Authored by: Employment Office Shortlisting & Selection Team Leader, Amber Dique-Billete
Tell me about yourself. What are your strengths? What motivates you? It’s okay. We’ve all been there. Standard interview questions give recruiters a snapshot of the interviewee and provide insights on social and communication skills. However, in my five years as a Shortlisting and Selection Specialist, I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates and have come to discover which questions trigger the most informative responses.
If you base your hiring decision on responses to average questions, you will hire an average candidate. Asking mediocre questions helps you screen out clearly unqualified applicants, but you’re unlikely to be successful in determining the best choice for the role. In other words, you’ll be focusing on disqualifying unfit candidates, whilst neglecting your search for the best. At the other extreme, some entrepreneurial giants including Google, Apple and Amazon ask outrageous interview questions in their search for outstanding candidates. According to GlassDoor, job seekers have been blown away by questions such as ‘Have you ever stolen a pen from work?’, ‘What songs best describes your work ethic?’ and ‘How many cows are in Canada?’
Of course, such absurd interview questions reflect the innovation and creativity at the heart of these brands. Asking unexpected questions can reveal unexpected intel on candidates and provide an insight into whether the candidate is a true fit for the organisation’s culture. However, when it comes to mass recruitment, abstract questions can be difficult and time consuming for a hiring team to accurately interpret and compare. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of must-have interview questions that have stood the test of time; garden-variety questions that uncover the most valuable candidate information and eliminate the need for a never-ending list of questions.
- Why did you apply, what attracted you and what interests you about the organisation? Although this sounds basic, I get so much out of this question in terms of motivation. It helps me to quickly learn how genuinely interested a candidate is in the opportunity. It’s also my first question for almost any interview.
- What are your reasons for leaving your previous/current role? A lot of people won’t tell you why they are leaving unless you ask. So you need to ask. Sometimes they have really positive reasons like motivation for the new opportunity, and sometimes it can bring up things you really want to learn more about such as not getting along with a manager or not meeting targets…or getting fired!
- What do you envisage as the next stage of your career, and how does this opportunity fit into your plan? This will give you an idea of how aspirational a candidate is and if there are opportunities for their career development within your organisation. A candidate totally lacking ambition is unlikely to be motivated at work. On the other hand, a candidate with particular career goals may not be able to advance in their area of interest within your organisation.
- What kind of working environment or culture are you looking for? This question can reveal whether the candidate has a true understanding of the role. It can be subtle. For example, if you are recruiting a fast-paced, target-driven sales role and the candidate says they are looking for ‘stability,’ it would warrant looking more into. I ask this at the end of my main questions so the candidate has loosened up a bit and are more candid.
- Do you have any holiday booked? Again, this is simple but time and time again, hiring managers neglect this question, only to realise when it’s too late!
Asking the right interview questions is key to gaining a multi-dimensional snapshot of your candidates and thereby ensuring you make an informed hiring decision.
Editors Note: Employment Office provides revolutionary shortlisting and selection services. Our rigorous, professional selection process, delivered by my team of shortlisting experts and myself, saves you time and ensures you make the right hire.