Ask the Expert: Russell Smith answers common questions about interviews.

With over 20 years’ experience in the recruitment industry, Russell Smith, Managing Director and founder of Hunter Selection, gives his expert advice and guidance by answering some of the most common questions about interviews.

  1. What questions should I ask the employer in an interview?

“Questions show that you have done your research on the company and that you are engaged during the interview process. Remember, an interview is also an opportunity for you to decide whether the role and company is the right fit for you. Questions that demonstrate your industry knowledge are a good place to start, enquiring about key competitors and wider industry trends show that you are aware of current topics.

“If your interviewer is in a similar role or department to the role you are applying for, ask them specific questions relating to your line of work; What do they enjoy most about their job? What has their progression within the business looked like? Asking about their personal experience will give you a better insight into the organisation and set your expectations if you’re offered the job. It might be worth asking if the company does employee surveys and what the positive results from that are too.

“Attitude and willingness to learn play as big a part in being placed in a role as your qualifications and skills set. Enquiring about training and development opportunities will showcase your enthusiasm for progression, which shows you are dedicated to performing in a role”

  1. When is the right time to ask about the job benefits and salary?

“If you are working with a professional recruiter, the role specifics should have been outlined to you prior to a face-to-face interview. This is so you can make a decision as to whether the salary and benefits meet your career expectations. If you are applying directly, then you should try and have this information before the interview, in writing if possible, as it should be part of a comprehensive job specification that you can refer to if necessary.

If this information isn’t offered, you should clarify this towards the end or after the interview so that you do not seem interested in the role for the wrong reasons or come across assumptive. Preparing a salary target beforehand is useful and can save time in the long run because if the salary offering does not meet your expectations, you know the role is not right for you. If the salary is up for discussion, you can offer your preferred salary band and if the interview goes well, they may even offer more salary that they originally intended.”

  1. Can you take notes into an interview?

“Yes! We all forget things and having notes on research you have done on the company can help during interview discussions and aid you in your answers. Having this in front of you also demonstrates to the interviewer that you have taken time to prepare.

“I would be wary of taking copious notes during the interview as it can look unprofessional. Always ask the interviewer whether they mind you taking notes as often they will be wary of a written transcript. As you are writing notes, there is the risk of losing essential eye contact and engagement so make sure note taking is brief, take time to listen in between and ensure you are still conversing throughout.”

  1. What happens if an interview is shorter than expected?

“My advice would be to not worry about this too much, I have experienced good and bad outcomes from short interviews. Usually an experienced interviewer would give you an indication of the duration of the interview before-hand, however it is almost impossible to stick to the exact time. You do have some control in how long the interview is. Depending on your answers, discussion and questions, you can change the timing of an interview dramatically, but you should be careful not to talk too much, meaningless or not well thought through questions and answers could negatively impact your interview. The prior indication of timings should steer your interview preparation. Even after this, if the interview seems to be cut short without good reason, you could always ask at the end”

  1. What is the best time slot to choose for an interview?

“This is completely up to you, all I would say is consult your diary thoroughly to make sure you have no outstanding commitments that could get in the way, cause you to reschedule or be late. The time of day can be your decision, if you’re a morning person and perform your best earlier in the day, book in then so you are fresh and energised. Remember interviewers are human too, they get tired, particularly if they have numerous interviews in one day, so catching them early can be really beneficial. On the upside, by choosing a slot later on in the day or even last, you have the opportunity to leave the interviewer with a lasting positive impression of you. Whichever you choose, ensure you are prepared, look the part and act confident on the day”

  1. What happens if I’m late for my interview?

“Try everything you can to not be late. If this is unavoidable, the first thing to do would be to notify your consultant as soon as there is a risk of you being delayed and they will manage the situation and liaise with the client on your behalf. If you are going directly through the organisation, call the contact you were given and be honest about what the issue is and how long you are likely to be delayed. There is no point in sugar coating the situation and saying you will arrive sooner than is possible, manage expectations by telling the truth.

“Once you’ve arrived, it’s really important to take a few seconds to compose yourself. You may be anxious after arriving late and you may think you don’t stand a chance in getting the role, but this simply isn’t true. Be positive, apologise professionally and move on.”

  1. Why is interview feedback important?

“Feedback after an interview is essential, from both parties. A skilled consultant will do everything they can to ensure the role is a good fit for the candidates wants and needs but this can only be done if the candidate is honest throughout the recruitment process. The number of minor or even false issues which get in the way of good candidates getting great jobs always amazes me. If something comes to light during an interview or phone call that changes your mind on a role, it is best to be honest as it saves time and resources. Tell your consultant exactly what you think, then you can move forward and your consultant can put their energy into finding a new role for you. 

“After an interview, whatever the outcome, having feedback on how you performed is very useful. It can highlight what you did well and not so well, which in turn can be used to refine your approach, technique and answers for future opportunities. As recruiters, it can be tricky when our client provides no feedback or explanation as to why our candidate wasn’t hired. When this happens, it is a good idea to ask your consultant to contact the client and ask directly.”


(All questions were gathered using Answer The Public)