Interviewing is a critical component of any hiring process, whether it be by phone, video conference or face-to-face. It’s the one opportunity to delve deeper beyond the CV and distinguish the real ‘story’ behind previous roles, employers, and colleagues. Equally, if you ask the right questions you’re in a much better position to glean a fuller understanding of your prospective employees’ feelings about their former jobs, why they left, and what they’re looking for.
And the benefits of acquiring this information? Put simply, the better you understand your employees’ motivations, the better equipped you’ll be to nurture their desired career path for the benefit of your business.
So… what exactly are the ‘right’ questions?
Always try to ask open questions, where possible. It allows for so much more scope in a response and doesn’t restrict the person to a one-word answer. An open question is more likely to lead to a complete explanation, and it may mean the respondent will need some time to think, reflect and consider their answer before responding. Which is what you want in an interview! They are particularly useful when interviewing candidates who are a little quieter and less confident than an extroverted candidate.
A typical open question will begin with ‘how’, ‘describe’, ‘why’, or ‘what’.
Closed questions can be useful too. These are the ones that only need the one-word answers. They have their place, especially in an interview environment where you might be asking prospective permanent staff technical questions to test their understanding. Equally, if you’re rushed for time, closed questions can be a speedy way of generating easy conversation at the start or end of a meeting.
Curve ball questions
This could be as simple as asking ‘If you were an animal, what would you be?’ The advantage of asking a curve ball (albeit it may seem a little unfair at the time) is that it nudges the candidate into a position where they need to think on their feet. They won’t have been able to prepare for it and that increases the likelihood of you seeing their authentic self.
‘How would your best friend describe you?’
Another popular question is ‘How would your previous boss describe you?’ but we like this one because it’s a little more personal. Again, like the curve ball, it encourages a little more on-the-spot thinking from their side. You’re not asking them to describe themselves, which may have been rehearsed. By asking them to describe themselves through their friends’ eyes, they’re more likely to give a genuine response.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
…Or a variation along the same lines. While it’s good to talk about previous experience, it’s also beneficial to understand their ambitions and their hopes for their future. This will enable you to think about how you might be able to plan and accommodate their needs rather than face future loss of intellectual property and turnover. It also gives some reassurance you’re placing them in a role that will be rewarding for them.
The above questions should serve as a guide as to what may be useful when interviewing. We also thoroughly recommend reading through candidates’ CVs in advance of the interview and noting down some questions that immediately come to mind. By preparing ahead of time, you’ll get so much more out of the interview and your interviewee. You may just be surprised by how much!