Advice on employing and managing people

As a growing business and employer, how can you be sure you're recruiting the right person for your team? Read our great advice on what questions you should ask - and avoid - to help get it right first time.

Interview questions employers should ask and avoid

16 November 2015

As your business grows, one of the most important decisions you will make is likely to be who to hire into your team. Getting it right can be difficult, but asking effective questions at interview can help ensure you recruit the right person for your business.

You’ll no doubt want to ask many interview questions relating specifically to their experience and expertise, but it’s just as important to examine the softer skills that they can bring to your team.

Remember: apart from some exceptions around discrimination (which we cover later in this article), there are no 'right' or 'wrong' interview questions.

Great interview questions to ask potential job candidates

Here are some great suggestions that could give you the extra insights you need to choose the right candidate for your business:

"What do you know about the company and why does it appeal to you?"

Not only is it a straightforward question that will help relax the candidate, it will also tell you a lot about the preparation and research they have done, as well as finding out if their goals and ambitions match those of your business.

'Red flags' here include little or no research, researching the wrong company/role (it does happen!) and little or no idea as to why they have applied. Strong answers include thorough research and a clear picture of how it ties in with their own goals and ambitions.

"What are you like on a bad day?"

Everyone has good days and bad days at work. How we handle the challenges tells us a lot more about someone than how they react when things have gone well.

Ideally you want to hear an acknowledgement of their weaknesses and ways in which they cope. This is a sign of Emotional Intelligence – a key skill in the modern work environment.

"What was it like when you left your previous company?"

This is one of the questions that often gives some of the richest insights. A lavish party indicates they built strong relationships with colleagues, whilst a muted exit may show that they failed to relate.

"What has been your proudest professional moment?"

This is a great question that allows you to find out what makes the candidate tick. Follow it up with questions about who else was involved, and how they ensured they got the right outcome. This will really shine a light on how they approach their work.

What employers can do to get the most out of the interview

Make sure you give the candidate an honest and accurate appraisal of the role and the company. One of the main reasons people leave a job is because it wasn’t what they expected. Although you may be tempted to tell them that it’s a laugh a minute and everyone is best friends, if it isn’t true they won’t hang around for long!

Allow the candidate to ask you questions as well. If all they ask is about salary and holidays then beware! Ideally you want to see questions that show some real thought has gone into the role, for example how their performance will be managed, what success looks like, etc.

Whilst there is no sure fire way of ensuring you will hire the right person, by focussing on the key skills needed for the role as well as ensuring their goals align with your own, you will dramatically increase your chances of success.

Finally - a couple of things to remember when interviewing job candidates:

  • Focus on asking interview questions that will give you insight you can use, and be aware of legal requirements. Avoid asking questions relating to any of the protected characteristics from The Equality Acts of 1998 and 2004, namely: gender, marital status, race, age, disability, family status, sexual orientation, religion or membership of the travelling community.
  • Ensure you make notes throughout so you can refer back afterwards.
  • Give honest feedback! If they are not right for your business then tell them. They may not want to hear it, but getting an honest answer will help them in the long run.

About the author

Andrew McFetrich

Andrew is the Senior Recruiter for Sage across UK and Ireland. He has over 12 years’ experience in recruiting across a variety of businesses, from start-ups to international corporate organisations.

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