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How to write different types of interview: formats, methods, and styles

Putting together the perfect interview is considered by many to be a fine art. And, whether you’re wondering how to format your interview or write job interview questions, there can be an overwhelming amount of advice available surrounding putting together the perfect candidate assessment.

The information in this guide can help you decide which is the right type of interview for your advertised position. We’ll cover:

  • The pros and cons of common interview formats
    • Question and answer
    • Test or task-based
    • Group assessment
  • Types of job interview methods
    • Competency
    • Behavioural
    • Situational
    • Which method is best?
  • Different interview styles
    • Formal and informal
    • Structured, semi-structured, unstructured
    • The funnel interview method

Common interview formats

Below are three of the most common interview formats for you to consider, including their pros and cons:

  • Question and answer
  • Group assessments
  • Test, task-based, or case interviews

In addition to these three formats, you can also choose to conduct interviews face-to-face, over the phone, or via video.

Question and answer

This is the standard interview format that almost everyone will be familiar with. Interviews that are question-and-answer based usually involve one candidate at a time and allow you or a panel of interviewers to ask a series of questions, with the aim of deducing how well the interviewee will be able to do the job you are advertising. Beyond that, there are several different interview methods that you can use to customise your Q&A format.

The cons of this format are that interviewees may simply learn or rehearse good responses to your questions. Some people simply do better in interview situations than others, so if someone gives bad responses or the wrong answers, then that’s not to say that they don’t have the hard skills to excel at the role. You’ll need to use your judgement to decide whether you can get all the information you need from a Q&A interview, or whether you may need additional assessment methods to fairly judge the candidate’s ability.

Test or task-based

Test or task-based interviews and methods of assessment replace interview questions with an exam, case study, or puzzle. These can be great for determining the level of ability a candidate has and can give you a clear picture of how well they’ll be able to perform their day-to-day tasks if you were to give them the job.

You may choose to set the task before the interview so that they have time to complete it. You can then use the interview time to discuss their results and ask probing questions tailored to them. Alternatively, you might give them a project to complete there and then, or a series of smaller tasks like a test or puzzle. This puts more pressure on the candidate, but it allows you to see how well they cope under stress.

One downside of a task-based interview is that, while you do get to see their skills in action, you don’t get to know the candidate as well personally as you would using other interview methods. That means you won’t get a good idea of their soft skills or professional attitude using this method alone, for example if they were applying for a senior or managerial position. These kinds of interviews can also be quite demanding, so you could risk excluding some of the best talent if they simply don’t have time to go through your recruitment process.

Group assessments

In an individual interview format, candidates are assessed one at a time which can make the process last for weeks. If you have a lot of applicants to get through or need to make a decision quickly, you might want to consider setting a group interview. Group interview methods allow you to assess several potential hires at once, saving time while seeing their interpersonal skills in action.

Group assessments include turn taking or hot seating, where you pose a question to the group and they then take it in turns to answer, usually within a set amount of time. Alternatively, you might set a task or exercise for the group to tackle together, which can give you an insight into who the best communicators and team players are.

Group interviews can be a challenge for participants because they have to compete and work together at the same time, so the benefits for the interviewer include that it’s quite easy to see who stands out amongst the crowd. On the downside, you could miss out on someone with great professional skills if someone with a bigger personality overshadows them. This is why group interview methods are usually used for sales or entry-level roles and other positions where teamwork, communication and stress management skills are the most important.

Types of job interview methods

Below are three different examples of interview methods, including example interview questions for each.

Competency

Competency-based interview questions can help you to get a clearer image of a candidate’s ability to do their job well. Examples may include:

  • Tell me about a project you were particularly proud of and the role you played in its success.
  • Can you give an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult situation?
  • How would your co-workers describe you?

Rather than being specific to the role requirements, like what training, qualifications, or experience they have received, competency questions focus on the interviewee’s soft skills such as communication, team work, decision making, and any other qualities they have picked up during their professional career.

Behavioural

Behavioural interview questions are great for getting anecdotal evidence of somebody’s capabilities.

Behavioural questions include “tell me about a time when…” or “give examples of…” questions. Interviewees can then give a real-life example that can help you understand how they have responded to workplace scenarios in the past, giving you a feel for how they will perform in the future.

Situational

Situational questions provide a similar opportunity to behavioural questions for candidates to explain their responses to certain scenarios. They may include giving the interviewee a fictional event or problem to solve, which would provide them with the opportunity to explain how their skills and experiences could be utilised to produce the best result. For example, you might ask: “tell me how you would deal with…”.

Which method is best?

There are pros and cons to using behavioural, situational, and competency questions. While there is a lot of overlap, they are slightly different in terms of what they can tell you.

Behavioural questions are based on past events, so you know what sort of situations a candidate has tackled before. However, if they are changing careers or can’t think of a good example, it might be difficult to see how they might respond to events in their new role. On the other hand, situational questions will give you a better idea of what they’ll be like at your company, but you may not get the evidence you need to back it up.

While competency questions are great for finding out more about a person’s professional attitude, the downside is that it’s very easy to learn the ‘correct’ answers and say the right thing in a competency-centric interview. For example, even though we know how we should react under pressure, in reality our responses may be very different.

In most cases, a combination of all three interview question types will give you the better picture and yield the best results. This will provide candidates with opportunities to use the STAR method of answering interview questions, which stands for situation, task, action, result:

  • Situation sets the scene and gives you context
  • Task explains what needed to be done, or the purpose of the exercise
  • Action refers to what they did as an individual
  • Result includes explaining how what they did influenced the outcome

So, whichever method of interviewing you choose, try to write the questions with STAR answers in mind.

Interview styles

With your format and methods of questioning decided, there are still a few different ways you can style your interview that can affect what you get out of them.

Formal and informal

Whichever kind of assessment you chose, you’ll have to determine the level of formality that’s best suited to the role you are interviewing for. Most interviews are formal by nature due to the power dynamic of the interviewer and interviewee, though you can relax the atmosphere a bit and put candidates at ease by choosing an informal setting, like a break room or lounge, and asking ice-breaker questions.

Purely informal interviews, such as meeting for lunch, can be great if a candidate has already undertaken several of your assessments and you simply want to meet them face-to-face. Make sure you’ve decided that you intend to hire someone before you invite them to an informal interview, because casual meetings can signal to candidates that this is the case.

If you want a mix of both formal and informal elements in your interview, it can help to divide the assessment up into two sections. For example, you can have a meet-and-greet portion followed by a Q&A, or you may choose to go through the questions first then take them out for food or on a tour of the office afterwards. That way, you can see how the candidate fares in both formal and informal situations.

Structured, semi-structured, and unstructured

Structured interviews mean having quite a rigid plan with regards to questions and activities. You’ll write a list of questions and ask exactly the same of each candidate in the same order, with a focus on their skills and experience. The aim is to quickly determine whether they’re right for the role based on their background, so this approach is ideal if you’re still in the initial stages of the hiring process, the role has very specific requirements, or you have a lot of interviews to conduct and need to whittle down your pool of candidates.

Unstructured interviews are more informal and simply require you and the candidate to have a conversation, either to see if they have any questions about the role or just to get to know each other better. With unstructured interviews, you might write down topics to discuss rather than specific questions you want to ask the candidate. It can be difficult to get all the information you need about a candidate with such a relaxed approach, so unstructured interviews are better suited to the final stages of hiring when you have already determined their skills and competencies.

Semi-structured interviews are the best of both worlds, because they allow you to get the information you need while the candidate is able to expand on their points. Semi-structured interview methods are more likely to include open questions that invite the candidate to share an opinion, speculation, or prediction, or they might just ask a candidate to tell a story. If your recruitment process only allows for one or two interviews before selection, semi-structured is the way to go.

Funnel interview method

One final technique to bear in mind when writing an interview is the funnel method. The funnel interview method is used by interviewers to get the most information out of a candidate that they can in the short amount of time that an interview allows. You start by asking a broad question and then ask progressively narrowing probing questions to direct the candidate towards giving the information you need. An example of the funnel interview method might look like this:

  1. Tell me about a time when you handled a difficult situation.
  2. What did you do to diffuse the situation?
  3. Why did you decide to do that?
  4. What would you have done differently?

The initial open question gives the candidate chance to respond in detail, whereas your follow-up questions allow you to probe for specific information. This should ensure that both parties feel satisfied with the answer given, so it’s a method that is ideal for semi-structured interviews.

This guide will help you get to grips with different types of interview and interview questions, as well as formats, methods, and styles that could help you put together a better hiring process. And, now that you know how to write an interview, you can start sourcing the best talent to join your company.

At Edward Reed Recruitment, we provide a range of talent acquisition services for hiring managers and business owners. If you’re looking for more advice, our blog is full of guides and tips including how to find the best candidates and how to get the most out of video interviews.

If you’re a jobseeker looking for the next stage in your career, we can help you too. Check out our candidate portal and guides such as what questions to ask in an interview, to make sure you ace your next opportunity.

We are an independent agency based in the North East of England and experts in business recruitment. So, get in touch today and see how we can help you.

Hire better people: How to find the right candidate for a job

An important issue for any business owner or hiring manager to consider is how to find and hire great employees. It’s easy to find people to interview, with one position often attracting hundreds if not thousands of applications — but how do you decide who will be the best fit?

In this guide, you’ll find interview tips and techniques for recruiting the best employees. We’ll cover:

  • How to find good candidates: what to do before the interview
  • 7 interview techniques to find and hire great employees

How to find good candidates: what to do before the interview

The first step is to decide what you need to look for in a job candidate. Learning about a candidate’s qualifications and experience on their CV can usually tell you whether they have picked up the right skills to do well in the position you’re advertising, particularly if it’s a high-level or managerial role that entails a lot of responsibility.

But to find the best of the best, don’t just focus on the most relevant skills. Looking at what else they can do can may help you decide whether or not they can bring something new to the role that you hadn’t considered before. They might even find new ways of doing the job that can save your company time and money.

In addition to demonstrating they have the skills to perform the tasks outlined in the advert, it’s crucial you assess whether a candidate has the soft skills to do well professionally. To make sure you’re doing this, I would recommend making a list of five qualities you believe to be the most desirable for the role and bringing this into the interview with you. These can include social skills, organisation, problem solving, and more, so it’s up to you to decide which are the most important for the kind of work they’ll be doing.

If you want to hire the best people for the job, two good things to include on your list are attitude and adaptability. These are particularly important if you are company with an emphasis on teamwork, or a new business that is likely to evolve. If a candidate is good at what the job entails but reluctant to perform ad-hoc duties, they might not be the best fit for your company. Similarly, it’s good to look for a candidate with ambition, but make sure they want to be an asset to your company rather than use you as a stepping stone.

7 interview techniques to help you find and hire great employees

Interviews provide a great opportunity to learn a lot about a potential employee in a short space of time. To help you get the most out of your interviews, here are seven techniques that will help you to find the perfect candidate for the job.

Adapt the environment

Firstly, you’ll want to adapt your interview to suit the tone of the job, and you can achieve this easily by choosing the right room to conduct your meeting in. Aside from ensuring quiet surroundings and privacy, you’ll also need to create a space that reflects the company culture and ethos. Think about what you have pinned to your walls and the décor you have chosen, as well as your attitude — is it formal, or relaxed? The right candidate will be able to match their tone to yours, ensuring you both start off on the right foot.

Learn about their past experience

Perhaps the most important task for you to perform during an interview is to get to the bottom of what they can do, so start with questions based on their job description. Situational “tell me about a time when…” questions are ideal for this, because it allows them to provide real life examples of how they’ve applied their knowledge and skills in the workplace. This allows them to demonstrate their value to you, and the answers they give will tell you a lot about how much they understand they role they are applying for.

Set tasks

Strongly consider giving candidates a task or project to complete that is similar to what they’ll do day-to-day at your company if they should get the role. For example, you could email them activities to complete ahead of time, which you can then discuss in the interview. Or, depending on the role, you could set them a series of short tasks to complete there and then.

Setting a task will provide evidence of the skills they claim to have on their CV in action, making it much easier to identify the standout candidates. Plus, you might discover someone who is isn’t adept at interviews but is genuinely brilliant at what they do, thus being the best candidate for the role.

Look for vulnerability

When asking about their experience, don’t just look for people who claim to be perfect. Admitting to past errors and explaining how they have learnt from them is a desirable quality to look for, because it shows growth, emotional maturity, and intelligence. You certainly don’t want to hire someone who can’t admit they’ve made a mistake.

Assess their personality

As well as asking about qualifications and experience, remember to include a few personality-based questions, and don’t neglect to discuss their hobbies and personal interests. You can tell a lot about a person by how they talk about their passions, and you might get more of a sense of what they’re like with their guard down. Plus, this is a great opportunity to consider how they’ll fit in with the rest of your employees and what their personality might bring to the table.

Get creative

Choosing the right candidate for the job can be tough. Sometimes, candidates can be equally impressive on paper and excel just as well when being interviewed, but you still have to make a decision between them. This is when it pays to be creative and throw in a curveball question — something appropriate and relevant, but you know they haven’t prepared for. By using this method, you can be confident that they aren’t just reeling off answers they’ve rehearsed but are more likely to be authentic.

Take them out of the room

You should also try taking interviewees out of the interview room — perhaps for lunch, or for a tour of the office. This way, you can see how they behave outside of the rigid interview structure. Introduce them to members of your team to see how they get on or speak to other people at the company they interacted with, such as reception staff, to get their initial thoughts. That way, if they make a good impression, you can be confident that not only will they be the best person for the job, but the best fit for your company too.

Now that you know how to hire better people, you can start the process of advertising your position and finding the right candidate for the job.

At Edward Reed Recruitment, we are experts at talent acquisition for commerce and industry and we provide a range of helpful services for candidates as well as clients. Are you looking for more advice to help you make the most of the interview process? Our blog is full of industry news for business owners, decision makers and hiring managers, as well as recruitment tips for jobseekers.

We’re confident that we can help you with all your recruitment needs, so get in touch with our team today.

Fair hiring: 3 steps to more inclusive recruitment

The words ‘fairness’, ‘inclusivity’, and ‘diversity’ are commonplace in professional language, particularly when it comes to recruitment. But what do they really mean, and how do you know for sure that your hiring process isn’t excluding great candidates?

It’s important to practice fair hiring and make sure your methods of recruitment allow everyone the same chance to get the job. Doing so isn’t just the morally right thing to do — it can also have benefits for your business. Inclusive recruitment means you can access a broader range of talent while providing equal opportunities, and you’ll be more likely to find the best employees to fill your roles. Plus, ensuring you employ people with a variety of insights, skillsets, and approaches to working can help with things like ideation, and even make your company more efficient.

Below, we’ll take you through ways of defining and identifying discrimination in recruitment, plus three important steps to making your job advert, selection process, and interview questions fair.

Defining and identifying discrimination in recruitment

Discrimination in the workplace is illegal under the Equality Act 2010, which means that unfair recruitment processes are against the law. This act identifies eight protected characteristics or types of hiring discrimination when it comes to choosing candidates:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

This means you need to avoid making decisions based on things like a person’s racial or religious identity, gender, sexual orientation, and their relationship status. The act also requires you to practice other methods of inclusive recruitment, such as avoiding discriminating against pregnant candidates or those with children. Personal circumstances like these cannot factor into your selection process at all.

Examples of discrimination during the recruitment process

Even if you don’t set out to discriminate as part of your recruitment process, indirect discrimination is surprisingly common. One unconscious bias that might catch you out is age discrimination. This often manifests as only hiring people with so many years of experience, which can exclude young generations of candidates, or exclusively taking on people below a certain age, which discriminates against older workforces.

Another example of unfair recruitment practices may include stereotyping and only hiring men for manual labour roles, or women for customer care, rather than reviewing each candidate on the basis of their experience or ability to do the job well. In many cases, it’s better to remove or ignore personal information from CVs and go purely off skills and experience instead to ensure an inclusive recruitment and selection process — but there are still ways that indirect discrimination can creep in.

How to ensure your recruitment and selection processes are fair

Even if you know what discrimination is, it can be difficult to know how to keep it out of your recruitment process. There are three main steps you’ll have to consider to make sure your recruitment and selection processes are fair and inclusive: advertising the position, choosing candidates to interview, and writing interview questions.

1.     Write a fair job application form or advert

When putting together your advert, try to refrain from describing a person or writing with a certain type of individual in mind. You can avoid indirectly discriminatory elements by simply sticking to the facts and giving an outline of the job instead, so talk about the responsibilities the role entails and identify the most crucial skills needed to do it well. Being too specific could put off some candidates even though they may be qualified to apply.

Applicants make decisions about which jobs to apply for in different ways. For example, women are generally less likely to put themselves forward for jobs if they don’t feel they meet 100% of the criteria. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to apply even if they don’t fulfil all the prerequisites (Harvard Business Review). With this in mind, try to stick to only the most relevant requirements for the role rather than ‘nice-to-haves’. This way, you can avoid putting people off and more candidates will feel confident enough to apply.

Another element of job application writing that could catch you out is gendered language. Gendered language can be as simple as using pronouns such as “he” and “she” in your content. It also includes gendered nouns, such as “businessman” or “businesswoman”, that are best made neutral where possible (i.e. “business person”).

Similarly, in foreign languages such as French, words can be either masculine or feminine. This system doesn’t exist in the English language, but words can still be biased towards gender stereotypes: for example, using words like “competitive” (masculine) and “collaborative” (feminine) will attract different kinds of candidates to apply. Inclusive language includes a fair balance of masculine and feminine biased words, which can help you ensure equality in recruitment.

There are plenty of tools online that can help you identify issues like gendered language and write more inclusive job descriptions, so when you’re happy with what you’ve written, you may wish to run your adverts through text analysing software to make sure you’ve got it right.

You may also wish to include an equal opportunities statement on your job advert. This should be a few short sentences explaining that everyone has the right to apply for the role and that your company strives to be an equal opportunities employer. Including this will communicate to potential applicants that they can expect an inclusive culture at your company. They should then feel safe applying to work for you and you may see a more diverse candidate pool as a result.

Once written, it’s a good idea to advertise your position through as many outlets as possible to make sure you’re reaching all types of jobseeker. Even posting an advert on more than one job board website is a step in the right direction, as different sites will have different users and demographics that you can attract to your role. Not only will this make your recruitment fairer, but you also stand a better chance of finding the perfect candidate for the role by widening your search.

2.     Ensure fairness in the selection process

A key way to ensure a fair application process is to only make decisions based on how well someone can do the job you’re advertising, and nothing else. That means focussing on their skills and experience rather than their background during the selection stage.

Again, don’t be afraid of using technology to assist you. You could use software that scans applications for keywords and makes decisions based on relevant skills and experience. This can help you whittle down your applications to produce a more indiscriminate pool from which to source your talent.

It’s also a good idea to have different people involved in the selection process to limit personal bias. This way, if more people agree on a candidate, it’s less likely to be because of bias and more authentically because they believe the candidate will do a better job. Try to have diversity within the hiring team as well, so that they can provide different thoughts and ideas about who would make the ideal candidate.

At this stage, it might be useful to analyse how diverse your workplace currently is. Are all genders, races, cultures, and levels of ability represented? Could it be possible that anyone has been overlooked for promotion or training? If your company is already an inclusive place to work, it can be a lot easier to imagine how each of your candidates will fit in. Plus, you’ll be able to identify gaps in the skillset of your workforce and consider what they can bring to the office, which can make the selection process easier. 

3.     Avoid discrimination in interview

Unless you’re checking a requirement for the job — for age-restricted work or a role that involves heavy lifting, for example — fair hiring dictates that you should not probe a candidate about any of the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010. You’re there to see whether the candidate can do the job well, not to learn about their personal life, so you’ll gain much more valuable insight by focussing on their skills and experience anyway. If you do need to check their date of birth, you should try asking them to confirm that they are over the required age rather than asking them for their exact age.

It can also help to ask the applicant for situational examples during the interview, as this allows the candidate to give anecdotal evidence of their capabilities. Situational questions include:

  • Tell me about a time when you handled a difficult situation.
  • What’s a project you were particularly proud to be involved in, and why?
  • What’s the best feedback you’ve received from a client or co-worker? What did you do to deserve it?

You can also encourage candidates to bring in a portfolio of their work or even set some tasks for them to complete. Then you can make more accurate decisions based on their capabilities, and applicants who find it difficult to talk about their achievements have another chance to prove they can do well in this role. Remember to ask all candidates the exact same questions, to ensure they’re getting an equal chance.

Just like having a diverse team dealing with the selection of candidates, diversity is important when it comes to your interviewing panel. It can showcase how inclusive your company is, make interviewees feel at ease, and provide a range of different insights for you to use to make your final decision. Plus, a diverse panel can offer different perspectives on what it’s like to work there that the applicant may find helpful, and will be able to answer more questions a candidate may have about what it’s like to work for you.

Now that you know how to ensure your recruitment and selection processes are fair, and how not to discriminate when hiring, it’s time to fill your open positions with some great talent. Whether you’re looking for interviewing pointers or want to know how to find the best candidates, our blog is full of helpful advice including industry news and recruitment tips.

At Edward Reed Recruitment, we provide a range of services for candidates as well as clients. As experts at talent acquisition for commerce and industry, we can help you with all your recruitment needs. So, why not get in touch with our team today?

What to look for in a job candidate: 7 key qualities and responses

things to look for in a candidate

So, you’ve scoured the applications, read countless CVs, done your research on LinkedIn, and finally created a shortlist of quality candidates to invite for an interview. However, the facts on paper can only tell you so much, and a face-to-face meeting can reveal all sorts of other key strengths and weaknesses that might not be obvious just from looking at a résumé. But that’s only if you know what signs to look out for during the interview.

While an applicant’s previous employment record and qualifications can tell you a lot about their hard skills, they won’t reveal whether they have the right soft skills — like enthusiasm, strong communication, or emotional intelligence — to succeed at your company. You may find that someone who appeared to be a great match for the role on paper doesn’t seem very professional when you actually meet them, or that a candidate with less experience is actually a much better cultural fit in terms of attitude and outlook. The crucial skill for the hiring manager or interviewer is to know how to spot these attributes and qualities during a short face-to-face interview. 

In this guide, we’ll show you what to look for in a job candidate, so you can find the best possible person for the role during the interview process. We’ll share seven key qualities and soft skills that indicate an interviewee is going to be a good hire, including:

  1. Communication skills
  2. Enthusiasm
  3. Preparation
  4. Honesty 
  5. Curiosity
  6. Creativity
  7. Professionalism

We’ve also put together some example interview questions that will help you to work out whether the candidate has the relevant qualities for the role. Read on to learn more.

Communication skills

communicating in a job interview

Good communication skills are essential for almost any role, and can make or break an employee’s ability to succeed after they’ve gotten the job. So, out of all the qualities to look out for in a candidate, this is probably the one you want to be most alert for during the interview.

There are lots of indicators that an applicant has strong communication skills — in a way, the entire interview process can be seen as a test of their ability to communicate well. But, generally speaking, you want to find candidates who are able to respond promptly and clearly to your questions. Their answers will be articulate, without sounding overly rehearsed.

The conversation should also flow fluidly throughout the interview, with the applicant asking questions of their own from time to time to keep a back and forth dialogue going. The ideal applicant will be able to avoid creating long pauses or giving stilted answers that make your job as an interviewer more difficult. In short, they’ll be pleasant to talk to, and it won’t feel like hard work.

Remember to watch out for their ability to listen, too. Strong communication skills are as much about listening as they are about speaking, so be wary of interviewees who dominate the conversation or interrupt often. Their body language and facial expressions should show that they’re really listening when you speak, too.

Example question: Can you tell me about a time when you were able to resolve a conflict in the workplace?

This question will tell you about the candidate’s ability to work towards a solution under pressure, and whether they are able to act as a mediator in difficult situations. Look out for answers that show the candidate was able to use their communication skills to resolve a conflict with professionality and tact, rather than simply passing the problem on to a manager or another co-worker.

Enthusiasm

enthusiasm in a job interview

Naturally, you’re going to want to hire someone who is passionate about the job they will be doing. And, while most people will claim to be interested in the role during an interview, there are a number of signs that may help you to gauge how genuinely enthusiastic a potential hire is about the role.

An enthusiastic candidate will be very interested in the specifics of the role and the work they’ll be performing. They will likely ask lots of questions to help them learn as much as possible, too. Their excitement and enthusiasm will feel authentic and natural — it’ll be clear from their body language and engagement that they actually see the role as a fantastic opportunity, rather than just another job. If a candidate asks lots of questions about your company and the kind of work they’ll be doing, that’s a great sign that they’re going to bring genuine enthusiasm to the role.

Example question: What are you passionate about?

Asking this question will give you an insight into what really motivates the applicant. It’s hard to fake genuine enthusiasm, and this question will help you to work out which candidates want the job for the right reasons. It also shifts the focus from their qualifications and skills onto what interests them personally and professionally.

Their answer doesn’t necessarily need to be strictly related to their current career, but they should be able to link it back to the role in some way. For instance, if they describe their passion for charity work outside of their current job, they might mention how overseeing a group of volunteers has increased their interest in a managerial position, for example.

Preparation

being prepared for a job interview

Knowledgeable, informed candidates tend to make the best employees. It shows that they’ve thought long and hard about whether the role will suit them, and what their skills and experience could bring to the company. It also shows that they’re going to work hard to deliver results for your business, because they’re committed to being a part of it.

The right candidate will clearly have immersed themselves in learning all about your company and will be knowledgeable about the role they’ve applied for. So, if they’ve taken the time to research your business in detail, it’s a strong sign that they may be a great fit for the position. Look out for candidates who know your company ethos and history, and who understand what it is that sets you apart.

Example question: What aspects of the role/company interest you the most?

Honesty

honesty in a job interview

This might seem like a strange quality to look out for in a candidate — after all, how can you gauge honesty when you’re meeting someone for the very first time? But the right person for the job may be willing to own up to their strengths and weaknesses in a way that other candidates are not.

Self-awareness is a very important skill, as it means they’ll be more likely to learn form their mistakes. Additionally, if they are able to be open with you, it shows that they’re going to be an honest employee going forward. So, if a candidate is willing to admit to a gap in their career history or own up to a time when things didn’t go quite to plan, don’t write them off — ask them how they were able to learn from this and move forward.

Example questions: Can you tell me about a mistake you made in your current role, and how you were able to overcome it?

Curiosity

being curious in  a job interview

A job interview should be a two-way conversation, not an interrogation. If the candidate doesn’t ask questions of their own, it’s a sign that they may not be fully engaged, or that they simply aren’t that interested in the work they’ll be doing beyond picking up a paycheck. A strong candidate will ask lots of questions about every aspect of your company, from your workplace culture to your long-term goals for the business. The more curious they are, the better!

Example question: Is there anything you’d like to ask us?

Creativity

creativity in a job interview

Creative thinking has become one of the most sought-after skills in recent years. A creative candidate will display excellent problem-solving skills and will be able to “think outside the box” to apply their skills to new and unfamiliar challenges. In short, they’ll be a more versatile and resourceful hire.

Example question: Can you tell me about a time when you were able to use creative thinking to make something more efficient or effective?

This question will challenge the candidate to show evidence of a time when they were able to put their creative skills into action. Look for answers that demonstrate their thinking process and ask for as much detail as possible, pressing for information about budgets, deadlines, and other constraints they may have faced. This will give you the best idea of their ability to be creative at work.

Professionalism

professionalism in a job interview

Professionalism can be a difficult quality to define. After all, it can’t be measured by qualifications, and even past experience isn’t necessarily an indicator that an applicant can behave in a consistently professional manner. However, one thing is certain: you’ll know professionalism when you encounter it.

A candidate who displays professionalism will strike the right balance between being formal and friendly throughout the interview, engaging in small talk when called on to do so without becoming overfamiliar too quickly. They’ll be well-mannered and follow the etiquette protocols you’d expect during a job interview. The ideal hire will also be smart and presentable, wearing attire that is suitable for the type of industry you operate in.

“Professionalism” might seem like a slightly nebulous quality, but essentially it all boils down to whether the candidate retains their composure and seems pleasant and well-mannered throughout the interview. They’ll be the sort of hire that you can imagine working alongside the rest of your team or engaging with your biggest clients on a regular basis. In short: if you can imagine the applicant being a pleasure to work with, it’s a strong sign that they’re a professional.

Example question: Can you tell me about a time when you were able to remain professional under pressure?

Finding quality hires can be challenging at the best of times, especially when you have a long list of applicants who seem to have similar attributes on paper. But, by knowing what to look for in a job candidate during an interview, you can ensure you’re making the right decision.

Here at Edward Reed, we can help you to source the most suitable talent for mid to senior executive and managerial roles. Drawing on our extensive hiring experience and expertise, we can provide a bespoke, personal, and consultative service that is tailored to support every one of your recruitment goals. For more information, visit our clients service page. To find more practical hiring advice and tips, including what questions to ask your interview candidates, you can also visit our blog.

Questions to ask in a job interview

So, you’ve charmed the panel with your small talk, nailed those tricky questions about your skills and experience, and shown that you’ve done plenty of research into the company. Now, there’s just one last hurdle to face before your job interview wraps up: “is there anything you’d like to ask us?”.

Many candidates typically find this part of the interview quite intimidating, but there’s really no need to fear the final part of the interview process. When done right, asking the interviewer a few carefully chosen questions can be a golden opportunity to set yourself apart from the other candidates. It can also give you a valuable chance to learn more about the role and the company, to see if it’s going to be right for you.

As with any part of the jobhunting and recruitment process, preparation is key. So, it’s sensible to take the time to think of a few questions in advance. To help you get ready for your next career move, we’ve shared a few of the best questions to ask in an interview, as well as some other tips for closing and following up an interview successfully.

  • Why should I ask questions at an interview?
  • 10 examples of good questions to ask at an interview
  • Following up: tips for closing an interview 

Why should I ask questions at an interview?

You might be wondering why hiring managers are keen for candidates to ask their own questions during an interview. The answer is simple: because it’s beneficial for both parties in terms of working out whether or not an applicant is right for the job.

For the employer, it’s a chance to gauge how invested in the role you are, and what your goals and aspirations might be in the long term if you do land the job. Asking the right sort of questions will show the panel that you’ve thought long and hard about the role, and that you’re enthusiastic about joining the team. Additionally, if you’re keen to learn more about things like progression or training, it will help to demonstrate that you’re ambitious, forward-thinking, and likely to be a great asset to the company in the future.

For candidates, asking the interviewer a few questions offers a vital opportunity to get a glimpse into the inner workings of the company. Although the panel will be doing most of the questioning throughout the process, it’s important to remember that any interview is still very much a two-way conversation. This is your chance to learn as much as possible about the particulars of the role and the wider company culture, to see if it will suit you. So, you’ll certainly want to make the most of it to get as much information as you can prior to accepting a job offer.

10 examples of good questions to ask at an interview

To help you prepare for your next big career opportunity, we’ve put together ten examples of good questions to ask in an interview. These are worded in such a way that will help to make you come across as professional, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic, while also giving you a chance to learn more about the company and the role. By keeping these questions in mind, you can ensure that you’re not left tongue-tied when the panel ask if there’s anything you’d like to quiz them about.

You should remember that it’s likely that some of these topics will already come up during the course of the interview, so be prepared to skip certain questions as needed. Some questions might not be applicable to every job or company, so use your judgement when considering which ones to ask, too. But, as long as you think on your feet, you should be able to show the interview panel that you’re engaged, enthusiastic, and a great fit for the role.

1. What does a typical day look like in this role?

The job description listed on the application might give you some understanding of what your overall responsibilities will be, but it won’t necessarily tell you exactly what you would be doing on a daily basis. By asking for more detail, you’ll be able to get a better idea of whether the role will suit you — and it will also present you with another valuable opportunity to talk up any strengths you have that would help you succeed in the role.

2. What do you like most about working here?

This is essentially the same as asking “what is it like to work here?” but, by addressing the interviewer personally, you’ll get a more direct insight into what it’s like to be an employee. Remember to keep things professional and positive, and don’t ever press them to disclose negative aspects of their job or to criticise their employer — the last thing you want to do is make them feel uncomfortable!

3. How will my performance be measured in this position?

What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the role, and how are they measured? Asking how your success in the role will be measured will help to give you a good idea of what the company’s expectations are like, and how employees are managed and supervised.

4. Can you tell me more about the projects that the new hire will be working on immediately after starting?

This question will show the interviewer that you’re keen to get started on the job and enthusiastic about the sort of work you’ll be doing. If you can think on your feet and explain how you would handle any problems or projects the company is currently working on, be sure to do so!

5. What are the biggest challenges that the company/department is facing right now?

Again, this type of question will show that you’re already thinking ahead to how you’d perform in the role. It also demonstrates that you’re invested in helping the company advance and succeed.

6. Is the work typically collaborative or independent?

It’s important to get a sense of how much teamwork is required in the role. Be sure to play up your strengths as both a collaborative and independent worker, mentioning past examples of this from previous roles where you can.

7. What opportunities for progression and development does this company offer?

Asking about progression and advancement will show the interviewer that you’re ambitious and invested in a long-term career with the company. Plus, it will give you some idea of just how far you could go in this job, as well as help to flag up any roles that seem a bit limiting or dead-end. Just be sure to phrase your question in a positive way — in other words, don’t ask when you can expect a promotion outright!

8. What characteristics do you typically look for in an employee?

Finding the right person for the role is often about more than just skills, experience, and qualifications: hiring managers will also be looking for candidates with the right attitude and personality type. After they’ve answered, you’ll naturally want to talk up any aspects of yourself that you think fit the bill.

9. How would you describe the culture of your company in three words?

What’s the ethos and outlook of the company? By finding out more about their workplace culture, you’ll be in a better position to explain exactly why you would fit in so well.

10. Do you have any reservations about considering me for this role? 

This is a slightly risky question, as there’s always a chance that the interviewer won’t want to share this information with you. But, as long as you’ve built a good rapport with them, and you ask the question in a polite and professional way, this can be a very effective way to address any doubts they might have about your suitability for the role. For instance, if the interviewer questions whether you’ve got enough experience in a particular area, you can point to other relevant transferrable skills you’ve picked up at previous jobs.

Word your questions carefully

While the examples we’ve shared above are all great questions to ask in an interview, you’re certainly not limited to these alone. So, if you’re curious about a topic that we haven’t mentioned, feel free to ask away! However, to ensure you’re remaining professional and showing yourself in the best possible light, you’ll want to bear the following tips in mind when thinking up your own questions:

  • Avoid asking lots of questions about salaries, pay rises, bonuses, and other perks. Although it’s fine to want to learn more about renumeration, focusing too much on the financial side of things will make the interviewer think you’re only interested in the money, which can be quite off-putting.
  • Try to avoid asking yes or no questions (like “is this a good place to work?”, for instance). Asking open-ended questions will ensure you’re getting the most informative responses.
  • Conversely, you should also avoid asking questions that are too broad for the interviewer to possibly answer in the context of an interview — like “what’s the five-year financial plan for the entire department?”. You certainly don’t want the interviewer to feel flustered!  
  • Steer clear of any negative questions. While it’s fine to ask the interviewers their opinions and experiences in a positive way, always avoid asking questions with a negative connotation, like “is anyone here difficult to work with?”. This will make the interviewers uncomfortable, and you won’t come across as very professional.

Following up: tips for closing an interview

First impressions are undoubtedly important during an interview — but so are last impressions. The final few minutes of your meeting present a valuable opportunity to drive home the fact that you really are the best candidate for the role. So, be sure to use them wisely by doing the following: 

  • Re-confirm your interest: Mention that meeting the team and learning more about the role haveincreased your interest in the job and re-affirmed your belief that you’d be the ideal match for the position.
  • Re-iterate your qualifications: Briefly re-cap the skills, qualifications, and other qualities that set you apart from the competition, placing them within the context of the interview (e.g. “Now I’ve learned more about the company’s focus on digital expansion, I can see that my experience with X software would make me an especially good fit”). This will help to make sure the panel are left with a strong idea of why you’re right for the role. 
  • Ask if there’s anything else they need from you: Ask if the hiring team need any further action from you, and ask if they’d like you to pass on any documents, samples, or portfolios. Hiring managers might not ask for these initially, but it could make all the difference further down the line if they’re struggling to choose between you and another candidate.
  • Ask for information on moving forward: Be sure to ask the interviewer what the next steps will be moving forward, and if they can give you a timeframe for their response. This will emphasise your interest.
  • Thank them for their time: Finally, thank the panel for their time and let them know how much you’ve enjoyed meeting them and learning more about the company.This will show that you’re a true professional with great interpersonal skills, and will encourage them to think that you’re the sort of person who they could imagine working with. Don’t forget to thank any other staff you encounter, such as receptionists or secretaries, on your way out.

The process doesn’t stop after you’ve left the building, either. So, after the interview has ended, you should always make sure to do the following:

  • Send a thank you: It’s both professional and polite to send a quick follow-up email within 24 hours of the interview.Thank them for their time, re-state that you’re very interested in the role, and let them know that you look forward to hearing from them.This doesn’t need to be very long — just a few lines will be plenty.
  • Follow up: If you don’t hear from the hiring manager about their decision within the timeframe, you can follow up with a polite email asking for a response. If you don’t hear anything after this, it’s best to assume you haven’t gotten the position and to step back. You don’t want to hassle them too much or seem rude.
  • Keep job-hunting: While you’re waiting to hear back, it’s fine to continue your job search. This will ensure your time is used effectively. If you’re currently seeking your next career move, be sure to view our executive jobs listings to see if any might be a good match for you.

The final part of any interview might seem challenging but, as long as you’re prepared, you should be on track to impress the panel and show them you’re the right person for the job. All of the examples we’ve shared above are good questions to ask in an interview, so it’s well worth making a note of them for your next big professional opportunity.

Here at Edward Reed Recruitment, we specialise in matching the best candidates to executive and managerial roles across a range of industries. So, if you’re looking to take the next step in your career, consider registering your CV with us today. You can also find lots more invaluable advice that will help you excel at your next interview on our blog.

Video interview tips: Questions and how to prepare

Even just a few years ago, the prospect of taking on a new hire without meeting them face-to-face would have seemed unthinkable to most employers. After all, the interview is the most crucial part of the hiring process: it’s when the panel is able to put the candidate’s skills and experience to the test, and it gives both parties a chance to find out whether they’d be a good cultural fit for the company.

But, thanks to advances in online technology, remote interviews are now becoming increasingly common. These days, all that’s needed to set up a meeting with a suitable candidate is a laptop, some basic software, and a reliable internet connection, meaning that holding (and attending) interviews has never been so simple, or so cost-effective. And, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and the spike in remote working that followed, it’s safe to say that video interviews are only going to get more popular as home working becomes more widespread. So, it’s time for both employers and candidates to start honing their remote interview techniques.

While video interviews share many similarities with face-to-face interviews, there are a number of key differences and extra considerations that you should be prepared for. Here, we’ve shared some of our top video interview tips, both for candidates and employers. We’ll cover:

  • What is a video interview?
  • Tips for applicants: How to prepare for a video interview
  • Tips for employers: How to conduct a video interview

What is a video interview?

A video interview is a type of job interview that is hosted remotely using online video calling software. In many respects, the interview is similar to one which would take place in person at an office, except the entire meeting takes place online, using microphones and webcams to communicate.

Remote interviews aren’t a brand-new concept: employers have been holding long-distance interviews ever since the technology to do so first became available well over a decade ago. And, over the past few years, many large-scale companies that routinely receive a high volume of applications have started using video interviews as a method of finding the most outstanding applicants for an in-person interview. But, now that the technology is improving and remote working is becoming more common, we’re starting to see more and more businesses handling the entirety of the hiring process online.

There are a number of advantages to video interviews for both parties. For one thing, it can allow applicants to avoid costly and time-consuming journeys, making the process much easier for them. For the employer, it can be a very effective cost-cutting measure, as it removes the need to devote a room in a physical office space to the process. Additionally, interviewers can also record the session, meaning they can re-watch the footage later on to help them make the most informed decision.

There are two different kinds of video interview:

  • Live video interviews: A live interview happens almost exactly like an in-person interview, with one or more interviewers asking an applicant a series of questions about their experience and skills. The applicant can then respond in real time. The biggest advantage of a live interview is that it allows the panel to really probe a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses in detail, and the applicant has the opportunity to ask questions of their own. It also offers both parties a chance to see whether the applicant is going to be a cultural fit for the company. However, one downside is that live video interviews are almost exactly as time-consuming for the employer to host as an in-person interview.
  • Pre-recorded interviews: With this type of interview, the applicant must record themselves and then send the finished footage to the employer. There will normally be a number of set questions for the candidate to answer, or they may be asked to deliver a presentation.

This type of interview is often used by companies who receive hundreds or even thousands of applications, because it’s much less labour-intensive and more cost-effective than hosting full interviews. However, the rigidity of the format means that something of the interpersonal dynamic is lost, and there’s no way to tell which candidates are best at thinking on their feet.

Tips for applicants: How to prepare for a video interview

For applicants, your goal is exactly the same as it would be with a face-to-face interview: you want to show the panel that you’re the right person for the role. But the experience can be quite different to meeting someone in person, so you need to be prepared for this. And, there are a number of other considerations you’ll want to bear in mind when setting up your equipment for the interview.

Here, we’ve shared six video interview tips that will help you to wow the panel and secure your next role, all from the comfort of your home.

Research and prep like you normally would

While some aspects of a video interview will differ from a face-to-face meeting, one thing remains exactly the same: you need to do plenty of research to familiarise yourself with the company and the role you’re applying for. The panel will want to see that you’ve taken the time to learn all about their company, and that you’ve thought carefully about what your skills and experience could bring to the table. So, be just as thorough in your research as you would be when preparing for a normal interview.

The type of questions you’ll be asked will usually be more or less the same as at an in-person interview, too — you can learn more about tackling these in our guide to handling a tough job interview. You’ll also probably be given the opportunity ask your own questions about the role at the end, so be sure to take advantage of this. Read our guide to the best questions to ask in an interview to learn more about how to nail this part of the process.

Look the part: what to wear for a video interview

First impressions count — even during a completely digital meeting. So, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing a smart and sophisticated outfit, such as a crisp shirt and suit, or a professional skirt and blazer. You should ensure that your hair and face are well-groomed, just as you would for an in-person meeting. It’s also well worth checking how your outfit looks on webcam in advance, to make sure it looks smart when you’re sitting down — some shirts and jackets may gape open when you sit, which never looks professional.

While it’s true that the interviewers will only be able to see the upper part of your body on the screen, it’s still sensible to wear head-to-toe business dress. Dressing professionally can have a big impact on your mindset, and can help you to feel much more confident in the moment. So, make sure you look the part before the interview starts.

Prepare your setup in advance

You’ll need to find a place in your home that’s suitable for your video interview. Ideally, this will be a quiet, clean, and uncluttered area where you aren’t going to be disturbed by family or housemates. It should also preferably be a room with a plain background that isn’t going to distract the interviewer while you’re speaking. So, check that the background behind you is neutral and free from clutter, like piles of books or laundry. This area also needs to be well-lit, but not so bright that you can’t see your laptop screen properly — you may need to move your desk temporarily in order to get the perfect setup!

Once you’ve found the right position, set up your laptop and webcam on your desk or table, making sure it’s at the right height for you to look directly at the screen. You can stack it on a box or some books if you need to make it higher. It’s worth testing out the webcam at this point to make sure your chair is at the right height.

Be sure to place the following items on your desk, so they’re within reach during the interview:

  • A notepad and pen
  • A copy of your CV and any portfolios, if applicable
  • Any other notes you’ll need to refer to during the interview
  • A glass of water

You can leave your phone and any other devices on the desk, but make sure they’re on silent.  

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure you’re not going to be disturbed during your interview. Speak to your family or housemates to make sure they’re aware of when the interview is taking place, and ask them to keep noise levels to a minimum during this time. Placing a “do not disturb” sign on the door can be a good reminder if you’re worried they may forget!

Test your tech

The last thing you want is for technical difficulties to make you late for your interview, or to cut you off mid-way through. So, it’s prudent to take the time to test your setup on the day to help make sure everything is working as it should. You’ll want to check:

  • Your webcam is working, and that the picture is clear
  • Your audio and microphone are working, and that the volume is appropriate
  • You have a strong, reliable internet connection
  • You’re not downloading anything in the background that might slow your browser down, or otherwise make your internet sluggish
  • The lighting in your room is at the correct level for you to be clearly seen when the webcam is on.

Project confidence with your body language

Throughout the video interview, you’ll want to appear engaged, friendly, and confident, and you can project this with your body language. Be sure to maintain good posture, sitting up straight with your feet firmly on the ground and your hands in your lap or on the desk in front of you.

When you’re speaking, be sure to look directly at the webcam, to give the impression of making direct eye contact with the interviewers through the screen. You can also use hand gestures to emphasise what you’re saying and to help get your point across.

When you’re listening, nod and smile where appropriate to show that you’re paying attention to what the interviewer is saying, and avoid fidgeting or looking away from the screen. You should also try to avoid staring at yourself on the screen — it might be tempting to check that your hair is still in place, but it can make it seem like you aren’t fully engaged.

Follow up

As with any kind of job interview, it’s polite and professional to send a short follow-up message within 24 hours after the interview has ended. This doesn’t need to be a lengthy email: just a quick message to thank them for their time and briefly re-state your interest in the position. Now all that’s left to do is cross your fingers, and hope to hear back soon.

Tips for employers: How to conduct a video interview

Video interviews offer a number of advantages for employers, such as reduced costs and access to a wider pool of candidates, but they can also bring added challenges. For one thing, there’s all the logistics of co-ordinating several interviews in a short span of time, while also grappling with new and unfamiliar software. Additionally, you can never rule out the possibility that technical issues or connectivity problems will delay the process and throw you off schedule.

So, how can you ensure your remote interviews go according to plan?  As with most professional challenges, the solution is to be prepared. Here, we explain how to conduct a video interview that will allow you to find the best candidates.

Invest in tech, software, and training

Employers have never had more options when it comes to remote video calling software, with Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and SparkHire being among the most popular. All of these programs offer slightly different capabilities, so do some research to work out the best option for your business. Once you’ve chosen a particular program, your hiring managers and those conducting the interviews should be given training on how to use the video conferencing software.

In order to do their jobs effectively, your hiring team will also need to have access to reliable, high-quality equipment. If video interviews are going to become a big part of your long-term recruitment strategies, you may want to consider investing in high-spec laptops or quality webcams and microphones for your staff. This will facilitate a clear picture and better audio in interviews.

Provide clear guidance and instructions

With an in-person interview, it’s often considered standard practice to provide clear instructions and directions to make it as easy as possible for candidates to find your office. And, even though they won’t need to leave the house to attend their video interview, it’s still polite and helpful to provide clear guidance and instructions about how to access the interview, and what they can expect.

At least three days prior to the interview, you should send out an email with the following details:

  • The time and date of the interview
  • How to access the interview platform: If the applicant will need to download some software, create an account, or enter an access code, there should be clear guidance on how to do so.
  • A backup phone number in case they experience any connectivity issues
  • What applicants can expect during the interview
  • Approximately how long the interview will last
  • Any supporting materials they should have in front of them (e.g. their CV or a portfolio of work).

Allow extra time

It’s not unusual for any kind of interview to overrun and, with a video interview, there’s also the added possibility of technical difficulties. So, it’s always sensible to allow a generous buffer between each interview in case of delays.  

Depending on the type of software you use, it may be the case that you only have one type of online meeting space, which could potentially lead to other candidates accidentally interrupting interviews that are still in progress — and that certainly won’t give your applicants the best impression of your business. So, allow plenty of time for each interview, and set up your software in a way that allows you to generate a unique access code for every session. This will prevent early birds from accidentally joining them before their allotted time.

Be professional and personable

Your interview panel are representing your company, and that means they need to project professionalism at all times. Your team should ensure that they look and behave just as they would if they were welcoming a candidate into the office in person. If they’ll be hosting the interview from their own homes, they will need to make sure that any areas that the candidate can see in the video look tidy and presentable to give the best impression of your company.

Behaving in a professional manner also means knowing how to react if things don’t go quite to plan. So, make sure they know how to help get an interview back on track smoothly if there’s a problem with the sound or video. They should be patient and accommodating if the candidate experiences any technical difficulties or other interruptions, working to put them at ease and get the interview back on track without getting flustered.

Create a welcoming environment and put the applicant at ease

When you welcome a candidate into your physical office space for an in-person interview, there are lots of opportunities for small talk to develop naturally before the interview has formally begun. This gives them a chance to relax and get into the swing of things, which can help them to be at their best. But, with a video interview, they’re thrust straight into the action, which can be quite intimidating and disorientating.

To help compensate for this, it’s best to make an effort to put the candidate at ease before you start grilling them. Open the interview with a few informal ice breakers to get the conversation flowing, whether that’s talking about the news, or just asking about the weather where they are. You can then move on to discussing the role in more detail.

Whether you’re a job seeker or an employer, it’s important to do everything you can to make sure your interview goes as smoothly as possible. And, as long as you take the video interview tips we’ve shared here on board, you should be on track for success.

Here at Edward Reed Recruitment, we specialise in finding the best candidates for executive jobs across a range of industries, including finance, business operations, HR, sales, and marketing. So, whether you’re a candidate looking for your next career move, or an employer who wants to recruit the best talent for your company, be sure to contact us today. You can also keep up with the latest news from the world of professional recruitment on our blog.

What is a non-executive director?

Could a non-executive director role be the next big step in your career? For many senior executives, becoming a non-executive director — or NED, for short — is the perfect final phase of a successful career, and most see it as the best way to transition into retirement. But what is a non-executive director, and what exactly do they do?

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at these kinds of roles, and discuss what candidates need to think about before going down the non-executive route. We’ll cover:

What is a non-executive director? How are they different?

A non-executive director is an experienced professional who provides independent strategic advice, guidance, and insight for the executive and senior members on the board of a company. Sometimes also called ‘external directors’, it’s their job to bring impartiality and independent oversight to board meetings.

While a NED does receive remuneration for their services, they aren’t considered employees, and don’t oversee the day-to-day operations or management of the business. To ensure complete impartiality, it’s also important they have not been employed there previously or had any other interests in the business prior to joining the board as a non-executive.

It’s this degree of independence that makes NEDs such a valuable asset to the leadership team. They’re not directly employed by the company in the same way as an executive director, which means they often bring a much needed outside perspective to meetings, discussions, and problem-solving. This impartiality is especially beneficial during internal decision-making processes, such as deciding executive pay for senior company members. By remaining out of the day-to-day goings on of the company, it’s easier for non-executives to see the bigger picture when making important decisions.

Their goal is to offer guidance and insight to the rest of the directorial team, but also to hold the board to account and challenge them when needed. Additionally, depending on the industry, a non-executive director will sometimes act as a networker, helping to build relationships and find new opportunities and contacts. As such, candidates for this role should have extensive skills and expertise relevant to the industry, experience in managing a commercial company at the highest level, and strong interpersonal and communicative skills.

A non-executive director can be appointed across a range of different industries and organisations, including:

  • The private sector
  • The public sector
  • The academic sector
  • The third (voluntary) sector

According to the UK corporate governance code, at least half of a company’s board (excluding the chair) should be comprised of independent non-executive board members. This ratio helps to ensure it’s well-balanced, and that independent viewpoints are well-represented.

What does a NED do?

A NED will be expected to bring their own specialist expertise and insights to the boardroom in order to benefit the company as a whole. The role of a non-executive is to guide and influence the board of directors by sharing your knowledge, experience, and skills, both during and outside of board meetings. At times, that might mean questioning or challenging an executive decision, and ensuring that everyone has considered an issue from every angle before any key decisions or votes go ahead.

What’s the difference between an executive and non-executive director?

The most crucial difference between an executive and non-executive director is that a NED won’t take part in any operational activities or oversee the day-to-day running of the business. Instead, they attend board meetings and provide support and insight to the other executives to help assist with any issues.

In addition to this, a non-executive director might also be tasked with:

  • Creating, planning, and sitting on audit committees.
  • Scrutinising the performance of management and executive directors and holding them to account should their performance fall short of the agreed objectives.
  • Using their existing network of contacts to secure new opportunities and relationships.
  • Looking after budgets and balance sheets.
  • Ensuring that the departmental strategies and plans are successfully followed through.

Working hours and time commitments

A NED will usually have rather different working hours to those of a full-time executive. NEDs will be expected to attend important board meetings and to communicate with the rest of the executive team on a regular basis, but exactly how many hours a month this will entail will vary between positions.

While there’s no set number of working hours, candidates can usually expect to devote at least a few days a month to the role. This time will be spent advising other board members, as well as preparing for and attending board meetings. A NED will be on call more or less all the time and may need to come in for emergency meetings at short notice.

The workload of a NED will also vary. They might work several days non-stop in one month, and then just a few hours the next, but the salary won’t change to reflect this. Many NEDs will hold down several non-executive positions at the same time and may even have a part- or full-time job, too.

NEDs and the law

While the role and day-to day activities of an executive and non-executive director might be rather different, UK law doesn’t distinguish between the two. That means that NEDs will have the same legal duties and responsibilities as any other member of the board, and must behave according to regulations set out in the Companies Act 2006.

This means that a non-executive director needs to be diligent in their duties and always act in the best interests of the company. They’ll be held to the same standards of corporate social responsibility and must take personal liability for their own actions in the role. As such, they will need to show the appropriate level of care and diligence that would be expected of any executive and keep a record of any precautions and actions taken to that end.

Because non-executive directors have the same degree of liability as executive directors, they can be held accountable just like any other member of the board should something go wrong. So, there can be quite a lot of responsibility on their plate, even if the working hours are much less than for a full-time position.

Non-executive director pay: what to expect

The remuneration for a non-executive director depends on the scale and structure of the business in question. According to the Institute of Directors, NEDs at smaller companies can typically expect to earn anywhere from £15,000–£25,000, depending on their experience and the level of involvement expected of them. At SMEs, this figure rises to around £38,000–£40,000, while a non-executive director at a FTSE250 company can receive anything from £40,000–£60,000. Some top-level non-executives at the highest level in FTSE100 companies even reported earnings in excess of £100,000.

In short: non-executive directors’ pay is generous relative to the number of hours actually worked, reflecting the extensive experience and expertise demanded by the job. However, for most NEDs, the salary is merely supplementary to their existing savings or income. Some non-execs will also hold multiple positions, giving them more than one income stream.

For many, the main attraction of taking up a non-executive position is that it’s a good way to gradually scale back from a full-time role to only working a few days a month before retirement, while still receiving an extra income.

How to become a non-executive director


As a member of a company’s board, being a non-executive director means taking on a lot of responsibility, so highly skilled candidates with lots of commercial experience and a proven track record are in high demand. But, as the job usually only involves several days’ work a month, and the remuneration is often very generous relative to the number of hours worked, these roles are highly sought-after and very competitive.

Here, we’ll discuss the sort of skills, experience, and personal attributes that you’ll need to successfully secure a role as a non-executive director.

Relevant skills and qualifications

Most NEDs will have prior experience as a Chief Executive or in an equivalent high-level role and will have the skillset to match. They should be able to solve issues concerning the structure and finances of a business at the highest level, as well as advise on mergers, acquisitions, and policy planning. They will also need to ensure that executive directors and other board members are behaving in a manner which is ethical, responsible, and inline with the best interests of the company. As such, a candidate will need to have a detailed knowledge of corporate best practice.

Other skills which are likely to make you a very attractive candidate include:

  • Auditing experience
  • Ability to carry out budgetary reviews
  • Financial experience, particularly with managing balance sheets
  • Ability to scrutinise the performance of managers and executive board members

When hiring a new NED, a business will usually seek a recommendation from an associated advisory body in their field or use a professional recruitment service.

Experience

The ideal candidate for this role will have substantial experience in the commercial private sector and, in particular, they should have experience managing and creating policy for large or complex organisations. So, if you can prove that you have experience handling acquisitions and mergers, or that you’ve dramatically benefitted a company or organisation in the past, then boards will be much more likely to consider you for the role.

To get some experience, you could also consider working as trustee. Many non-executive directors cut their teeth in the charity sector, and this is a good way to transition from a day job into a more directorial role. Lots of organisations within the public sector — like housing associations and health trusts — are also keen to take on people with related commercial experience, so this can be a great start.

Although the pay for these roles is often less than you’ll receive as a non-executive director at a commercial company and you will usually need to put in more hours, taking this kind of role is a great way to gain some experience, and can be very rewarding in a different way.

Personal qualities

While having the relevant qualifications and expertise is important, it often takes more than this to successfully win the role. A good non-executive director will also need to possess excellent interpersonal skills, and an ability to manage issues with tact and diplomacy. A NED should be prepared to hold the board to account, but without ever being too domineering, so it’s essential that you have the communicative skills to provide constructive criticism in a clear, non-confrontational way

The success of the company will hinge on your ability to work as an effective and entrepreneurial member of the company’s board, so you’ll need to be prepared to work collaboratively and not be egotistical or domineering in your approach.

You’ll spend a lot of your working hours advising and guiding other executive directors, so it’s also essential that you’re willing to be generous with your time. This might also mean being called in to work at short notice.

Being appointed as a NED

Because non-executive directors aren’t technically employees, there isn’t a traditional employment contract. Instead, you’ll be given a template Letter of Appointment upon accepting the position. This will outline:

  • The definition of the time period which you will serve as a NED.
  • An approximate outline for the time commitment required.
  • Details of any board committee posts you will hold.
  • Details of your remuneration package.

We hope that this has given you a better idea of what a non-executive director is, and the experience, skills, and characteristics which are required to succeed in the role. Here at Edward Reed Recruitment, we specialise in finding the best candidates for both executive and non-executive candidates across a broad range of industries. So, whether you’re an experienced professional looking to progress your career with a new job, or a company seeking candidates for a new director position, we can help. And, in the meantime, you can always keep up with the latest news from the world of professional recruitment on our blog.

5 Tips for Handling a tough job interview

Job interviews can be tough, here are some great tips from our Managing Director Chris Stappard.

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences. You’re competing against other talented individuals for the position, you want to come across as best you can to employers and now the interview is getting more and more difficult. Here, Chris shares his top five tips for surviving a difficult job interview.

We can all feel nervous from time to time when we’re invited for a job interview, and while a small amount of nerves can make you more determined and boost your performance, being overwhelmed by these could hold you back from showing your true potential. But, we know it can be difficult to hold it together when the interview gets tough.

Whether you’re attending an interview for a job in fashion, technology or marketing, it’ll pay to know how you can make a good impression in your interviews. So, here I’ll be sharing my top five tips for handling a tough interview.

Calm your nerves beforehand

Nerves can be the make or break in interviews, either destroying your confidence or pushing you to work hard to overcome them. But, when you think they’ll have a negative impact on your performance, it’s important that you take measures beforehand to calm your nerves.

Take some time to practice your answers to competence questions, and any others you think may be asked. Of course, you can’t always predict what’ll be asked by the interviewers but being equipped with a memorised list of the things you want to get across to them will help you to answer questions that could otherwise be tricky. Going in feeling prepared and well-versed on what you want to say is likely to reduce nervousness and ensure you can be the best you can be.

As well as taking the time to prepare, you should also take enough time to yourself. This could include anything from going for a run on the morning of your interview to doing a yoga class or reading a few chapters of a good book. All of these can help to clear your mind and make you feel calmer.

Dress to impress

First impressions count and dressing in a smart and sophisticated way can be beneficial to both how your employer perceives you and how you see yourself, too. Sloppy, ill-fitting clothing isn’t likely to make you feel motivated or confident and can actually put employers off from hiring you.

Instead, I’d advise that you adhere to a smart and sophisticated dress code. This could mean picking out a crisp white shirt and your best work suit to ensure you look professional.

Use positive body language

Your interviewers can get a better insight into you as a person by monitoring your body language, especially when they ask you tricky questions. But, even if the question has left you feeling stumped, handling it in the right way can win you some serious brownie points with your interviewers. And, your body language can help you out here.

Sitting with a relaxed posture will show that you’re comfortable with your surroundings and exude a sense of confidence. To achieve this, I’d advise you keep your back straight but not stiff, and let your shoulders relax.

To show interest and understanding, consider leaning in slightly when someone is speaking as doing the opposite can signify that you’re disinterested and put you in the bad books with future employers. When it’s your turn to speak, use your hands to incorporate gestures into your conversation — but, be careful not to go too over the top with these!

Most importantly, ensure you’re holding eye contact with your interviewer. This shows that you’re interested and engaged with what they’re saying. However, you’ll need to avoid staring them down as this will come across as unnatural and may make them feel uncomfortable. If there are two interviewers, be sure to give equal amounts of eye contact to each and look at the person who is speaking to you.

Tackle tricky questions with confidence

Your interviewer won’t be trying to catch you out, but they may ask questions that you’re initially unsure of how to answer. These could include questions about your weaknesses that you don’t want to answer wrongly at risk of making yourself sound incompetent or unreliable.

However, your interviewer may also choose to throw some tricky questions in there to explore your knowledge and experience a bit deeper. Of course, trying to prepare for some of these harder questions will be a good idea, but in instances where they come out of the blue, it’s important to remain calm.

Think logically about the question they’re asking and give the answer a go. Even if the answer is wrong, your interviewer is likely to appreciate that you tried.

Ask questions at the end of the job interview

As well as testing your understanding of the industry, interviewers will be looking for evidence that you’re actually interested in the business and the industry that it’s in. While you may have shown this through some of your answers, I’d recommend taking the opportunity at the end of the interview to ask your interviewers some questions back. This could be anything from whether there is any room for progression, to asking them their personal opinions on the job role or for their views on a recent event in the industry. Doing this can help to establish a good rapport which may help to boost you to the top of their shortlist.

Interviews are notoriously nerve-wracking, but with my top five tips you can be prepared for even the trickiest of interviews.

You’re not doing it right!

Are you future proofing?

Are businesses engaging in the right way with Generation Z…our future leaders.

A global study reveals that Generation Z (aged 16-19) is more difficult to engage with than any other…especially in the UK.

Now we know, that you know, we aren’t your marketing agency or guru’s for that matter…we are however your conduit to the future talent within your business.

In the UK, Gen Z is harder to connect with and significantly less receptive to all media. A recent study reveals that among those that skip ads, Gen Z skip three seconds faster per ad on average than Gen X (aged 35-49), is your engagement strategy strong enough to ensure you and your brand are seen and heard above the rest.

Are succession and talent future proofing something you invest time in within your business? Can you rely that your recruitment partner is as forward thinking as you and not just reacting to the market or age old stigmatised techniques…food for thought!

Think About It!

This one is purely an observation and I wanted to share my thoughts….

Data Protection….please, please, please protect it, or at least give yourself a fighting chance.

This piece is predominantly aimed at those in the market for a new role and are contacting recruiters, job boards and anyone else that smells vaguely familiar!

Today I received the following information from a candidate that I have never met, spoken to, or indeed heard of, let me know your thoughts on the following;

  • Full Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Full UK Address
  • Mobile Telephone No
  • Home Telephone No
  • National Insurance No
  • Membership No (Chartered Institution)
  • Full list of interests & hobbies

I fully appreciate there is often a need for efficiency and in particular the ease for us in an industry to be able to contact people quickly and effectively…however, please give a thought as to how much information you are sharing with people and organisations you do not know.

CS