outcome
- Tell me how you set targets and milestones for projects that you are involved in
- Give me an example of a situation where your energy and positivity influenced others