Conducting interviews

An interview is structured into three parts:

  1. Opening the interview and welcoming the candidate, outlining the purpose and structure of the interview.
  2. The body of the interview. The fact finding part, ask questions and allow the candidate to answer.
  3. Closing the interview. Advise the candidate when they expect to hear from you, thank them for their attendance and ask them to confirm their referees.

There are some simple guidelines for conducting interviews:

  • Be on time. Allow plenty of time for each interview and allow time to debrief after each interview.
  • Set up a suitable space which is comfortable and free from interruptions.
  • Be ready to describe the job – have a copy of the candidate’s application, the position description and the person specification with you.
  • Ensure all panel members have a copy of the interview questions with them.
  • Ask each candidate the same questions.
  • Follow leads – if you think the candidate needs to expand on an answer, or that you may be able to learn more, probe more deeply with further questions.
  • Make sure you ask plenty of ‘open’ questions – that is, questions that require more than just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.
  • Have an agreed format for who asks which questions and be consistent.
  • Take notes, preferably the person not asking the question takes the notes.
  • Try not to make judgements based on first impressions.
  • Say as little as possible, because while you are talking, you aren’t gaining information. Listen carefully to the candidate’s answers. However, provide information to interviewees freely and honestly.
  • At the end of the interview give time for the candidate to ask questions.
  • Do not ask questions that were not included in your interview preparation. This will assist in making sure you don’t ask discriminatory questions.
  • Close the interview in a friendly but clear manner.

Part of the interview process should include showing the applicant around the farm, the dairy and the herd. Allow some time for the tour because invariably they will want to know about the farm business. This is expected and desirable! It is important to time the interview so that it will not run into another interview, or into a time constraint such as milking time for either party.

Above all, throughout the interview, keep in mind the position you have advertised, and keep looking for the skills and attitudes you are after.

Present the farm in a favourable light

Like advertising, interviews are a public relations exercise – an opportunity to present the farm business to outsiders in a favourable light.

Ensure all interviewees are advised when they will be notified. Candidates who have been interviewed should be phoned if unsuccessful.

Never offer the job at the interview stage

Never make an offer of employment at the interview as it will exclude other candidates before the selection process is complete. It is also worthwhile considering all applicants as a whole after the actual interviews. At this time the issues of whether and where each person would fit into the farm system will have been considered. Also, if the offer is verbally accepted, it is possible a number of the terms and conditions set out in the letter of offer/formal Contract of Employment may be excluded.