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The Interview Process – The Good, The Bad & The darn right UGLY!! 

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Nel Kirkum

Okay, so at some point in our lifetime we will have either been interviewed or have conducted interviews.  

Quite often when you move into your first agency management role, nobody tends to talk through effective interview approaches, or how to ensure that you as a manager conduct interviews fairly and leave the candidates interviewing (regardless of whether they get the job or not) happy with the candidate experience, and keen to apply for your agency again.  

The Good

When advertising be transparent of the salary bracket! This will prevent you having lots of applicants who are over budget for your roles.  

Always start with ‘people’ at your core. Of course, at the screening stage of the candidate application process, you will be looking for core skills and experience, but that first interview we recommend starts with getting underneath a person’s core values. Do they align well to your agency’s values? Do they share similar interests or hobbies to others in the agency? Are they passionate about similar things?  

We recommend a video-based interview for this, as it allows you to see the individual and pick up on their body language too (especially if, for example, they will need to jump on client video calls – you want to see how they conduct themselves in this situation). 

Use value-based questioning as part of the process, try to find out a bit about them personally, so you can understand if they are the right cultural alignment for your agency. An example of this: “One of our agency values in Transparency, have you got an example of when you have had to be transparent with a client and how was it taken by them? What was the result of being transparent?” 

Encourage open questions and always remember that the interview process is a 2-way process so allow time for the interviewee to ask questions too.  

We advise that agencies think about safe and secure storage of CV’s when candidates apply directly, (Afterall it has lots of personal information on it such as their email, phone number and occasionally address and date of birth) 

Take interview notes so you can provide detailed candidate feedback on why or not they were taken to a 2nd stage and/or offered the job. Legally candidates can request this if they feel they’ve been unfairly rejected so again, store this somewhere safe. 

At 2nd stage, include a skills related task to understand their competencies. This should only be a 1–2-hour task ideally. (Any more than that, you may put a candidate off your interview process entirely – or they see it as them completing free work!) 

If you hold a 2nd stage face-to-face at an office space, don’t forget the minor details, e.g. your address, advice on parking/nearest public transport. Is there a reception? Do they need to use a buzzer? Is it an accessible building?  

During in-person interviews we advise showing them the work area, so they can get a feel for your agency vibe and its people! Don’t be scared to showcase your client’s work too – you need to sell your agency positively; it isn’t just about whether you like them! 

Consider a short peer-to-peer interview opportunity, so that the wider team can also meet the person interviewing, it allows for that interviewee to ask any other questions to someone other than a line manager (they may open up more). 

A change of scenery can help people to relax and be more themselves! Consider a walking-interview in the countryside, or nipping out of the office to a local café for peer-to-peers.  

Always make an offer either on a call or video call! NOT via email! You will not know their immediate reaction and you won’t be able to delve into other questions you may have to ask them. 

The Bad

When reviewing CVs don’t reject if someone hasn’t got 100% of the job description nailed, it’s a competitive market, and typically most people are quick learners. Instead invite to interview if they have good relevance and use your questions to draw out any gaps and how likely you might be able to navigate learning areas. 

Be realistic around salary levels VS experience level. Do research before selecting any salary banding, there are lots of great salary banding guidelines in the market. 

When interviewing try to relax. Don’t just fire question after question but allow for it to be as free flowing as possible. The more relaxed a candidate is, the more likely you are to see their real self-come across. 

If conducting an in-person interview, offer them a drink! It’s so simple and yet so many don’t do this! 

If using an ATS (Applicant tracking system) or any form of psychometric testing, please don’t just use results to navigate an immediate decision. They are there to support you in understanding the interviewee/applicant, they are not there to form a final decision. Instead use it to aid your interviewing questioning techniques, and if the psychometric testing shows they are very averse to conflict, for example, question around how they deal with difficult clients, or conflicting opinions. Will they manage this in your agency landscape? 

Feeback! If someone has applied and isn’t right, reject them professionally. The further into the process a candidate gets, the more feedback you should be providing as they have taken the time to come to see you for an interview.  

Feedback on what you liked and disliked, and give them areas to help them develop as it will help them see you positively. Also, provide feedback in a timely manner! Waiting 2-3 weeks after an interview for feedback is not acceptable and will put them off applying for future roles at your agency.  

The Ugly

🥴NEVER set a task as the first thing you do, before even speaking to a candidate. With the use of new recruitment tools in the marketplace, more agencies seem to be losing the ‘human touch’. Nobody will want to do this without speaking to you first. It’s also extremely ‘one-way’, and if their task isn’t up to speed they have gained nothing from it other than a poor candidate experience and no chance to speak to you about the task. Also please bear in mind that some people with neurodiversity may struggle with timed tasks, so consider whether this is offering a ‘fair’ approach for all. 

🥴NEVER just say to someone ‘we are sorry, on this occasion you haven’t been successful’ after a final stage interview… it’s poor, they have taken the time and so you should provide strong feedback.  

🥴NEVER think onboarding isn’t important! 30% of people leave their role in the first 90 days of employment, which can cost your agency around 6-9 months’ worth of salary! Onboarding slowly and effectively mitigates this risk. 

🥴NEVER set a task which is 2+ hours long! It’s off putting, and if your interview process comes across as very 1-way you will lose out on perfectly strong candidates.  

🥴NEVER use too many recruitment agencies, as if multiple candidates get a call from 3-4 recruiters about your agency they may think you have an issue hiring or are always replacing people. Instead, find a recruitment partner who will sell your agency brand with integrity and passion! Ultimately, they represent your employer brand alongside you.  

Feel like your recruitment and talent process is leaving your agency on the backfoot? Reach out and book a complimentary 45-minute agency review here!

About the Author 

Nel Kirkum is founder of Pink Giraffe, the UK’s 1st agency-only talent, recruitment and HR partner. Pink Giraffe support growing agencies with a more affordable solution to using recruitment companies, with cash-flow friendly split fees, support in creating a strong recruitment process and providing you with an in-house talent acquisition team at your fingertips.

  • 📢 Be transparent about salary to filter applicants effectively.
  • 🧑‍💼 Focus on aligning candidates’ core values with the agency’s during interviews.
  • 📹 Use video interviews to assess body language and cultural fit.
  • 🔍 Employ value-based questioning to understand candidates personally.
  • 📝 Keep detailed notes for legal reasons and to offer constructive feedback.
  • ⚠️ Avoid setting tasks before interviews and ensure onboarding is thorough to prevent early departures.