Screening and interviewing job candidates like a pro

Part 3 of a 3-part series based on The Definitive Guide to Hiring Employees for Small to Medium Businesses. In case you missed it, here’s Part 2.

You’ve chosen the most suitable candidate and you’re getting ready to welcome the new addition to your team. While this might be the most exciting part of the recruitment process, it’s certainly not the easiest. Getting the final steps right is crucial to ensuring your new recruit flourishes in their role.

For more insight into how to host successful interviews and improve your hiring process, download the complete eBook.

Reference checking

There’s one last thing to do before you make that job offer: reference checks. As a minimum, we recommend speaking with at least two referees for at least 10 minutes each. This is crucial for gaining insight into something that simply can’t be gauged through an interview – what is the person like to work with on a daily basis? As such, the ideal referees are former colleagues or managers of the candidate.

As with interviews, it’s best to go into reference checks with a prepared set of questions. On top of confirming the referee’s relationship with the applicant, you should also endeavour to find out:

  • Their perceived strengths and development areas
  • How well they handle conflict
  • Which management approaches seem to work well for them
  • How well they get on with peers
  • How trustworthy, reliable and punctual they are.

Before making these calls, ensure you have written permission from the candidate to do so. If they haven’t been included in a CV or cover letter, you will need email confirmation that they are happy for you to contact their referees.Making the offer

Once everything is locked in and you’re sure you’ve found the one, don’t waste any time making that call. It’s a competitive job market out there and quality candidates get swooped up very quickly! Make a verbal offer – including salary and benefits – and see if the person will commit verbally. It’s important to show enthusiasm, but also be empathetic if they can’t accept right away and give them a reasonable timeline to respond.

After your discussion on the phone, follow up quickly with the formal letter of offer. Handy templates for these are available from both government departments and legal firms, but feel free to adapt the template to match your organisation’s personality.

Letter of offer essentials include:

  • Start date
  • Position title
  • Work hours
  • Pay structure and amount
  • Any entitlements and leave allowances
  • Probation period details (if applicable)
  • Conditions of employment.

Further details can be left for the full employment contract if you prefer.

At the very least, show appreciation for each candidate’s time and wish them the best with their job hunt. You may also choose to offer feedback on their application and interview, or invite them to apply again in the future if they were only narrowly beaten.


Job accepted and new staff member locked in – time to hang up your ‘Recruiter’ hat and get back to work as usual, right? Not quite! On-boarding may occur post-hire, but it’s undeniably a key factor in making sure your new employee can thrive in their role. Any time you spend helping them integrate quickly and effectively is not time wasted – especially if it prevents them from being one of the 31% of entry/intermediary level workers who quit within six months!

When preparing for their first day in the workplace, consider:

  • Sending a personal welcome from the team
  • Choosing a colleague to act as their mentor/guide during the first few weeks or months
  • Making sure their workspace, computer and necessary programs are set up and ready to roll
  • Preparing a welcome kit that outlines important procedures and explains how to do key tasks.

The new employee’s first day should feel special. Having everything set up and ready for them will certainly help them feel welcome.

We hope you’ve found this 3-part series helpful, and we wish you all the best with your recruitment!

Screening and interviewing job candidates like a pro

Part 2 of a 3-part series based on The Definitive Guide to Hiring Employees for Small to Medium Businesses. In case you missed it, here’s Part 1.

Your job ads are running and the applications are flowing in. The idea of finding the right candidate amongst a pile of CVs and cover letters can seem overwhelming.

Luckily, if you do these next crucial steps correctly, you’ll find narrowing down the candidate pool isn’t quite as difficult or stressful as it first appears.


The first thing you must do is create a fast, logical way to screen applications. You want to ensure you waste as little time as possible reading resumes from unsuitable candidates. A great way to achieve this is with a simple checklist of essential and desirable characteristics. If a CV doesn’t list a must-have item, move on. If all the desirable factors are met, shortlist them for the preliminary interviews.

You may also want to add a scoring system based on how polished their applications are – this is a particularly good idea if the role requires strong writing skills or high attention to detail. For any candidates you’re on the fence about, create a ‘maybe’ list to review once you know how many definite ‘yes’ candidates you have.

Whether you print a physical checklist or prefer to track things in a spreadsheet, this approach keeps things fair and objective.

 Preliminary interviews

There are three main ways you can choose to conduct your first round of interviews:

  • Via remote video
  • Over the phone or with live video streaming
  • In person (best saved for the second/final round of interviews).

Remote video interviews are ideal for this phase of the recruitment funnel. It’s fast and simple, and it mitigates common real-time interview headaches (scheduling hassles, no-shows, and so on).

Interviews must be structured

The key to successful interviewing is preparation and planning – under no circumstances should you run ‘unstructured interviews’. The relaxed, informal chat approach to interviews has been shown by numerous reliable and validated studies to be one of the least helpful tools for understanding whether a candidate would do well in a prospective role.

Structured interviews, on the other hand, work well for both parties. Following a consistent format means less room for bias, and having a clear direction with your questions can avoid any uncomfortable pauses in conversation. When it comes to choosing the actual questions, focus on two primary objectives:

  • Find out how they’ve handled relevant situations in the past
  • Get an idea of how they would handle situations they are likely to face if hired.

For even more tips and hints about hosting successful interviews and improving your hiring process, download the complete eBook.

Final interviews

You’ve narrowed down your candidate pool to just the frontrunners and now you’re ready to meet them in person. As with the previous interviews, preparation is key. Work out what questions you’ll ask to delve deeper into each candidate’s suitability.

A face-to-face interview is also the ideal opportunity to ask for a work sample. What this entails specifically will depend on the industry or role, but it’s great to get a look at what each applicant is capable of producing. As the hiring manager, you may not have specific knowledge of what makes a work sample good or bad, so don’t hesitate to consult with an expert in your business if necessary.

If you conduct a remote psychometric assessment prior to the interviews, even better! You can analyse their results for any improvement areas and discuss with them how they would strive to overcome them if they get the job. This is a great way to get a feel for how good they are at problem solving and how open they are to developing themselves professionally.

In Part 3, you’ll learn about transitioning your chosen person from candidate to satisfied staff member, from checking their references to on-boarding them into the team.

Screening and interviewing job candidates like a pro

Part 1 of a 3-part series based on The Definitive Guide to Hiring Employees for Small to Medium Businesses

For a small to medium business, hiring new employees can be exciting – and also frightening. When a large organisation selects someone that doesn’t work out, the repercussions are usually minor. But for a small to medium business (SME), a bad hire can be seriously harmful and costly.

This three-part series will take you through the process of finding the best candidates, conducting effective interviews and on-boarding your new hires – to give you the best chance of hiring the right people for your business.

In part 1, we’ll look at writing an excellent job description and sourcing quality candidates.

More: get in-depth insights into sourcing candidates, successful hiring and other elements of recruitment, from the complete eBook.

Writing an accurate job description

Work out who you are

The first step involves a little navel-gazing: it’s all about knowing what your business is and what it has to offer a new employee.

Think about these questions:

  • Why does your business exist?
  • What do you have to offer the people who work for you?
  • What are your organisation’s values and goals?
  • What do your employees love about your business?

Work out what you want

The team at Google know a thing or two about hiring great people -copy their tried-and-tested approach to designing a stellar job description.

  • Purpose: Highlight the purpose of the organisation or department the employee will be working with, so they know what your company is all about.
  • Role: Describe what the candidate will be doing. For example, ‘You will be an integral part of our customer support team ensuring that customers receive top quality, timely and helpful assistance. You will endeavour to solve their problems and maximise the benefit they get from our services.’
  • Responsibilities: List the specific deliverables the successful candidate will be responsible for. For example, ‘Resolve all client support queries to the client’s satisfaction within four hours; ‘Deliver client projects on time with minimal errors’.
  • Qualifications: List the education, experience and skills required to perform the job. You can break these down further into:
    • Minimum qualifications: These are the bare necessities of the role, often non-negotiable, such as professional accreditations, qualifications, particular skills and experience.
    • Preferred qualifications: While nice to have, these are the non-mandatory skills and experience that your ideal candidate would have and are usually more qualitative.

Consider your language and tone

Ensure your candidates have enough information to determine whether or not they meet the role requirements. Keep language as simple as possible and avoid unnecessary jargon.

Because this is the first impression many people will have of your organisation, don’t hesitate to inject some personality into your description. If your employees consider the workplace friendly, quirky or relaxed (for example), you can let this shine through in your description.

Sourcing candidates

Gone are the days of just listing your job in the newspaper classifieds. Today, there are more ways to advertise a job than you could throw a digital stick at.

We recommend using a suitable combination of the following:

  • Referrals – Hiring via employee recommendations often proves to be faster and less expensive that other methods.
  • Social media – As a minimum, post a link to your main job ad on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
  • Your website – If you have a Careers page on your website, update it with the new vacancy.
  • Job boards – Job-seeking websites like Seek often feature a handy candidate management tool, which could save you time.
  • Niche job boards – Depending on your industry and the role you’re looking to fill, you may find some niche directories online for listing your ad.

One thing to watch out for when turning your job description into a job advertisement is making it too attractive. You should absolutely aim to paint your organisation in a good light – list all the perks, benefits and growth opportunities that your organisation has to offer. But, at the same time, you don’t want the role to sound so inviting that every job seeker on the market sends in their CV.

Keep the tone professional yet friendly and be clear about what your non-negotiable requirements are; this way, you will hopefully discourage unqualified people from applying and taking up your time.

When it comes to filling in all the details for the job ad, you’ll need all the information from your job description, as well as:

  • Selection criteria (required and desired)
  • The job location
  • Role structure (number of hours per week, how flexible the hours can be)
  • Salary information if appropriate (this should include any attractive benefits)
  • How candidates should apply (if they should follow the online process or email you directly).

The next stage of hiring is screening applicants and conducting interviews, which will be discussed in Part 2 of this guide next week.

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