ADVERTISEMENT | 14th Oct 2018

When interviewing candidates, it can be difficult to get the right answers: this is why you need to start with the right questions. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a great place to start in order to construct an effective set of interview questions.

Break the ice

The ‘tell me about yourself’ question is very frequently used to begin an interview, and rightly so, as it holds true merit when meeting a candidate for the first time. Not only does it open up the interview in a simple way, it also gives you a good opportunity to see how the candidate handles such a broad question. There are so many ways to respond but the key thing to look for here is what the candidate views as relevant and interesting.

Most candidates will rehearse these types of answers, which shows you what they put their effort into constructing, ready for the interview. The ideal answer will give you a concise background of their work history, without completely repeating their CV, alongside achievements and goals relevant to the role they are applying for. This will show you their experience, their success and what they hope to accomplish.

Make them think on their feet

The most effective way to do this is to give a real life scenario, relevant to the role, and ask the candidate how they would navigate the situation. This puts the candidate on the spot and forces them to really think. Due to the original and specific nature of the question, the answer cannot be rehearsed, and so you will be delivered an unprepared response. This allows you to observe the candidates ability to process information and adapt.

It will give you some insight into whether they will be a good fit for the role in question, as you can compare their answer with your ideal method of managing the given scenario. The candidate may have outstanding qualifications, but a scenario trial is a test of true skill.

Can the candidate cope with conflict?

‘Can you tell me about a time when you faced conflict and what you did to resolve the situation?’ This question isn’t all negative. Of course, it shows where an individual encountered an adverse situation, but the important thing to remember here is how they handled it. Everybody faces conflict, and it doesn’t have to be within work, but if a candidate cannot provide an answer, this should be a warning signal.

The best answers will give a brief explanation of the conflict, acknowledging all sides of the story, with an account of the steps the candidate took to attain resolution. This will show you how they cope with disputes, allowing you to understand the way they think, and whether they will be a good fit for your company.

Failure is sometimes the first step

‘What has been your biggest failure?’ The failure in particular is not the crucial part of this answer: the candidate’s ability to critically evaluate and learn from past mistakes is. This is why the response should cover the cause of failure and what the candidate would do differently, given the chance.

All in all, you want to hear that the candidate has worked to improve their weaknesses, and prevent disappointment in the same areas in the future. Failure serves as a reminder, to help push progress and show what you have overcome. The ideal candidate will recognise this, and therefore will not hide their downfalls, but use them as a tool for growth and development.

What is their passion?

What were you doing when you last lost track of time? It is essentially asking the candidate what they are passionate about, and this is important to find out a little about them personally. This can help you decide if they are suitable for the role as hobbies that have some relation to the job are more likely to make the candidate enjoy their daily working duties.

For example, with an IT Technician role, if the candidate enjoys fixing computers in their spare time, they are more likely to have a bigger interest in the job, and therefore, may perform better than other candidates. If the candidate says that they never lose track of time, they may not be being honest, or might not be that passionate about anything.

Fault and Forte

The candidate will most likely prepare for this question, and will have their strength and weakness ready. The real question is: do they make a negative a positive, or are they personally honest? It is common for candidates to say they are perfectionist, or something similar, and not really assess their own weaker areas. The best answers will be original and true, showing a real flaw that they are trying to work on and improve. This demonstrates the individual’s ability to be perceptive of their own capabilities.

The second part of this question will allow for you to see what the candidate considers to be a strength worthy of note. This can tell you more about them, as it indicates what they see as an asset and what skills and attributes they see as beneficial for a working environment. Knowing where they place that importance can help you decide if they are the right person for the role.

They’re right for the role, are they right for the company?

Management staff, and the way they operate within your business, are a good way to assess the candidate’s suitability for not just the role, but the company itself. Asking the candidate how they like to be managed can open up discussion about how they like to work, and if they can co-operate and coordinate with those in higher-ranking roles.

You want to ensure that their answer reflects the system of management within your business, as it is essential for your business that everybody can work well together, without conflict, because this will build a strong and positive working environment.

What are they leaving, and what do they want from that?

What is pushing them to leave their current role? The answer you receive can not only highlight what they want to move away from, but also what they want to move towards. If an individual is leaving because of lack of career progression, then that shows they are expecting to be able to progress better through working for you.

Understanding what a candidate wants from you can help you to better know what they will do for you. If an individual is focused on career progression, they may work harder, however, it can also shine a light on why they haven’t already received promotion. Are they expecting to advance without really putting the work in?

For any more information and advice, or for a free consultation, call 01772 886799 or email

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