Running a first round interview - Juggle Jobs

Running a first round interview

You’ve decided to interview someone based on the strength of their CV. Below is a guide on how to structure your thinking around this first interview with some example questions to ask too.

What is the purpose?

It’s easy to go straight into interview mode, particularly when it’s a buyer’s market and the economy is down. You don’t want to waste time.

For experienced hires (any hires really) this is a two way street and the standout companies are those that treat the entire process as such. Not interviewing someone until the last minute and then running off before they have time to ask questions, or grilling someone on their experience before a potential fit has been established. 

The purpose of this first round interview is to assess of course, but it’s also about communicating your vision for the company and role. 

What is the optimum length?

30 minutes is perfectly sufficient and can be done on the phone or a video call (video on or off is fine). 

A little tip here – schedule in your diary for 45 minutes (10 minutes before and 5 minutes afterwards). It allows you to prepare and reflect properly.


Once you’re on the call and have exchanged (brief) pleasantries, it’s time to get into it. You have read their CV so no doubt have some pre-prepared questions but for now you want to know:

What is their situation – why are they interested in speaking about this position today? 

This combines two things you want to know. Why they are leaving or have left their current position and why they are interested in speaking to you. If the answer is generic then you know almost immediately that this person isn’t right for your business. 

Is it ever OK to just cut an interview short at this point? 

There are mixed schools of thought here. The first is absolutely yes, your time is precious. The second is absolutely no, it’s terrible for brand. We at Juggle subscribe to the first but it has to be communicated properly. It requires maturity, kindness, clarity. A combination within communication style which most lack. If you don’t have that combination then allowing the interview to continue a little further for that person’s dignity is no bad thing. Example:

“My current company has fired everyone and you were advertising”. Clearly they’re not even really trying here, but digest this for a second, it’s quite a self sabotage thing to say. You’d be well within your rights to cut the interview short OR you could answer:

“It’s very important to us that people have a clear idea of why they’d like to join us. It means we’re hiring people who are committed to going above and beyond, and we in return will look after them very well. Let me give you a minute to think about that again”

The person then can take ownership for the fact they are underprepared and don’t have a clear reason. In which case, you’ve all saved a lot of time. Or more often than not, they’ll come back with a much clearer response and have skin in the game with the process now.

Once you have the clarity of the answer:

What are you looking for in your next role – what’s important to you?

Push for specifics here if people are giving generic answers. It doesn’t matter if this feels uncomfortable – you need to really understand what they want and understand whether it matches up to what’s on offer here.

Normally these two questions take less than a couple of minutes to run through so now you want them to talk through their background. A lot of people skip this, particularly with professionals who are super experienced. But understanding someone’s origin story is very important as you get a sense of how they communicate, how vulnerable they’re willing to be, which environments they’ve done well and less well in. This is tough because you’ll be actively listening but also don’t want this going on longer than 10-15 minutes – give them that timeline upfront. It means you’ll have a few minutes to ask the pre prepared questions you had from reading their CV. Keep these questions simple rather than digging into achievements in more detail – that comes later. 

Next it’s time to flip it over and for you to talk through you, the company and the role. Which should leave just over 5 minutes for questions and briefing on next steps.

What has this achieved?

You understand their needs, situation and story. Now it’s time to test their skill-set in more detail and because you’ve spent time with them briefing them on the opportunity respectfully, they’re far more likely to be tested.