Conducting a one-on-one interview: benefits, questions, tips

Updated 1 June 2023

Part of your managerial duties may be to hold one-on-one meetings with candidates to determine whether their skills and personality make them a good fit for the organisation and role for which they're applying. An individual interview is a good opportunity to hold a meaningful discussion and assess someone's behavioural characteristics. Learning about the benefits of these interviews, the various interview types and how to conduct them can help you prepare for individual meetings. In this article, we explain what a one-on-one interview is and how to conduct one, explore its benefits and provide example questions you may ask.

What is a one-on-one interview?

A one-on-one interview takes place when a manager or recruiter meets with a prospective candidate to learn about their personality, behavioural traits, preferences, attitudes and experiences to determine whether they may fit in with an existing team. Most organisations use this interview type during the first round of recruitment. Employers may also conduct one-on-one interviews during later stages of the recruitment process when deciding between two candidates with similar characteristics and backgrounds.

Related: Common types of interview formats and styles (With tips)

How to conduct a one-on-one interview

Learning how to conduct individual interviews can help you ensure that the people you hire have the same values and attitudes as your existing team. Here are the steps you can take to conduct this type of interview:

1. Decide which interview method to use

Organisations use several methods to interview candidates and some of them can be highly effective for individual interviews. Consider the following methods for conducting one-on-one interviews:

Behavioural interview

A behavioural interview helps you assess a candidate's reaction and behaviour in specific workplace situations. Asking situational questions helps you learn whether a candidate faced specific workplace challenges in the past. These interviews are effective for evaluating a candidate's soft skills, such as problem-solving or conflict resolution. It also shows you how confident they may be in the role.

Related: Behavioural interview questions (With example answers)

Structured interview

In a structured interview, you ask an ordered series of questions from a prepared list. This method suits occasions when you want to ask candidates mostly closed-ended questions. With a structured interview, you may find it easier to evaluate a candidate's performance using a scale. This makes this method useful when you want to conduct several individual interviews on the same day, as it helps you compare candidates' answers fairly and quickly.

Related: A practical guide to structured interviews with tips and questions

Unstructured interview

An unstructured interview encourages discussion between a candidate and the interviewer. This type of interview is more relaxed and allows you to ask open-ended questions. Using this interviewing method is beneficial when you're interviewing candidates for a highly specialised role that requires you to gain an in-depth understanding of a person's background.

Related: Structured vs unstructured vs semi-structured interviews

2. Create an assessment guide to avoid bias

An assessment guide is a scoring sheet or rating model that you can use to ensure you evaluate candidates fairly. Using this document during an individual interview reduces the risk of bias or favouring some candidates over others due to personal preferences. To create an assessment guide, focus on the role's mandatory requirements, such as the education and experience that the employer expects in candidates. You can also include a section to assess the general impressions that candidates make.

Related: What is a scoring sheet for an interview? (With template)

3. List questions you want to ask

Use the interview method as a guide to decide which questions you want to ask candidates. For example, if you're using a structured interview method, focus on questions that help you identify factual information about candidates. If you choose the unstructured method, prepare extra interview questions. You can then switch between topics more easily, according to the candidate's responses or how you want to redirect the discussion.

4. Choose the right location

Individual interviews can help you create a comfortable space for an open and honest discussion with a candidate. To emphasise that, choose the right location to conduct these interviews. Find a quiet room with few distractions. This ensures that nobody interrupts you and it helps the candidate to focus on answering your questions.

Related: How to conduct a remote interview: a step-by-step guide

5. Introduce yourself

Introduce yourself at the start of the interview. Provide factual information, such as your position and why you're conducting the interview. Additionally, you can provide facts about yourself, such as how long you've worked for the organisation. Your introduction sets the tone for the interview and shows the candidate the type of honesty you expect in their answers. As you introduce yourself, explain why it's an individual meeting and the purpose of this recruitment stage.

Related: 6 stages of an effective recruitment process

6. Prioritise your active listening skills

During an individual interview, you're the only person meeting with a candidate. Your judgement and opinion impact what happens next in the recruitment process. Prioritising your active listening skills helps you ensure you don't miss any essential information about an interviewee's experience or qualifications.

7. Ask open-ended questions

Even during a structured interview, consider including a time when you can ask more open-ended questions. For example, you could ask a candidate to discuss a specific topic or their area of expertise. You may assess how passionate and knowledgeable they are by allowing them to give you longer, in-depth answers.

Related: The differences between open-ended questions vs closed

8. Ask follow-up questions

Take notes throughout the interview. Record your thoughts or any information that the candidate provides that they hadn't included in their job application. Taking notes allows you to ask follow-up questions to learn as much as possible about a candidate.

Example questions to ask during an individual interview

An individual interview is your chance to learn about a candidate's behavioural patterns and experience with specific workplace challenges. Here are questions you may ask to decide whether they may be a good addition to the team:

  • What's your opinion on conflicts during brainstorming meetings?

  • Imagine you're working on a group project with two other colleagues. What are your priorities to help you deliver quality group work?

  • How do you hold yourself and others accountable when working towards common goals?

  • Why do you think you can be a good addition to this team or organisation?

  • The organisation decides to cut costs and it impacts your team's budget. How would you communicate bad news to your colleagues?

  • What's your favourite thing about yourself?

  • If you could change one thing about your personality, what would it be and why?

Related: Common interview questions and answers

Benefits of individual interviews

Individual interviews are helpful for both candidates and organisations for various reasons. Here's how they're beneficial:

Flexibility and stimulation

Typically, individual interviews are more flexible, as there's only one interviewer deciding which questions to ask or how to direct the discussion. For this reason, these one-on-one meetings can be stimulating for candidates who are likely to feel more comfortable when speaking to just one member of the organisation they want to join. When a candidate answers your questions passionately, you may be able to observe their personality and assess their communication style effectively.


When you're the only person conducting an interview, it's not necessary to communicate your scoresheet results to other people. This improves the efficiency of the interview process. It also allows the organisation to quickly advance to the next round of interviews.

In-depth discussion

During an individual interview, candidates may feel safer and more relaxed when expressing themselves. Consequently, they may enter into lively discussions about their interests or areas of expertise. This allows you to learn more about their personality and decide whether their opinions and qualifications align with the employer's expectations for the position.

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