The best interview questions to ask a candidate

You’ve gone through the shortlisting process and have your selected candidates lined up for interview. Now you’re on the home straight, this must be the easy bit, right?

So, how can you make sure you are getting the best insight into your candidates to make the correct decision on who is the right person for the job?

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One of the key messages here is to be consistent with all your interviews to make sure you can score your interviewees like for like, so take a look at our top 10 interview questions you should ask your candidates to see how they can fit in with your interview process:

Experience

The first set of questions are focused around the candidate’s experience. You need some early reassurances that they are who they say they are, and the information in their CV and application are accurate.

  1. Talk us through your background and experience in relation to our role?

This helps to set the tone of the interview from the beginning. Whilst you want the interview to be two-way in terms of dialogue (it’s important for you to give off a good impression to the candidate as well), you need to make sure the candidate is doing most of the talking, so this sets the interview off to a good start to enable the candidate to give you their background story.

Look out for consistency with their CV to make sure there are no key gaps and focus on areas that reflect the requirement of the role they are interviewing for. Do they have adaptable experience? Can they think on their feet without using their CV as a prompt?

If they pass this first test, you can safely assume the detail on their CV is legitimate!

  1. Tell us about your job at your current employer?

This question allows the candidate to provide detail about their current role to allow you to find out how they apply themselves to this role, the experience they have brought to it and how they have applied their skill sets.

Look for their tone: how do they speak about their current position and employer? Do they speak highly about them and put a positive spin on any negative situations? Are they proud of what they have achieved? If you get positive vibes about their performance at previous employers, it’s likely they will continue this into your workplace.

Start with the most recent role and work backwords to allow them to talk about how they have progressed throughout their career to date.

  1. Has your level of responsibility changed in your current role?

Here you are looking at performance and flexibility. Has the candidate progressed through the ranks? Have they used their experience to help others, e.g. through management or internal training programmes?  

If they answer yes, and they can demonstrate this effectively, you can see if their desire to progress within your organisation is strong.   

  1. What do you like best (and worst) about working for your current employer?

This question allows you to find out what the candidate is passionate about, what achievements they have been proud of, what challenges them, and what they could be likely to complain about! It’s a good personality test as well, to find out where they sit in terms of being a good culture fit for your organisation.

Look for how positively they react, even if they are talking about a negative situation. This can show how adaptive they are to the wider needs of the company, as well as identifying how they, as an individual, have contributed.

You should be looking for signs of engagement and commitment, flexibility, and how open they are for growth and personal development. But you should also let them talk about any frustrations they have, and match these to how they may feel if such situations were to arise at your organisation.

  1. Why are you looking to leave your current role?

As an employer, you want to know why your candidates are available for employment at your organisation. This is an opportunity for them to tell you their story.

Ask them about other previous roles as well and look for any trends. If they want to move on due to a lack of progression opportunities, you can see they are keen to challenge themselves and achieve more. But if they are bad-mouthing their employer you need to consider there could be another side to the story they are not telling you about.

Moving for better pay and more responsibility can be legitimate reasons and not simply a sign of the candidate being motivated purely by money. At the end of the day, we all want to be paid what we are worth.

Requirements

You’ve got a good insight into the candidate’s back story, so next you need to find out more about how they can perform in the role. Let’s talk specifics!

  1. Tell us about your experience in using this software / equipment / machinery?

If the position you are recruiting for requires a specific level of experience of using certain software or equipment, ask the candidate to demonstrate not only what they have used, but how they have used it. Encourage them to talk about projects they have worked on, and what their responsibilities were. This can be repeated for each key skill area you need answers on.

If they speak with confidence and can give examples of their experience you will be able to see how qualified they are for your role. How they apply their experience here to real-life examples is key.

Achievements & Goals

Re-cap on their CV again with these questions so you can delve a little bit deeper and gain a better understanding of the candidate’s career goals, aspirations and pride in their work.

  1. What is your most significant career achievement?

This question can help you find out how quickly the candidate can think on their feet. They may have lots of achievements they are proud of but picking one that stands out above the rest may not be something that just rolls straight off their tongue.

Have they been exceeding company goals or targets? Have they become the leader in their field of excellence? Are they passionate about training others?

Getting the right answers from the candidate here can help you identify how results focused and growth orientated they are, and if they are potential management material. Someone that reels off endless accomplishments may come across as not focused enough, or even arrogant, which may not be the best cultural fit for your business.

  1. What are your future career goals?

You’ve found out about the candidates past and present, but what about their future? This is an opportunity to see how ambitious and committed they are, but also how realistic they are in what they want to achieve.

Someone who wants to be a millionaire at 35 might show ambition, but their sense of optimism and realism may not hit the right notes for your business!

Ideally, you need someone who is going to stick around and make good progression through the ranks into a more senior position, but they need to earn this along the way. A candidate who shows enthusiasm to grow along side your business may be the best option if it matches your future plans for the role.

The small print

Just like a contract, discussing the small print at the end of an interview can help you decide which of your interviewees are most suited to the role. If there are no clauses that cause alarm, you can rest assured you have ticked every box from your perspective in giving a thorough interview.

  1. Do you have any questions about the role, or our company?

If the candidate is genuinely interested in working for your company, they will no doubt have some questions of their own. These could be anything from wider benefit packages (such as pensions and health insurance etc.) and holiday entitlement, through to more specific questions about the role and its responsibilities.

Candidates who are more focused about the monetary side of the role may have their priorities elsewhere, so look for questions that show a genuine interest in your company, its people, and its processes. This could also give you an opportunity to tell the candidates about your own experience of working for your organisation, so make sure you are positive too!

  1. Are you happy for us to verify your employment background and eligibility to work?

If you are working with a good recruiter, like Multitask Personnel, we will have already found out if the candidate is eligible to work for your organisation through our preliminary checks. However, if you are recruiting direct you will need to do this yourselves, so will need to get confirmation of any criminal convictions, or eligibility to work in the UK if the candidate is a foreign national.

If you decide to offer the position, you will naturally want to obtain a reference from current or previous employers. Make sure the candidate is aware of this and gives permission. If they are happy with this, then you can be confident that everything they have told you at interview is accurate and can be backed up. If they aren’t, however, you need to be asking questions as to why.

So, there you have it – a structured way to approach interviewing your candidates to make the final decision on your new hire as streamlined as possible!

At Multitask Personnel, we’re not simply just about sending candidates over for interview, we can be there with you at every step of the process. If you need any advice on the interview process as well as sourcing the best candidates drop us a line on 0845 478 5009 or enquiries@multitaskpersonnel.co.uk.