The Interview Guide: 7 Key Elements

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An interview guide can be a great tool to use during, indeed, candidate interviews. In this article, we’ll walk you through the interview guide. We’ll look at the benefits of using one, 7 key elements of an interview guide, and we’ll share a downloadable interview guide template.  

Contents
What is an interview guide?
The benefits of using an interview guide
An interview guide example – key elements
Interview guide template
On a final note
FAQ

What is an interview guide?

An interview guide is a document that enables organizations to structure the way they conduct their candidate interviews. It helps interviewers to know what to ask about and in what order and it ensures a candidate experience that is the same for all applicants. 

The content of the interview guide will differ depending on, among other things, the role you’re hiring for, the interview method you decide to use, and your specific organizational requirements.  

The benefits of using an interview guide

Using an interview guide during the hiring process has several benefits:

  • A structured process. When all interviewers follow the same steps in the same order this creates structure. This, in turn, reduces the chances of people forgetting to ask candidates certain questions or give them certain information.  
  • Candidate experience. Using an interview guide ensures all candidates get the same experience. Of course, not all interviewers are the same so there will always be a difference, but at least the process and questions are the same for everyone.   
  • Equal assessment. When you use the same interview method and ask the same questions to every candidate, you can also use the same scoring to assess them. This reduces the risk of bias in the interview process.   

An interview guide example – 7 key elements  

Ideally, your interview guide is part of a well-structured selection process. As such, it’s aligned with every part of that process. 

This means that, for instance, the requirements for a new position as specified in the job description (i.e. the required skills, personality, and capabilities of a suitable candidate) should be taken into account during the interview and, hence, included in the interview guide. Let’s take a look at 7 key elements of an interview guide. 

1. Invitation & Briefing 

Make sure all candidates who make it to the interview round get the same invitation including a briefing of what to expect from the interview (how many people they’ll talk to, how long the interview will probably last, whether or not they need to prepare something beforehand, what documents they need to bring, etc.). 

Here’s an example of what the interview invitation email could look like:

Subject Line: [COMPANY NAME] : Interview Availability

Hi [FIRST NAME],

Thank you for applying to the [JOB TITLE] position at [COMPANY NAME]. We’ve reviewed your application materials carefully, and we’re excited to invite you to interview for the role! 

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Your interview will be conducted [FORMAT] and last roughly [LENGTH OF INTERVIEW]. You’ll be speaking with [INTERVIEWER], our [INTERVIEWER JOB TITLE], and [INTERVIEWER], our [INTERVIEWER JOB TITLE] here at [COMPANY NAME].

Please let us know when you are available during the following times:

[DAY, DATE – TIME, TIME ZONE]

[DAY, DATE – TIME, TIME ZONE]

[DAY, DATE – TIME, TIME ZONE]

Don’t forget to bring your [DOCUMENTS] and the [WORK SAMPLE TEST] you prepared.

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Thanks again for your interest in joining the [COMPANY NAME] team! We’re looking forward to speaking with you.

Best,

[YOUR NAME]

[YOUR EMAIL SIGNATURE]

Of course, the exact contents and tone of your interview invitation may differ, but the parts between [ ] are elements that should be covered no matter what. To make sure all candidates receive a complete invitation you can include a link in your interview guide towards your company’s interview invitation template – ideally stored in Google Drive or similar solution.

2. Setting the stage

This is a practical issue. Where do you want to interview people? Who will be interviewing the candidates? If it’s a video interview, what’s the best place to make the call? Here too, it’s good to have the same setting for each candidate so that everybody gets the same experience. Include the ‘setting’ requirements, both online and offline, in your interview guide.

If interviewers should have a copy of the candidate’s resume with them during the interview, or a copy of a work sample they had to make – or the interview guide they need to follow! – or any other kind of document, this should be in the interview guide too.  

3. Welcome

Surely there are things you want to absolutely mention when welcoming candidates. They may be about the company, its history, the office, the job, you name it. Include the interview opening and everything it needs to cover in the interview guide. 

4. Questions

In a structured interview, a standardized set of questions is used. This provides the interviewer with a uniform method of recording information and standardizing the rating of the candidate’s qualifications. It also enables the interviewer to accurately compare applicants and to make the best decision based on data.  

Besides having standardized questions, a common method used in interviews is the STAR method. This method offers a structured way to retrieve information from the candidate. STAR stands for:

  • Situation. Ask the candidate to describe the situation that they were in. 
  • Task. What goal was the candidate working towards?
  • Action. Ask the candidate to describe in detail what actions they took to make the best of the situation and to complete their task. 
  • Result. Ask the candidate to describe the outcome of the action and what they learned. 

Using the STAR method to test for key competencies needed for the job is highly recommended. Asking all candidates the same question allows you to easily compare how much experience they have in these key competencies. 

This is also where we see the importance of aligning the various parts of your recruitment process; the questions in the interview guide should include the key competencies and skills mentioned in the job description.

Interview guide

5. Candidate questions 

Your interview guide should include a section on candidate questions. Usually, towards the end of the interview, the interviewer asks the applicant if they have any questions, about the job, the company, the team, you name it. The kind of question people asks – if any – can tell you a lot about their interest in working for your organization. 

6. Wrap-up

Before saying goodbye to a candidate, there are a few things you should do. First of all, thank them for their time. Second, tell them what the next steps are. When will they know whether or not they made it to the next stage of the selection process, what is the next stage, and how will they hear from you (by email, phone, etc.). Third, ask them, if you haven’t done so earlier on in the process, who their references are and how you can reach those people. This will help you with your reference check. Fourth, let them know who they can contact and how if they have any questions after they leave. Make sure all of this is included in your interview guide.     

7. Scoring 

Once the actual interview is over and the candidate is gone it’s time to rate them. How well did they score on each of the questions? The interviewer should fill in these scores right away (if they haven’t done so during the interview), with the interview and the applicant’s answers still fresh in their memory.

The interview questions can be divided into several categories such as person-job and person-organization fit. The former involves questions that aim to determine how compatible a candidate is with the requirements of the job they apply for, while the latter involves questions regarding a person’s compatibility with the organization (its culture). The weight of each category will vary depending on your organizational requirements.  

While questions around person-job fit will differ depending on the role you’re hiring for, questions around person-organization fit won’t or at least not as much. Therefore, you can decide to include those in your interview guide directly. Otherwise, you can opt for a link towards a Google Drive (or similar solution) where you store this kind of interview questions.

An interview guide template

We created a downloadable interview guide template you can use as a basis for your own interview guide. It covers the 7 sections we described in this article, including some of the elements to cover in those sections. 

The template is just an example, of course. You can add or remove as many elements as necessary to create an interview guide that works for your organization. 

You can download the interview guide template here

On a final note

Using an interview guide is an excellent way to ensure interviewers treat all applicants the same. It’s also a good tool to create structure during candidate interviews and it makes it easier to assess and score them. The exact content of the interview guide will differ per organization and per role, but the 7 elements listed in this article form a solid foundation. 

FAQ

What is an interview guide?

An interview guide is a document that enables organizations to structure the way they conduct their candidate interviews. It helps interviewers to know what to ask about and in what order and it ensures a candidate experience that is the same for all applicants. 

What are the benefits of using an interview guide?

The benefits of using an interview guide include 1) it creates a structured process 2) it provides all applicants with the same candidate experience and 3) it makes it easier to assess every candidate in the same way, hence reducing the risk of bias in the interview process.

What elements should an interview guide cover?

An interview guide should include a section on the interview invitation, setting the stage, welcoming the candidate, the questions to be asked, candidate questions, the end of the interview, and candidate scoring.

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