10 Interview Questions To Ask Candidates
Our Top Picks
Leigh Gillatt • Recruitment Articles
10 INTERVIEW QUESTIONS TO ASK CANDIDATES
Most of your job applicants will be silently wondering what sort of questions you’ll be asking them in their interview. However, they might not know that you may be wondering the same thing!
The purpose of interview questions is to unearth the nature of the person behind the CV. You’re looking to discover their strengths, weaknesses, experience, abilities, personality and skills.
It’s certainly true that there will be particular questions that you will need to ask in relation to your specific industry. However, there are at least ten that we believe work across different sectors and industries:
Our top picks for the 10 interview questions to ask candidates are:
- Why should we hire you?
- What motivates you?
- Tell me how you would contribute to this role and our company
- How would you describe the relationships you’ve had with your colleagues. Explain the best ones to me, and also the worst ones
- Briefly explain something to me that’s complex, but which you understand well?
- Tell me about an occasion when you made a mistake
- Describe your greatest achievement in the last 12 months and why it was the best?
- What is your ideal position and why?
- Why Are You Leaving Your Current Employer?
- Why do you want this job?
Let’s dive into each of these questions in more detail and answer why they should be asked…
1. Why should we hire you?
You will likely be interviewing many different candidates, so it’s important to identify the skills and qualities which distinguish this particular candidate from their peers.
With that pile of CVs in front of you, the answers here will certainly help you identify the ideal choice. It should be clear who this person is as they explain their industry credentials, education, personal experience, and interests. Make notes on what particularly stood out in their answers, and what impressed you the most.
2. What motivates you?
It’s important to ascertain the drivers behind a candidate’s work ethic. Are they motivated primarily by making sales through commission, for instance? Are they looking for training and development in their chosen career path?
The crucial thing is to identify whether the interviewee’s motivations match the culture of your company. If there is a mutual fit, then you are more than likely onto a winner.
3. Tell me how you would contribute to this role and our company
With this question, you’re essentially looking to divide your candidates into one of two types: "also-rans", and ‘contenders’.
The people who stumble through the interview and provide generic responses, those are the “also-rans”. They’re not the ones you want. On the other hand, “contenders” will be very well prepared, and will relish the chance to stand out and exhibit their skills and experience. They will have done their homework well, and will be a pleasure to interview.
4. How would you describe the relationships you’ve had with your colleagues. Explain the best ones to me, and also the worst ones
It’s important that you’re confident that this candidate will flourish in your team. Will they be liked and well-received?
What they say in response to this question will tell you how they interact with colleagues, and which interactions they desire with your team. Listen well to their answers about their worst work relationships, as most people are reluctant to speak negatively about their boss or colleagues.
5. Briefly explain something to me that’s complex, but which you understand well?
Here, you’re trying to examine two things in a candidate. First, their charisma and passion. If a person is knowledgeable and passionate about something, then they are more likely to exhibit enthusiasm, charisma, and influence in the workplace.
Second, their answer will demonstrate how well they understand complicated subjects or concepts, as well as their communication skills. Explaining something complex in simple terms is a valuable skill, one that you will need them to possess.
6. Tell me about an occasion when you made a mistake
Self-awareness is a crucial quality in a good candidate. They should see this question coming and be well prepared for it. If someone can take ownership of their mistakes, and learn from it, then this is usually an indication of someone being both mindful and humble.
If the applicant gives a lame mistake (e.g. “I burned out after working too hard”) or they blame others for their occurrence, then consider those as red flags.
7. Describe your greatest achievement in the last 12 months and why it was the best?
The candidate’s answer to this question will tell you which part of their work they place the highest value in.
Do they consider a particularly big sale their biggest achievement?
Is it rather that they managed a particular project very well?
You can then compare and contrast their stated achievements with what your company considers as “achievement” to ensure there is a good fit.
8. What is your ideal position and why?
This question offers the candidate an opportunity to share what they see as their most valued skills, whether they are technical skills and/or soft skills, and to indicate if they understand what type of position would be a ‘best fit’ for them. It also gives the you the opportunity to see how closely aligned the candidate is with the duties and responsibilities of the vacancy you’re interviewing for.
Trust me when I say that over the years of conducting interviews here at Diverse Employment, there have been many times when a candidate will describe their best-fit position, and we discover that it does not align with the position they are interviewing for.
Skills-unearthing questions like this, can provide opportunities to learn more about a candidate beyond the actual ability to perform the required role on offer. It also provides an insight into the candidates self-awareness with their own skill’s strengths and weaknesses.
9. Why Are You Leaving Your Current Employer?
And there it is, ‘the question’ that every job seeker dreads to be asked. Nobody wants to seem like they’re bad-mouthing a previous boss or employer (and of course they shouldn’t if they want to maintain professional), which makes this an über tricky question for applicants to answer.
However, asking this question will give you some greater insight into a candidate’s career to date and help you to identify any possible ‘red flags’ that might point out that they’re just not the best fit for the job on offer.
10. Why do you want this job?
It might seem like a formality to ask this, but I'm afraid you’d be wrong. It’s important to unearth their motivations for leaving their current employment and apply to your opportunity.
For instance, are they a particularly skilled manager who is attracted to the pay and benefits in you role?
Are they drawn rather to the culture of your company?
Are they excited by the opportunities for training, development, and career progression within your business?
Could it be something as simple as geography - i.e. your offices are closer to home than their current office, making their commune easier and less expensive?
Not only will this help you identify the right candidate to hire, it will also inform your candidate retention strategy going forward.
For instance, if they’re motivated by financial reward, then you will need to bear that in mind and put appropriate measures in place if you want to keep them on-board in the months and years ahead.
While the job seeker is far more on the nerve-wracking end of the table, job interviews are enough to cause some anxiety in you, the interviewer, as well. You want to make sure you're asking the right questions to really hone in on the best candidate for the vacancy on offer.
We know there are loads of interviewer tips articles and guides out there, but by having some handy prompts in your back pocket that you can use to get the most valuable information out of that short conversation, can be a great method for finding the best talent for your role.
So, remember these 10 interview questions to ask, and you’re that much more likely to find the perfect fit.