When it comes to conducting interviews, your biggest worry is probably whether or not you select the right candidate. Here are seven essential questions to consider asking when you're on the hunt for the best fit:

1. Tell me about yourself

This is a commonly asked question designed to break the ice. It’s a great question as it lets the interviewer get a feel for the individual and weed out those who may be tempted to divulge their life story. You are looking for a brief, concise description of who they are and their key qualifications, strengths and skills.

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2. Why do you want to work here?

This quickly gives an indication of a candidate’s enthusiasm for the role as well as their level of knowledge about the company. If the answer is just because they “need a job” then they are probably not the candidate you are looking for! This also covers the other often asked question “What do you know about us as a company?” They should have done some research, so know - just as a basic example - the markets you trade in, how long you have been in existence and your current plans for growth.

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3. What are your strengths?

This gives you an idea of what the candidate thinks they are particularly good at and you can see how this would fit into the role. You can then ask how they have demonstrated these in the past. The converse is also true when asking about weaknesses, although you can be faced with platitudes such as “I’m a perfectionist” which allows you to see how frank a candidate is being. Admitting a failing, or area of improvement demonstrates a willingness to improve which is a desirable trait for any employee - nobody has none!

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4. What did you like/dislike about your last role?

This allows you to identify candidates’ key interests and align these with the responsibilities of the role. Check for their areas of particular likes/dislikes and see if the role you are interviewing to fill has a majority of ‘likes’. If not, the potential employee could become disillusioned with the role very quickly and you will be back at the beginning of the employment cycle. It is better to take the time to find the person who will be the right fit for the role rather than gloss over responsibilities they might not relish. Keep your ears open for direct criticisms of their last employer rather than their responsibilities – you could be the next one being badmouthed if you’re not careful!

5. What are your goals for the future?

This is a good one to establish the candidate’s level of ambition and the extent to which they have planned out their career. It tests the boundaries of their commitment to their career path and can help you gauge whether or not they are a good long term prospect for your business. Watch out for clichés such as “I want your job” – if they do say that, ask them why - and look for signs that they want to grow, learn and add value to your company.

6. What is the most difficult situation you have faced at work?

This one gives you an insight into a candidate’s problem solving skills. Look for the way they approached the problem, including actions they took and the solution they found. What was the final outcome, and was it satisfactory for everyone? How did they handle all the stakeholders involved, were there any tough conversations that needed to be had? Make sure you give them enough time to formulate an answer though, it can be tricky to think of an answer to this question off the top of your head (try it). This lets you know if they are logical and practical, and how they handle setbacks and stress.

7. Why do you want to leave your current employer?

This will potentially tell you why they will eventually leave you if they work for you. Look for signs they want more responsibility, new experiences and challenges rather than are just fed up. If an employee is a genuine asset to a company they will try to retain them rather than having to hire or retrain, so try to find out why they didn’t get the opportunities they wanted.

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Summary

These seven questions will help you to get a feel of whether a candidate would be a good fit for your organisation:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What did you like/dislike about your last role?
  • What are your goals for the future?
  • What is the most difficult situation you have faced at work?
  • Why do you want to leave your current employer?
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