10 Go-To Interview Questions When Hiring

Do you have a list of go-to interview questions? Questions that really help you find out who is sitting in front of you?

When you interview someone, you’re looking for more than what’s in their CV. You want to find out if they will be a good fit for your role and your team. Do they actually have the skills and experience for the position? Can they bring something new and exciting to the team? 

Basically, by the end of the interview process you want to have at least one person stand out as a “YES! That’s the one.” If it’s not a wholehearted, “YES!” then, save yourself future angst and keep looking until you find the right person for your role. The only way to really identify that great new hire is to conduct a great interview process. 

Interview Basics

Introduction

Whenever you start an interview, you will want to start slow and easy. Just like ice-breaker conversations are a good idea when meeting someone new, asking a few simple questions or making small talk in the beginning of the interview allows the candidate to relax around you. When they relax, you’ll have the best chance of really getting to see who they are and what they have to offer because it gives the candidate a chance to be their best self, rather than their most nervous self. 

Start by offering your interviewee a glass of water. Not only is it good manners, but having a sip of water can help them refresh and relax before you launch into the real questions. The beginning of an interview is a good point to talk a bit about the role and the company as well as explaining the process to manage their expectations. Once you’ve given them a few minutes to settle their nerves and become more comfortable, you’ve likely gotten a gauge on their personality a little bit. Are they engaging or giving you one-word answers? Do they seem to be relaxing or getting increasingly more nervous? 

Once you’re through this “first impression” phase, it’s time to start the heart of the interview. This is where you really find out if they are the right fit for your company.

The Main Event

It’s important to go into the interview process knowing exactly what skills and qualities you want in an ideal candidate. This should be a rubric you score every interviewee against so you have a level playing field. The same goes for your interview questions. But, don’t feel like you have to stick too closely to the script either. Your go-to interview questions should function as guides. Feel free to ask candidates to explain more or clarify their responses. Not only can this help clear up confusion but will mean the interview takes on a more conversational stye. Having some flexibility in the interview process can also avoid the monotony of pre-prepared questions and answers. You want to meet the real person, not the person they’re trying to present.

Wrapping Up

Once you’ve asked all of your questions, it’s their turn. Ask them if they have any questions for you. This part of the interview is often undervalued but it’s a great opportunity for candidates to reveal more about themselves. What do they value? Is it remuneration, flexibility, or creative freedom? Are they asking a question that you’ve already answered? 

Finally, when the interview process is over and hiring decisions have been made, let the candidates know how they went. Not only is it your professional responsibility, it offers the candidate closure on the process and you won’t burn your bridges if your chosen candidate rejects your offer or doesn’t work out.

Consistency is Key

Whenever you’re interviewing people you want to compare apples to apples. The best way to do that is to ask the same questions of all your candidates. Asking the same questions doesn’t mean you will get the same answers but does mean that you can evaluate the candidates equally.

This is why having a list of go-to interview questions can be so helpful. It gives you some benchmark questions that you know will give you immediate and useful insights into the candidate. Most importantly, these questions can be used again and again to give you consistent and reliable interview results. 

We’ve pulled together our favourite go-to interview questions below. Whether you are a seasoned vet of the recruitment game or just cutting your interview teeth, these go-to questions can quickly tell you what you need to know about a candidate.

10 Go-To Interview Questions for Applicants

10 top go-to interview questions to ask when hiring

1. What’s a “good day” for you? 

Remember you’re hiring the whole person. Not just an Automaton to go through the motions. This question lets you see what the applicant likes and what makes them happy. It can also tell you a lot about what they value and how they view themselves. 

Does a good day involve ticking things off their to-do list, meeting new people, or getting out early enough to go to the gym? Do their answers gel with the kind of person you see in the role you’re recruiting for?

2. What’s a “bad day” for you? 

On the other hand, asking a candidate what they don’t like can show you a lot about how they deal with problems. Do their biggest problems come from external or internal sources? What do they do when they’ve had a bad day?

Everyone has a bad day now and then. How they overcome problems in their life and their attitudes towards bad luck or delays can tell you a lot about how they will work in your business.

3. What kind of people do you get along with? (Who are the best people you’ve worked with?)

Most jobs require some level of team work. Knowing what personalities your interviewee likes can help you decide whether they will be a good fit with your current employees. Are they collaborative? Do they enjoy sharing with others or do they like putting their head down and socialising later?

The key is to go into the interview with a good understanding of the team they will be working with and who would fit into that existing mix. It’s not always like for like. Often, someone who can bring something new to the table is your best next hire. Check out our blog on the 5 Personality Types You Must Have on Your Team…

4. What kind of people don’t you get along with? (Who are the worst people you’ve worked with?)

Similarly, finding out what personality types this candidate clashes with is just as useful. Perhaps you have a team that is open and honest in its feedback. Would this candidate be successful in the position if they don’t get along with confrontational people?

Also, it allows you to ask how they deal with colleagues they don’t get along with. Every candidate says they are a team player. This question gets to the core of what they’re like when they don’t love everyone on the team. Will they be professional or petty? Steady the ship or make (unwelcome) waves? 

5. What is something that you’ve done at work that went well but you wouldn’t do again?

Not every single task, responsibility or project is fun. Some tasks like admin or maintenance are just jobs that have to be done. This question gives you insight into what things they don’t like doing and why.

Was that role too boring and menial (and was it beneath them)? Was it simply too taxing and drained too much energy from them? Perhaps they liked it but didn’t like the people. Whatever the reason, their answer to this question can give you an idea of how they deal with issues and the less-exciting responsibilities in the workplace. Most importantly, you’ll get a better idea of whether this job is a good fit for them. 

6. What is something you would love to do for the rest of your career?

This question asks the candidate about their passion for their job. What skills do they love using and will go out of their way to improve and develop? If an employee is passionate about something they will usually put more effort into it.

This question finds out what the applicant likes and what makes them want to do that with your company. It also helps identify their potential to develop within your organization. They may just be your junior hire today and promoted to become your new manager tomorrow.

7. What is one skill that you would like to improve and how would you do it?

Everyone hates the “what is your biggest weakness” question. We all have weaknesses but job seekers don’t like putting themselves in a vulnerable position in front of someone they’re trying to impress. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear a genuine, well thought out response to the question. More likely, you’ll hear some variant of “I’m too good at my job”. Hearing that a candidate works too hard, is a perfectionist, or is a chronic over-achiever doesn’t help you. 

By asking about a skill your interviewee wants to improve you’ll cut to the heart of what you really want to hear. Not only will it help you evaluate their drive and desire for self-improvement, but it also gives you a chance to evaluate their self-awareness.

8. What is your ideal work environment?

This question lets you know what type of worker the candidate sitting in front of you is. Do they prefer to work in silence and not be bothered by those around them? Maybe they like a more collaborative atmosphere where they can bounce ideas off their team members.

To pare this question down and get a sense of equality amongst the candidates, ask them to describe their ideal work environment in three words. Of course they can explain it further but those three words will instantly give you an idea of what they like and make it easier to compare candidates when the interviews are over.

9. Can you explain something complicated to me in a simple way?

This question – which could be about anything – gives candidates a chance to demonstrate their communication skills. The ability to comprehend a subject and then distill the important facts down so that a beginner can understand is an important one.

Sales people need to be able to explain products to customers. Team members need to be able to explain ideas and feedback to their colleagues. The best part about this question is you can let the candidate talk about something that interests them. This lets them relax and tell you something about themselves while you can genuinely test their communication abilities.

10. Why do you want to work for us?

This question doesn’t beat around the bush. If candidates answer with a generic response or with something that even a new customer would know about the brand, that doesn’t indicate a strong connection to the company. You’ll easily identify who has done their homework.

On the other hand, if the person is really passionate about the business then that will shine through their responses. There’s no faking real passion. 

Avoid “Creative” Questions

Reports occasionally come out from companies like Google and Facebook saying that they ask their candidates brainteasers. Questions that don’t relate to the position or the interview in any way to throw the applicant and see how they respond to something unusual.

The question can be anything but is usually something that whilst odd still allows room for some logical guestimates.

  • How much water would it take to fill this room?

  • How many mice would it take to equal a giraffe’s height?

  • What would you do to find a needle in a haystack? What other ways can you think of?

These questions are good for making job seekers squirm and… that’s about it. These questions don’t tell you much about them and makes candidates think that you’re trying to pull one over them. In fact, companies like Google have already phased this style of interviewing out. So, better to stick to questions that give you consistent, useful information about your applicants rather than leaving them with a negative impression.

Tips Not Scripts

The best way to think about interviews is to know that each one will be different. Every candidate will bring a unique combination of skills, experience, and personality to the interview. This will affect the way the interview goes and how you feel about them as candidates.

You don’t need to stick religiously to these go-to interview questions nor do you need to ask them all. Choose the ones that will help you identify the best candidates for your role.

Embrace the difference and individuality of the candidates but remember, consistency is the key to picking out your next hire. 

 

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