Selecting the Best Candidate

So far you have put a lot of preparation into the recruitment process and all your hard work needs to follow through into a well-designed and professionally managed selection process.

If you have followed the steps in Before you Start and Promoting your Vacancy you have collated a lot of material regarding what type of person you need to fulfil the job responsibilities.  The challenge now is to establish whether your shortlisted candidates have the skills and abilities to do well and enjoy the job you have vacant.

Prior to meeting your candidates face to face there are two methods which may narrow down your search for the best candidate – or at least filter out those who are unsuitable for the position.

Telephone Interviews

Especially if success in your vacant position relies upon good communication, how they present themselves on the telephone is important.  You can assess their ability to listen and respond to your questions, how they formulate their ideas into sentences and their general professionalism by a simple phone call.  Also you can measure if they are keen to discuss their application – responding to job adverts online can be a quick click of a mouse, can they even remember your job and do they really want it? 

Have a format to ask some basic questions about their suitability for the position, if you have not advertised the salary on offer discuss their expectations to avoid wasting time.  If they live at a distance from the workplace you could discuss how they would get to the job if successful.  Finding out the bus route is not suitable or that they cannot afford to absorb the fuel costs of travelling to you is best established early on rather than when the post is offered. 

Video Interviews

Technology is a driving force behind evolution of the recruitment industry. 1 in 5 job searches come from mobile devices and over 90% of all job applications are sent via email or submitted on line.  Video interviewing is becoming a viable and cost effective tool when faced with face to face interviews as scheduling problems and travel expenses are avoided.  First round on-demand video interviewing allows the candidate to log onto a website and record their answers to a prescribed set of questions, the recruiting manager can assess their responses either alone or in consultation with their colleagues or HR.

Interview Questions

Having a prepared set of standard questions to ask each candidate maintains consistency and helps you make objective selection decisions based on the candidate best suited to the job, rather than who you liked the look of.  Questions should generate answers which allow candidates to demonstrate their competency in the essential areas of the job description.  If you have the luxury of selecting from a number of candidates who meet the basic criteria then you ought to consider who will fit best with the culture and the team.

Open questions which start with WHO, WHY, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW generate discussion and encourage the candidate to talk.  Questions which elicit a closed YES/NO response shut down discussion and allow you to move onto another area.

It is important that the interview is carried out in a private room free from distractions.  Take notes so the candidate knows you are taking notice of their answers.  Even if the interview does not go well, be polite and respectful of the time they are putting into the process and thank them for attending.


Summary of sample open questions. (PDF)


Score each candidate’s answers on a central matrix to ensure you are being objective as the interviews may be spread over a period of time and more than one interviewer may be assessing.  


Candidate Scoring Matrix (PDF)

Other ways of assessing a candidates suitability for a position is via


Aptitude Tests - these tests can indicate how well the candidate is likely to perform in the role.

Ability Tests – usually focusing on the candidates numeric or verbal ability

Key Skills Tests – you might want candidates to demonstrate their ability to type for example, or build a wall or repair a vehicle. 

Pre-prepared presentations – a good way to measure a candidate’s desire to secure the job and to evaluate their ideas is for them to present them to you. 

Making an offer is the final stage and the most rewarding part of the process, but it can be tricky if the chosen candidate’s expectations of the package have been set too high.  Having early discussions about what is on offer and being honest and open about the benefits is important as the candidate may feel there is room to manoeuvre at the final hurdle and try and enter into unwelcome negotiations.


Make your offer, either face to face or on the phone to judge their reaction before rejecting other applicants.  Don’t assume they are as keen to secure the job at the end of the process as they were at the beginning – they were assessing you and your job at the same time as you were assessing them.