Selection / Interviewing

The Four Stages of a Successful Interview

Last updated: November 30, 2018

image of people meeting for an interview

The four stages of a successful interview

Think of an interview as a structured conversation where you and the candidate can get to know each other. As with all great conversations, that means taking the time to build rapport, ask thoughtful questions, actively listen and respond appropriately with further questions if needed. A positive interview is usually structured around the following four phases:

1. Open the interview.

2. Ask predetermined questions and take notes.

3. Provide the candidate an opportunity to ask questions

4. Close the interview.

Open the interview

You’ll want to create a comfortable, relaxed and calm interview environment so that candidates feel at ease to share information. According to this blog post on , when candidates are nervous, they are less likely to communicate effectively. One approach to help minimize nervousness is to provide interviewees with questions ahead of time.

Try the following to establish a positive interview environment:

  • Warmly greet the candidate, giving your name and position and asking the other interviewers to introduce themselves.
  • Offer the candidate water, coffee or tea.
  • Outline the interview format and the estimated time frame.

Ask the prepared questions, listen actively and take notes

  • Ask the prepared behavioural-based interview questions. If the candidate can’t think of a response to your question, give them a few minutes. If the candidate is still unable to respond after a suitable period, come back to the question at the end of the interview.
  • Encourage authentic responses by using prompts such as “Can you tell me more about that?” or “Can you be specific and explain what your role was in this situation?”
  • If the candidate doesn’t quite answer to your question, ask follow-up questions to get a more complete response so you understand the situation being discussed, what the candidate did to deal with the situation and the end result.

Here is an example of a situation where probing questions can be used:

Interviewer: “Give us an example of how you’ve participated in professional learning within your school-wide or district-wide community in your most recent position”
Candidate: “I was involved in a mentoring program for the district.”

Probing questions:

  • What was your contribution to the mentoring program?
  • What was the outcome of your work?
  • How did you benefit from your work?
  • What have you learned from your experience?


  • Take notes during the interview. These notes will provide you with the information you need to evaluate how suitable the candidate is for the position. Remember that everything in your notes can be requested by the candidate and provided as evidence in grievances. Only write down the candidate’s responses and do not record your own personal interpretations and judgements.

Answer the candidate’s questions about the position

If you haven’t already done so, describe the duties and responsibilities of the position and the other aspects of the job, such as performance expectations, working conditions, team members, compensation and benefits. Don’t forget to promote your workplace and highlight the things that set you apart. In addition to assessing the candidate, the interview is also a great opportunity to sell your organization as a desirable workplace!

Close the interview

1. Review your notes and mark any areas where you need to ask the candidate additional questions.

2. Ask any remaining questions you have, and record the candidate’s response to each one. If earlier in the interview you gave the candidate a question that they needed time to think about, ask for a response at this point and note it down.

3. Outline the next step in the selection process. Explain how you will evaluate the interview information, and tell the candidate when they can expect to hear the interview results.

4. Thank the candidate for participating in the interview and showing interest in the position and in you as an employer.

What’s next?

After you’ve interviewed all the candidates, it’s time to conduct background checks before making a selection decision.