How to Avoid a Bad Candidate Interview

How to Avoid a Bad Candidate Interview

13 Dec 12:00 by Gabby Symons


The face-to-face interview is considered the most important element of the hiring process, and we would tend to agree. But what happens when a candidate doesn’t meet the expectations you have from their CV? There are a number of reasons why a candidate might fail to shine in an interview – nerves can get the better of them, or perhaps they struggle to articulate answers to your questions.

So, how do you know when to dig past these interview-based issues and when the individual is simply not the right fit for your business? It’s a tough one for sure, but here are our top tips for bringing out the best in your Retail candidate so you can make an informed hiring decision.

Tailor and Set the Tone

We all know that individual candidates will react to the hiring process differently and some will be more nervous than others – but this isn’t necessarily a reflection on the candidate, their skills or their potential fit within the company. In fact, we’ve often seen it as a sign of how much they want to work with your organisation their enthusiasm for the role.

As the interviewer, it’s important to try to make the candidate feel as comfortable as possible. There’s no point in creating a fear-based environment where candidates will freeze up or become overwhelmed – let’s not forget this is a candidate-driven market, so you’re being interviewed here as much as they are.

Our advice is to help them prepare as much as possible for the interview by telling them what to expect, who will be interviewing them and how they can prepare. With many jobseekers now relying on review sites such as Glassdoor, it is important to remember that how you treat candidates during the hiring process could end up in a public forum.

On the day of the interview, try to put them at ease immediately with light, personable questions and small talk to help settle any nerves. Ease in with some of the more straightforward questions about their job history, before moving on to more complex behavioural questions. Candidates quite often mirror the tone and pace of the interviewer, so ensure you speak in a calm, measured manner that will help them respond in a similar way. It might sound basic, but it’s true!

Ask the Right Questions

If you find candidates struggling to perform well during interviews, it might be worth reviewing the type of questions you are asking. Yes, you are trying to filter the market to find the best Retail talent available, but try to keep things positive and exploratory. We understand you might want to get an idea of how the candidate performs under pressure, but try to avoid ‘curveball’ questions that are designed specifically to test or trip up the candidate – you won’t be doing yourself any favours.

Instead, base your questions on the competencies outlined in the position description. This means tailoring a specific set of questions for each role, although it’s fine to keep in some standard questions around motivation and cultural fit. Keep the same set of questions for each candidate in the hiring process to avoid any bias.

Look at the Bigger Picture

The thing to remember is you are looking for someone who can perform the role, not necessarily perform in an interview. The face-to-face interview is just one part of the hiring process and while it is often considered the weightiest, it’s not always the best indication of how the candidate will operate in the role or fit within your organisation.

Cover letters and CVs provide a candidate with the opportunity to present their work history and capabilities in a measured way. At the other end of the process, reference checks offer the chance to speak to people who know the candidate best and can provide details and examples from their performance.


Changing jobs is a stressful process and it’s not unusual for there to be the odd red flag when interviewing a candidate. By following these interview tips, you should be able to design an interview format that allows the candidate to demonstrate their experience and capabilities effectively, without too much pressure. If things aren’t working, a few tweaks to your tone and style can help bring out the true abilities of a nervous candidate and rescue a bad interview.

However, if you have tried all of these techniques and the candidate is still falling short, it might be time to face the fact that they aren’t the right fit for your organisation.

For more advice on hiring the ideal candidates for your business, speak to our team of retail recruitment specialists today.