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Conduct interviews and choose staff

Avoid staff turnover – choose the right person for the job

On this page

  • Use our selection criteria template as a guide
  • Points to consider before planning your interview questions
  • How to set up your selection criteria
  • Questions to ask candidates during an interview
  • Learn how to conduct reference checks


Before you get started, visit our page on checking employee pay rates and conditions to make sure you know what salary level or wage you'll pay.

Setting up the selection criteria 

Use our selection criteria template we've provided below to help you make an objective decision on the most important requirements for the candidate.

Selection criteria template (DOCX 35.48 KB)DOCX icon

Reviewing job applicant resumes

Simply take the list of selection criteria you've created and begin looking through the resumes for people who have your most highly valued criteria – such as specific qualifications or experience. 

Before sitting down to plan your interview questions, ask yourself:

  1. Does this person have the skills, qualifications, attitude and experience to perform well in this job?
  2. Will they fit in with other employees and the culture of the company?
  3. Will they stay? 
  4. Do the candidate's goals match what your company can offer, and has planned? 
  5. Will there be some degree of challenge for them in the job? 

Interview format

Once you have a shortlist of potential applicants, you need to decide if you're going to have a telephone or face-to-face interview – or both.

Telephone interviews

Be prepared with a list of core questions to ask each applicant, and specific questions related to their application. Make notes during your conversations so you can review them later.

Explain to the applicant the process that you're currently conducting, and what the next step will be. For example, you'll be back in touch if you'd like to organise a face-to-face interview.

Face-to-face interviews

Be prepared for the interviews – you want to create a professional impression of your company.

Organise your candidate interviews so that you have some time in between interviews to summarise and make notes of your thoughts.  

Ensure you're familiar with anti-discrimination legislation, including the general protections legislation of the Fair Work Act 2009, which also covers adverse action against prospective employees, national privacy policy and sexual harassment legislation.

Asking the right questions

Our interview template provides a list of practical, standard interview questions. Use this as a starting point and then follow the tips to tailor a list of questions to suit your needs.

 Interview template (DOCX 36.91 KB)DOCX icon

Ask all candidates the same core questions

Asking the same questions will make it easier to compare candidates.

Help to focus the candidate

Make the candidate feel welcome and as relaxed as possible. Give the candidate an overview of the company and reason for the vacancy.

Use experience-based questions

Asking the candidate to give examples from their past will give you a better idea of what they'll do in the future.

Ask open-ended questions

You'll get more detail and insight if you use open-ended questions that begin with:

  • why
  • who
  • where
  • how
  • what
  • when
  • tell me.

For example, "Tell me about a time when you've had a difficult customer. How did you deal with the situation?"

Look for the competencies you need

Make sure the questions you ask test the competencies you need in the job, such as:

  • leadership
  • team work
  • conflict resolution
  • initiative
  • customer management.

Reference check

It's usual to contact two of the applicant's previous immediate managers or supervisors. Like the interview itself, it's worth having standard questions to ask the referee. 

Our reference checking template below provides some standard reference check questions for you to use.

Reference checking template (DOCX 34.56 KB)DOCX icon

What if the candidate has limited work experience or hasn't worked for a while?

If you're interviewing university graduates with limited work experience, school or university tutors or character referees may be useful. 
Clients, customers or previous supervisors may also be useful referee options for applicants that have been out of the workforce for a while, or have been working for themselves.

When should I check references and what should I expect?

Reference checks usually occur once you've narrowed your selection down to one or two candidates. Remember – you're obliged to get permission from the candidate to check their references.

How do I handle candidate-friendly referees?

Referees will usually not hesitate in talking about the candidate's strengths, but are often hesitant to talk about any potential weaknesses. 

One way to investigate this area is to ask questions such as "Are there any areas for improvement which you can suggest as this individual moves forward in their career?"

Check qualifications and eligibility

If the position requires specific qualifications, make sure you've inspected the relevant documents and certificates.

You should also be sure that the candidate is authorised to work in Australia. If you have any doubt, make sure you ask to see the documentary evidence before making the final decision to hire them.

Here's a tip: when you've selected a successful candidate, you may need to take copies of documents for the employee file.

Case Study: Creative staffing strategies for country businesses

'Once I had defined my (customer service standard) expectations, I knew the quality that I needed to be reflected in my staff.'
Tim Marwood, Timboon Fine Ice Cream

Read more about Creative staffing strategies for country businesses

A Timboon Fine Ice Cream mobile van serves customers