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Why are recruitment interviews so important?

Annabelle Kirwan FAHRI

Let's start with the basic question.

What is an interview? The answer, it is an information-gathering exercise.

It is imperative that as a manager, you plan what information you need to obtain.

For a formal recruitment interview, consideration must be given to your expectations of the role and the person in the role, as well as the skills and ability required to perform the role well. Some of this information will be outlined in the role's position description, but you should consider your expectations as well.

Formal interviews can be a challenge in many ways, you want some flexibility to ask other questions when needed, but you also need consistency to compare shortlisted candidates. I would suggest a formal interview guide with a key set of questions that directly align with the role's requirements but also aligned with your expectations as a manager.

Role questions can be about work standards, problem-solving, leadership, and team management, depending on the role's requirements. Your expectation questions might be about commitment, teamwork, initiative, adaptability, flexibility, and motivation.

Standard role questions could be:

  • Describe the tasks and responsibilities that you think your advertised vacancy requires.

  • What do you find most satisfying about your current job?

  • What are your most significant achievements in your last few roles?

  • What are the aspects of the advertised vacancy that you are most attracted to in this role?

  • What do you think you need to learn or deliver if you were successful in securing this role to bring you up to speed quickly?

Behavioural interviews or questions

This is a yes/no answer from me. If you use behavioural questions, then you need to ensure the question is answered with a "CAR" answer (Circumstance, Action, and Result). Asking a behavioural question and getting a general answer from the applicant does not ensure you have provided the applicant with the best chance of eliciting information about the past behaviour you are interested in observing in a targeted manner. Remembering that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.

So as the interviewer, using behavioural questions, you need to keep the applicant on track with additional questions, what was your responsibility with this, what led to that, what did you do, when did you do this, how did this scenario end?

Behavioural questions could include:

  • Describe a time when your job has been affected by changes to policies or work practices. How did you approach learning and understanding the new policies or practices?

  • We have all had times when we just cannot get things done on time. Tell about an instance when this has happened to you in the workplace and how you dealt with it?

  • Give us an example of a situation where, in hindsight, you think you might have made a decision too quickly. Were there problems because of this?



Cognitive questions

Some roles require a much higher level of cognitive thought than others. Cognitive thinking is the mental process that we use to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and comprehend information. These skills are important in processing new information to assess and use.

When asking a formal question that will help understand an applicant's cognitive ability, it is imperative that the questions include multiple steps and issues in one question.

Formal complex cognitive questions are not required for all roles, and you may consider only using one or two complex questions in a formal interview. Complex cognitive questions are usually behavioural questions and can include knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis synthesis and evaluation. They can include all or just some of these components.

Examples of cognitive questions

  • Describe a period when you were involved in or had to lead a group of people through a period of unsettling changes at work. What was the nature of the changes being implemented? What role did you play, and how did you deal with areas of resistance from peers, reports or others involved? How did things turn out?

  • We all have times when we are reliant on others to complete a project or task. Can you tell me about a recent occasion when you had to communicate your expectations to a group of individuals to achieve an important outcome or result? What was the project or task, and how did you communicate your expectations to the group? What result did they achieve?

What is so important about the recruitment interview?


For me, it is consistency and a method of creating a way to compare candidates. Making sure you, as the manager, know what you want and what you need to be achieved in the role is imperative. Skills, experience and cultural fit, are important, but manager expectations are also important and should be front of mind when planning your recruitment interviews.


Shortlisting and finding the right candidates can be challenging, and there are a variety of tools to support you. These include application assessments, scenario, skill and psychometric testing, as well as formal interviews. Your planning and knowing what you need in the role are the first step to success in finding the right candidate.


Macarthur Human Capital: Unleashing the competitive edge, driven by people


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