500 word series (5) Interview and Assessment


You’ve improved your employer brand, created a job spec that evokes interest, developed a compelling advert and used your network to generate a stream of talent. The next step is to assess the applicants and select your perfect hire.

The ideal assessment process should, of course, enable you to accurately gauge an applicant’s suitability for the role in hand. But beyond this, bear in mind that candidates increasingly share their experience of the process with their peers. As such, regardless of whether the applicant is ultimately hired, it’s in your best interests to make the process a positive one.

Here are our suggestions for ensuring that the process is as smooth, productive and effective as possible:

  • Scheduling: Remove any bottlenecks. Long, inexplicable delays between the different stages of the assessment process can be especially frustrating for sought-after candidates – and may even cause them to drop out. Prior to assessment, get your hiring team together and work out an efficient, realistic timetable for the entire process, ideally with as few gaps as possible.
  • Communication. After each stage of the process, tell candidates what will happen next and when they can expect to hear from you. Keeping them in the loop goes a long way to keeping them engaged. For those candidates who you do not intend to include on the shortlist, this includes sending a message of thanks and inviting them to keep an eye open for future vacancies.
  • Utilise a telephone assessment. A telephone or Skype chat can be a useful initial filter, preventing you wasting resources on formal procedures for applicants who might not be an ideal match. This is a valuable opportunity to ensure applicants are fully aware of what’s involved in the role. You can also use this opportunity to check their availability for the next stage of the process and provisionally agree a time slot.
  • Set a practical skills test. This should be role-specific and be designed to test candidates’ working knowledge of fundamental concepts linked to the role. Liaise closely with your in-house technical team and possibly also seek the input of an external consultancy to help you devise the test.
  • The formal assessment: focus on problem solving. In these specialist fields, one way of gauging applicants’ suitability involves presenting them with a business problem and inviting them to identify a data or AI-based approach to solve it. As with the practical skills test, you might want to draw on external expertise to help you formulate these problems and to assess candidates’ responses.
  • Stress the opportunities provided by the role. The assessment is a two-way process, whereby applicants will be keen to find out about your organisation. At interview, invite candidates to provide their own interpretation of what they think the role will involve and use this as a springboard for discussing your project objectives, the type of technologies you are looking to utilise and the challenges and opportunities associated with the role in a positive light.