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10 interview questions you should always ask your candidates

Posted on 17/06/2017 by Sophie Butler

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Interviews are designed to let you find out more about the person behind the CV; revealing their personality, level of experience and knowledge and strengths and weaknesses. While you should always include questions tailored to the individual position, the questions below work for roles across all sectors.

We’ve included a mix of questions; some of which will allow you to make sure the candidate has done their preparation and researched the role and organisation, and some will help you test their ability to think on their feet and show how they react under pressure.

1. Tell me about yourself

This is a great ice-breaker and probably the most common initial question asked in interviews. The best answers are confident and coherent – candidates should stick to their previous work experience, rather than rambling on about their personal life, and should highlight the bits that relate well to this job opportunity and your organisation.

2. What are your personal goals?

Similar to ‘where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?’, this question is less clichéd and gives a wider scope for answers not just based around career progression. It gives you an opportunity to judge a candidate’s longer term commitment and personality fit – their goals should align with your organisation’s vision to ensure a good cultural match.

3. Show me how you’d…

Competency-based questions often ask candidates about hypothetical situations likely to arise in their new role. Rather than asking them to simply describe their actions, why not try asking them to role play and act them out? The candidate may feel a bit self-conscious, but showing is generally better than telling and could give you a more accurate idea of how they will perform.

4. Tell me about a time you supported a member of your team who was struggling

This looks like a straightforward competency question, measuring their ability to work as a team, but it also gives the candidate the opportunity to show they understand how their actions fit in to the organisation as a whole.

The best answers will not only describe how they helped the team members, but also why that was important and how it had a positive impact on the organisation as a whole.

5. What past achievements are you most proud of?

This is another common interview question, and candidates should have an answer prepared. They should be able to give a concrete example that relates directly to the role and organisation. The best answers include quantifiable measures of success and should be able to relate their individual achievement to the good of the organisation as a whole.

6. What motivates you?
7. What frustrates you?

These questions are best asked in sequence and will help you to get a better understanding of the interviewee’s true aims and drives. Ideally, their motivations should match your organisation’s mission and culture and the responsibilities of the role.

Asking about a candidate’s frustrations can reveal interesting details about their personality, diplomacy skills and their ability to work as a team. The ideal candidate should talk about serious conflicts (eg over time, budgets or priorities) and how they worked to resolve those issues. A string of minor irritations can suggest that the candidate is focussed on nit-picking, rather than the whole picture.

8. When I contact your most recent referee and ask which area of your work needs the most improvement, what will I learn?

This is essentially the same question as ‘what is your biggest weakness?’ but phrased in a way that encourages a more honest answer, rather than a pre-prepared stock response.

The candidate knows the truth is going to come out once you ring the referee, so they are more likely to give you an authentic answer. Of course, they should still be able to convincingly show how they overcame or are combatting this weakness.

9. From everything you’ve learned about the role and the organisation, tell me how you feel you would contribute to our mission.

This is an excellent question for singling out the best candidates. Not only does it check that they have done their research in advance of the interview, but it also shows whether they really understand your organisation’s mission and how this role fits in with it.

Candidates who have prepared will love this opportunity to shine and demonstrate exactly how they can add value. Those who haven’t done their homework are likely to stumble and put some generic response together, allowing you to weed them out.

10. Do you have any questions for us?

Any candidate worth their salt will have at least one question prepared to ask and by asking pertinent questions, they can again show their understanding of and enthusiasm for the role.

This question is also a good way to move from the formal interview questions to a more casual conversation, which can give some really useful insights into how candidates see your organisation.

Need more help with interviewing?

Check out our previous blogs on:

How to sell your organisation to interviewees

Interview questions you should avoid (and what to ask instead)

6 common interview mistakes employers make