I've been fortunate enough to be able to attend a couple of seminars on recruitment fairly recently; one internal and one organised by BIALL. As something of a novice when it comes to interviewing and the recruitment process in general (or at least, a novice when it comes to being on the other side of the table!), I found both of these sessions were excellent primers on the topic.
Having discussed a number of specimen CVs as a group, role play was then introduced in the internal session: in pairs, one person was the interviewer and the other a candidate for a specified role. The interviewer, having looked at the candidate's CV, had to ask a number of questions to simulate a real-life interview. I have to admit I found it a very unfamiliar concept when playing the role of the interviewer - it was strange to be asking the probing questions instead of answering them! It's also easy to get hung up on things that are on the CV, but actually aren't relevant to this particular role, or point of time in the candidate's life, so you have to be careful not to pre-judge a candidate, perhaps because of a career choice some years ago.
In both sessions we talked about how it's necessary to make a decision regarding how flexible you will be on the requirements for the role. For example, would you be willing to overlook the fact that someone didn't have the same kind of experience as the role being applied for, but displayed sufficient qualities to convince you that they would have the capacity to get to grips with the role quickly and effectively? The importance of 'culture fit', as well as having the relevant skills/qualifications, cannot be undermined. As an interviewer, you have to consider how the interviewee would fit in with all of the personalities in the team - not just your own! What would they bring to the team in this respect?
Working for a law firm, for me, definitely means that I tend to find the legal implications of any given situation particularly interesting (sad but alas true...), so it was very enlightening to consider the potential pitfalls involved in the typical interview setup. The importance of taking adequate notes during the interview was stressed in both sessions. These notes are then kept for a period of time following the interview, and not only means, of course, that you will be able to remember which candidate was which, but also forms evidence that the interview was conducted fairly and in a consistent manner to the others.
Another point that was debated at both sessions was how far the interviewer is allowed to go before small talk/icebreakers could be construed later on as discriminatory comments. Some felt that, for example, remarking on a candidate's regional accent is a good way of starting to put them at ease; however others felt that this kind of remark is unwise, as it could be used against the interviewer later on - i.e. an innocent remark about someone's accent could be used in building up evidence of a discriminatory claim based on where that candidate is from. Although I can't speak as an interviewer, I can speak from my own experiences as a candidate who has been for several interviews over the years - and I have to admit, I always found comments of this kind to be very welcome, as they definitely make me feel more comfortable with the interviewer(s). That having been said, there is no harm in being aware of what you say to an interviewee in order to avoid any confusion down the line.
Overall both of the sessions I attended really gave me a lot to think about and were an excellent introduction to the various things you need to consider when it comes to recruiting and interviewing staff. It's definitely something that I would like to put into practice further down the line, especially as I get the impression that hands-on experience on the other side of the desk is the best way to develop an effective interviewing style - and more importantly, one with which you are comfortable.