Interview questions to ask your candidate
The process of interviewing a candidate can be a daunting experience. Determining the most efficient use of interview time can be difficult to do. As a representative of your company you want to ensure that the questions you ask are concise, well-structured and help you to make a decision about the candidate’s suitability for the role they’ve applied.
Ultimately, you want to find out three core pieces of information about your candidate:
- What skills and traits do they have that would make them a good fit for the role?
- How well-aligned are their values with the values of your company?
- Are they the best person for the job?
By structuring your interview questions correctly, it is possible to address all of these questions. By breaking the interview into five segments; career, current role, personality, aptitude and the future; any potential sticking points should be identified.
We’ve collated some of the best interview questions below.
“Describe the work environment that will allow you to contribute.”
This question should reveal a lot about the type of person your candidate is, it should also tell you pretty quickly if they will be a good fit for your organisation. Do they like to work alone? If your office is more of a collaborative affair, maybe this role isn’t for them.
“What single project or task would you consider your most significant career accomplishment to date? Walk me through the plan, how you managed it, how you measured its success, and what the biggest mistakes you made were.”
How the candidate approaches this question in itself will be insightful. Do they provide a well thought-out answer, speaking methodically through the process? Or are their thoughts scattered? Are they able to identify and then speak logically through the mistakes they made? Why did they consider the project to be successful? The answers may not always be what you’re expecting.
“Give me an example of something in your career that you were successful in, but wouldn’t want to do again?”
Sometimes, people are good at things they don’t enjoy. Use this question to find out what things make them uncomfortable, or are uninspiring to them. This will help your understanding of what motivates them.
“Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a major obstacle that stood in the way of you accomplishing a goal or commitment. How did you approach the situation?”
It’s important to be able to reflect and give examples of things that were challenging in your past. Most candidates will have one of these ready to discuss, but their way of telling the story will be valuable. Understanding whether they are a methodical, cautious and pre-calculating person or whether they prefer to get stuck in and try to solve a situation whilst in its midst is important. A business can thrive with the addition of both types of individual, but knowing which one you are bringing into a team is vital. If you have a team full of considerate thinkers, you may disrupt things by bringing in an immersive do-er. Alternatively though, this may be a way to shake things up.
“Tell me about a time you made a mistake”
The wording of this question may shock the candidate initially, but their ability to get a handle on the subject for discussion could show you how easily they get focused. The response to this question will be additionally useful. A good candidate will talk about how they have learned from their mistakes and overcome the issue they faced, admitted responsibility or simply asked for help. A bad candidate will pass the blame, or provide an answer that isn’t authentic just to avoid being caught out.
“If you could change one career decision, what would it be?”
Sometimes candidates fall into careers that they had not expected, and sometimes they end up in roles that are not suited to them on a personal or professional level. Candidates can also be guilty of not seizing opportunities that present themselves; and that can often lead to resentment and regret. This question aims to dig a little deeper into what led the candidate down the career path they are on. Have they job-hopped or is there a clearly defined career path? Did they end up in their career by accident or was it intentional?
“Describe the best boss you have ever had.”
What makes your candidate tick? What attributes do they like, and what attributes do they dislike? The response to this question will help you to understand what motivates your candidate, and also what they find inspiring. It will also help you to determine if this candidate will integrate successfully as part of your team, and give you an insight as to whether they will gel with your boss (or you if you are the boss!). Knowing how well a candidate responds to leadership is a key element in determining if they are suitable for a particular role.
“How would your current boss describe you and your work?”
Discussing their current boss with them may reveal a clearer picture as to their motivations for leaving, but equally how they work as part of a hierarchy. It’s normal that a candidate will only speak positively about themselves, but listen out for areas of concern such as a generic ‘perfectionist’ response or other warning signs.
“If I contacted your current boss, what would they say is your area that requires additional support?”
This question forces the candidate to think about their weaknesses, and in particular their weaknesses in the eyes of their supervisor. It also provides them the opportunity to elaborate in terms of that weakness and can provide a more sophisticated and detailed answer than the traditional “What is your biggest weakness?” line of questioning.
“So, what’s your story?”
Catching the candidate off guard is a great tactic within an interview to get a more authentic answer. By starting the ‘personality’ questioning with a direct and blunt question such as this is a fantastic way of getting them to open up. Their initial response will tell you how they are able to cope on the spot, and the information they decide to disclose and on what area of their life will allow you to judge their character and openness effectively.
“What are the three most important attributes or skills that you believe you would bring to our company if we hired you?”
A twist on the classic, “what would you say are your key strengths?” questioning, this question is usually met with a stock response that your candidate will have prepared. However, it is useful to ask this question as it can help you to further confirm their suitability for the role, and where their strongest skills lie.
“How would you describe your relationships with your favourite colleagues? What about your least favourite?”
Listening to how the candidate recollects their previous relationships with colleagues will help you to gauge how well they would work within your team, and will also highlight any issues they have working collaboratively.
“Who is the smartest person you know personally? Why?”
A candidate could answer this question in many different ways. It may be someone they have worked with, or someone who is a friend, or someone who they may like to work with in the future. This response will help you understand what attributes your candidate deems important and why they feel that makes an individual ‘smart’.
“Who is your role model, and why?”
Similarly to the previous question, the qualities pulled out by the candidate as important are more valuable than the person they select. This question will show you what type of person the candidate aspires to be.
“Pitch (name of your company) to me as if I were buying your product/service.”
A personal favourite of ours at JPS Selection, this question is a great way to gauge whether someone has a good understanding of the organisation they are looking to join. Depending on the level of skill you’d like them to demonstrate, you could give your candidate this task prior to the interview and ask them to ensure they have something prepared. This is particularly useful if your candidate will be in a client-facing or customer-facing role as it will also demonstrate their presentation style and skill.
“If you had $50,000 to build your own business, what would you do and how would you do it?”
This question allows your candidate firstly to use their creative flair, but equally to structure a response in a methodical fashion that will allow you to see how they tackle a problem or project. The type of business is not that important but the reasoning behind the decisions they make, and the level of detail that is given is very insightful. This also gives opportunity for your candidate to show how ambitious they are.
“A year from now if we were to have a meeting to discuss your time with us, what would we be celebrating?”
As a great alternative to the typical “where do you see yourself in five years” question; this question forces your candidate to think about what they may like to achieve in the role within the next year. Maybe there is a problem that they have been brought on board to fix, or maybe they will be responsible for growing a team. Regardless of which type of role they are interviewing for, being able to identify what is required from them, and explain how they would achieve it is a great way to determine if they are a suitable hire. This is also a fantastic way to make sure that the candidate has fully understood the job description, and knows what would be expected of them.
“If you got hired, loved everything about this job, and are paid the salary you asked for, what would be included in the offer that may tempt you away?”
This question shows you the bigger picture when it comes to the happiness of your team. Money is of course important, but does your candidate have a family? If so they may be tempted by another role offering more days of annual leave, or flexible working. Knowing what makes your candidate tick will help you mould the ideal benefits package for them, and keep them happy during their time with your business. The answer may surprise you.