How to set up a simple three-step interview process to hire better people, faster

lim-hsien-yao-lrgWorking as an internal recruiter for a fast growing tech start up in Singapore has taught Lim Hsien Yao, Associate Director, B2B Commerce, en world Singapore, a thing or two about how to interview and hire great people at scale.


“In two years we grew the APAC team from 35 people to over 1800. When you are onboarding talent at that rate, you need a scaleable and consistent process that enables you to move through the process quickly and effectively. Now I am working on the agency side, I’ve been surprised to see that many client companies lack the necessary structure to support their recruitment process. These inefficiencies mean that managers are spending too much time recruiting when they should be focused on developing business through their talent.”

Yao shares his top tips for a simple three-step interview process to hire better people, faster.


Before the interviews begin, you need to set the following expectations within the organisation:
1. A clearly documented decision making process – who gets to say whether the candidate moves forward?
2. Each interviewer knows the scope of their role and the expected output of their interview

Step 1. Screening Interview

Expected Output: does the candidate’s background truly fit the expectations for the role?
Interviewer: Lead recruiter
Interview Time: 1 hour


This screening interview is all about drilling down on the background and the details that make up the resume. Ideally run by the lead internal recruiter but occasionally outsourced to a junior candidate sourcer, this interview should not take less than an hour. Many interviewers decide in five minutes, based on first impressions, whether the candidate will go through to the next round. However, it is important that we question our initial bias and go through the whole process with each candidate. You may be surprised by what comes out later on in the meeting after the candidates initial nerves have passed.

From a compliance and consistency perspective, spending the full hour with the candidate means that you go through all of your interview questions with them. You then have a full set of comparable data points that you can feed back to you internal sourcer or your recruitment agency.

From an employer brand perspective, it also makes sense to respect the candidate who has expressed an interest in your firm. Giving them a fair chance to “sell” themselves to you makes for a better candidate experience and less chance of being lambasted on Glassdoor!

Step 2: Technical Interview

Expected Output: does the candidate have the technical competency for the role?
Interviewer: Hiring Manager
Interview Time: 1 to 2 hours


The focus is now on understanding how the candidate will react in a high-pressure situation. This is where you bring out your simulation exercises, case studies and analytical activities relevant for the role. Whilst there are no right answers, the hiring manager will be able to see how their potential employee deals with complex information, what their problem solving style is and will have a clear understanding of capability.

The hiring manager usually wants to cover more ground with the candidate but it is important that they trust the process and stay focused. Other people in the organisation will be completing other areas of the profile assessment. Hiring managers need to stay on topic. This will make the candidate feel that each part of the interview process covers new ground and shows clear communication within your organisation.

Step 3: Cultural Interviewer

Expected Output: does the candidate fit our culture?
Interviewer: cross functional, senior “Culture Keeper” – possibly a panel
Interview Time: 1 hour


We all have them in our organisation: certain individuals who live and breathe the company values. It is essential that you get these people involved in the recruitment process. They should also be part of the hiring decision. With a clear focus on macro cultural fit from a team outsider perspective, you can evaluate not only the “what” but the “how” of the candidate’s approach. Will they be someone who will raise the bar and support others? Alternatively, will they be someone who will create a toxic workplace environment?


It is common to get a lot of pushback from line managers on this type of process: “Oh we only need to do one interview for a junior role” or “Sorry I can’t spend more than 45 minutes with this candidate”. However, in order to add real value to the hiring process, HR really needs to drive this type of structure. A consistent process with equivalent data points allows the organisation to review and measure what leads to a long-term successful hire.
When emotions rather than data lead the hiring decision, it becomes easier to make snap judgments. A well-choreographed interview process is essential to hiring the right talent for your team.

To find out more about how en world can support your recruitment activity in Singapore, contact us at or on +65-6420-0570.