What are interview guides? (Definition and benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're preparing to conduct an interview, it's important to think about how to structure the conversation with the interviewee. Interviewing guides are useful in providing the basic framework of an interview, regardless of the type of interview you're conducting. Having an interview guide can help save a lot of time during the interview because you can know what you want to discuss and prepare accordingly. In this article, we discuss what interview guides are, explain why they're important and provide some tips on what to include in your interview guide.

What are interview guides?

Interview guides outline topics and questions that an interviewer intends to cover during a meeting with a job applicant or other industry candidate. Interview guidelines are valuable tools for ensuring consistency and purpose throughout an interview. They can vary from highly planned interviews to more casual interactions in a relaxed setting. Although they differ in content, these documents act as a guide to summarise the topics employers would like to discuss, the questions they intend to ask and the order they wish to ask them.

The guide can also contain questions and discussion points for concluding the interview and how to follow up with successful candidates. Within an interview guide, it's essential to consider sections on the opportunity to interview, preparing for the interview, welcoming the applicant, the questions, the conclusion of the interview and the candidate's rating.

Related: A guide on how to ace an interview (with tips and examples)

Why are interview guides important?

Using an interview guide is a wise approach that can guarantee interviewers treat all candidates equally throughout the interview process. It's also a helpful tool for establishing structure during interviews and making it simpler to analyse and score each candidate. These guides are crucial when conducting interviews because they can help you structure your questions, plan out how to ask the interviewee questions and create an outline for a follow-up interview.

There are several other reasons why interview guidelines might be useful tools. Some of these reasons can include:

1. Maintaining consistency across several interviewers

Interviewing guides are especially useful for ensuring that your questions remain similar over several interviews. As part of the process of creating your interview guide, you can create an outline that you're able to use for each interview you perform. Additionally, regardless of the interviewee's history or attitude, a good interview guide provides you with a way of objectively evaluating the information that each interviewee provides throughout the interview.

2. Preparing for multi-level interview questions

Use your interview guide to assist you in developing a strategy for the various levels of questions to ask. Consider structuring your interview guide to begin with broad questions about interests or hobbies and progress to more industry-based and skill-related enquiries as the discussion progresses. Calmly conducting the interview and promoting open communication allows the interviewee to feel more secure and comfortable as the interview proceeds, helping the candidate perform well.

3. Giving applicants the opportunity to provide more thorough input

Using an interview guide is beneficial because it offers you an organised method of providing feedback and gaining a better insight into the interviewee's character, experience and expertise. If necessary, you can use sections of your interview guide for writing down important details. You can also raise the points you wish to address with the interviewee later in the interview.

What information do you include in an interview guide?

Regardless of who you're interviewing or why you have an interview, there are certain crucial features that interview guidelines suggest. These guidelines can help you create your outline and prepare for the interview. You may consider including the following in your interview preparation materials:

Related: Interviewing techniques and tips to make a great impression

1. Include topics to discuss with the interviewee

Before you begin drafting your interview guide, draw up a list of the subjects you want to cover during the interview. Plan your interview questions around topics such as your interviewee's career history, experience, education, achievements, qualifications or any other job-related information that could be helpful when making your decision. Also, you can include details about their interests and hobbies in your guide as a separate section.

2. Ask questions about the interviewee's background

Consider including a few preliminary discussion questions that might serve as conversation starters. First, ask about the interviewee's background, ambitions and other relevant topics. This can provide you with valuable information into the interviewee's mindset, character and previous knowledge and experiences.

3. Ask questions related to the sector or industry

While you're putting together the broad background questions to ask, think about creating a few structured and industry-specific enquiries. For example, plan to ask questions that reveal the interviewee's experience in a particular field, how long they've been studying and working in their sector and other specific questions that reveal the interviewee's qualifications and experience, such as how long they've worked or studied in their discipline.

Before asking these sorts of questions, it's important to think about what you're looking for in a response. Whenever an employer enquires about an applicant's work experience, they're often searching for a certain amount of time, skills or abilities that show that a candidate appears to be a good fit for the position.

4. Include a strategy for starting a follow-up conversation with the interviewee

You can also provide a plan for how you intend to arrange a follow-up or contact successful candidates again if it's appropriate for the type of interview you're doing. Before a job interview, establish a list of the necessary actions the interviewee may do, and when conducting research or other sorts of interviews, ask the interviewee about any future communication.

This encourages the interviewee to prolong your conversation and develop a connection with you. It's good practice to provide applicants with a precise timetable for when they can expect to hear back from you after a job interview.

5. Leave a section for taking notes

It's beneficial to leave a reasonable amount of space between each question you ask and each subject you wish to address with the interviewee. You can use this space for making notes and writing specific comments to bring up during the interview process.

Consider the scenario where you're interviewing someone about their qualifications, and they offer an example of a unique credential or area of success. It's a good idea to use your interview guide to write a brief note and follow up on the issue later. You can also use the area to note your thoughts on their responses to your queries. Consequently, you're more likely to remember the crucial facts and details to follow up on later.

6. Score or rate the interviewee's answers

After the interview has concluded and the applicants have left the premises, it's time to rate their answers. Focus on rating the applicants' overall performance on each of your questions. Fill in these ratings as soon as possible while the interview and the applicants' responses are still fresh in your mind. This can also help you compare ratings and responses at a later date.

Consider the types of questions you asked while scoring or rating the interviewees, including those about suitability for the job and the business. While the former are questions that can help assess how qualified a candidate is for fulfilling the job duties, the latter questions relate to how well a candidate would fit in at the company. It's important to rank the applicants who scored well in these sorts of questions highly.

Related: 12 important interview skills and how to improve them

Helpful tips for using interviewing guides

Sometimes, the interviewee might say something you're not expecting, tell you about an unusual qualification or work experience or give a vague reply. It's important to leave opportunities for spontaneous conversation or sharing common interests, even if it may mean deviating from your intended interview guide to some degree. It's always possible to focus the questions back on the structured interview guidelines if you move too far away from them.

You can prepare a list of generic discussion openers to use during the interview, such as questions about the interviewee's interests and passions. It's also a good idea to share your interests with the interviewee. Sharing your interests can help develop your relationship with the candidate and provide an immediate opportunity to get to know each other better.

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