Interview and assessments | Christian Vocations

Interview and assessments

Final selection

The final selection needs to include appropriate methods to assess the candidates, guided by the job description and person specification. Don’t just rely on one method (an interview, for example) for the final selection. There are a number of approaches that can be really helpful, such as:

  • Tests or exercises of some kind – apparently the best indicator of future performance is some kind of ability test. If the person specification says you are looking for someone who has ‘excellent written communication skills’, then test these in some way. Or, if you are looking for someone with proofreading ability, then give them a proofreading exercise to complete.
  • A presentation – if you are looking for someone who needs to be able to articulate your vision or some aspect of their work through oral presentations, then ask them to prepare a presentation.
  • Group work – if you are looking to assess interpersonal, communication and/or problem-solving skills you might wish to set an activity for a group of candidates together. This can be a good way to observe how effectively candidates are able to work in a team.
  • An interview – most job selection processes include an interview. More details about this are given below.

Note that it is best if you can measure each criteria of the person specification in more than one way, for example: A = application form, I = interview, T = test or exercise, and/or P = presentation.

Candidates who have been shortlisted should now be invited to attend the final part of the selection process.

The letter inviting candidates for final selection/interview should contain as much information as possible about what will be included:

  • Explain how long the interview will last and who the members of the panel will be.
  • Advise them what kind of other test(s) will be involved and the timings.
  • If you wish candidates to prepare a presentation, give clear guidance in terms of subject matter, length, audio visuals or handouts required (or not), and what technology will be available.
  • If you are going to require group work of some kind do let candidates know what this will involve.
  • Send all applicants another copy of the job description and the person specification – just to ensure they all have these to hand.
  • You should make it clear whether you will pay reasonable travel expenses for attending.
  • Do let candidates know how you will manage this final selection process and how the selection panel will reach their decision on who to appoint.  

Discrimination alert

  • You must ask whether a candidate needs any ‘reasonable adjustments’ for the interview / final selection process, and you must consider making them. (The duty is to make adjustments that are reasonable. What is reasonable is dependent on factors such as the size of the organisation / church and the disruption likely to be caused by making the adjustment. It may not always be possible or reasonable to implement the necessary adjustments.) For example:
    • A candidate who is a wheelchair user will need an accessible room
    • A candidate with a hearing impairment may need to be able to see all members of the panel clearly so they can lip read
    • A candidate with dyslexia should be given extra time to complete certain tests
The interview – some guidelines
  • It is better for interviews to be handled by more than one person in order to prevent inadvertent or unconscious favouritism.
  • If at all possible, provide the opportunity for those involved in interviewing to get some training – it has been shown that the outcomes of interviews are much more reliable when the interviewer(s) have had training.
  • Follow a structured interview to help you score and compare candidates fairly - plan the questions carefully beforehand, ask all candidates the same questions, and use a standard scoring system for the answers.
  • Prepare the questions using the person specification and job description so that you can draw out and focus on the skills, qualities, knowledge and experience essential to the role.
  • However, don’t be too rigid! You may find you have to probe further with some candidates to get enough information, so do allow freedom to ask follow-up questions if needed. But to prevent interviewees being asked vastly different questions, think through the types of follow-up questions that would be most appropriate.
  • As past behaviour is one of the best predictors of future behaviour, ask your questions so that candidates describe things they have actually done or said in a previous situation, and the outcome of their actions. ‘Tell us about a time when...’ can be used to draw out previous actions or responses.
  • Avoid closed questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Use ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘why’ or ‘how’ to frame more open questions. 
  • Choose a scoring system that works with the detail you are looking for e.g. from 0 to 3 or from 0 to 10 depending on how detailed you wish to be.
  • Explain clearly what each score means so that those interviewing are sure of what they are looking for (for example: 0 - fails to meet criteria, 1 - partly meets criteria, 2 - meets criteria, 3 - exceeds criteria). 
  • Some questions in the interview are more important than others, so, if you wish to, use a weighting to reflect their importance (e.g. x2 or x3).
  • Plan the interview so that the candidates do most of the talking.
  • Listen well and make brief notes.
  • Ensure interviewers are aware of relevant UK employment law.
  • Interviews are not just opportunities to learn more about candidates; they are also opportunities to build rapport, and to help candidates learn more about the job and your organisation / church. Use the interview to talk positively about your organisation, but don’t just talk about the positive aspects of the job – mention the boring or challenging bits as well! When candidates have a realistic understanding of the role, their expectations are more likely to be met and they are more likely to stay.
  • At the end of the interview, allow time for candidates to ask any questions of their own and to raise any issues that are important to them.
  • Finally, let candidates know what will happen next and when they can expect to hear from you regarding the outcome.
  • Note: be careful that you don't give too much weight to the interview part of the process - it should be used alongside all the other elements to gain evidence for specific criteria, rather than being the 'final judgement' on the candidates.
Making a decision
  • Being systematic in marking the candidates at the interview and in the tests will stand you in good stead when making decisions.
  • As soon as possible after the final selection process those involved need to tally their individual scores for each candidate and make clear any notes they have made. Ensure all the evidence gained by the different methods is appropriately scored and brought together.
  • Each member of the selection panel should rate the candidates in order of their score tallies (highest to lowest), remembering to make a note at this stage if candidates have low scores in any significant areas. 
  • All those on the panel should then meet together for a ‘wash-up meeting’ to discuss their scores and any associated notes.
  • Work out which candidate has the highest score overall and make a decision on the successful candidate based on all your findings.
  • Where there is a noticeable difference in the scores reached, the panel should discuss each in turn giving the reasons for their scoring, and come to a joint decision about who to offer the job to in the light of the reasons given.
  • It is also helpful to rate the rest of the candidates in descending order so that you have a reserve in case the first candidate decides not to accept the job.
  • Keep a record of all the score sheets as evidence of how each member of the selection panel marked the candidates. This information is important and useful to enable your church / organisation to show that decisions have been made fairly. It also enables you to give feedback to unsuccessful candidates as to why and where they did - and did not - perform so well, and will be valuable if an unsuccessful candidate challenges the selection panel’s decision.
  • Make brief notes of the 'wash-up meeting' including notes on initial score comparisons, further score discussions (if undertaken), and any other points of discussion concerning the candidates and reasons for your final decisions. Make brief notes for feedback to unsuccessful candidates on their performance in the different parts of the process if requested by them.
  • Keep all records and notes relating to the recruitment and selection process in case of query for a reasonable length of time using Data Protection legislation as your guide.
  • When contacting candidates about the outcome of the final selection (more on that in the next section), be ready to offer feedback to unsuccessful candidates. Ensure you are well prepared, be clear and fair about what you want to say, and offer constructive suggestions for what can be improved.

Discrimination alert

  • Your reasons for appointing or not appointing a candidate must be fair under Equality Law. If not, they could be challenged.
  • Using standardised questions and scoring systems for all candidates is the best way to demonstrate that they are all evaluated the same way. In addition, research has shown that having standard interview questions has a huge positive effect on interview ratings. 
  • Do not ask personal questions that might be considered discriminatory, such as “Are you planning to start a family in the near future?” ”Aren’t you possibly a little old to cope with this job?” “Will the hours of the job clash with your family commitments?” or “Don’t you think it would be difficult to do this job with your disability?”
  • Avoid asking health-related questions unless they are clearly linked to the candidates ability to carry out something essential to the role, are related to taking positive action to help someone with a disability, or to check that the candidate has a disability if this is a genuine requirement of the job.
  • Generally, questions directly about any of the protected characteristics (unless there is an ‘occupational requirement’ attached to the role) will be problematic, but questions that ask about a job requirement may relate to a characteristic and be acceptable, such as “Are there any adjustments we would need to make to accommodate your disability so that you can carry out XXXX function of the job?”
  • If there are specific physical or medical requirements for the job this should be made clear in the job advert or other literature. Otherwise, it is unlawful to ask candidates medical questions or to require them to complete a medical questionnaire before offering a job.
  • Avoid asking for personal views on issues irrelevant to the job.

Helpful resources - including 'The 13 fatal errors of interviewing' and guidance for making good decisions.