Job interviews are a valuable part of the recruitment process. If you ask the right questions, an interview can give you a clear indication of whether a candidate will fit into your organisation and succeed in the role. It is vital to ask open questions that allow the candidate to express themselves authentically, but are also relevant to the personal qualities, skills and experience you’re looking for.
Here are a few examples of the best and worst questions to ask in an interview, to give you some tips on how to interview effectively and avoid any potential faux pas.
Best Interview Questions
1. Why did you choose this career path?
Knowing more about a candidate’s original motivations for pursuing a career in your field can provide insight about what their values and drivers are. This can help you to ascertain whether they would fit culturally into your organisation, and whether the position will feed these motivators.
2. What is your biggest professional achievement?
This will demonstrate what a candidate values in their work, but additionally will show you where some of their strongest skills and experience lies. What you were impressed by on their CV may be very different to what they take pride in, but these differences will allow you deeper knowledge and insight into their experience as well as how they view themselves and their work.
3. Describe your working style
Everybody has different ways of working, and not every working style fits into every company culture. People rarely tend to lie or bend their answers with questions like these, as there really isn’t a wrong answer, but it might help you see whether they’re right for your organisation specifically. Answers to this will generally shed light on how they work independently or in teams, which environments they prefer to work in, and their work ethic.
4. Why are you leaving your current employer?
This can offer valuable insight into a candidate’s career development trajectory and preferences. It can also help you identify quickly whether the same reasons may arise within your organisation and cause them to want to leave. For permanent positions, you want your new candidate to stay in the role as long as possible, so understanding what would lead them to resign can be helpful.
5. Explain something to me that is complicated, but you know well
This is primarily useful for senior positions but can provide better understanding of any candidate. Having them explain something to you will show how well they grapple with complex tasks and concepts, as well as if they are able to communicate this in a simple, accessible way. Communication is a fundamental skill in most office environments and this offers an effective way of testing that ability.
Worst Interview Questions
1. What were you paid in your last role?
Legislation is starting to be implemented globally that prevents hiring managers asking potential employees about their salary history. Even if it is legal in your area, it is not considered best practice to ask what someone was paid in their previous position. Increasingly, experts are arguing that requesting salary history helps to reinforce the gender wage gap, by ensuring women that are underpaid continue to be paid less. Remuneration should be based on the value of the position in the context of the organisation and other employees’ salaries. Decide on an appropriate salary range prior to the interview and offer the candidate something in this range based on their skills and experience, not their previous salary.
2. Anything relating to protected characteristics or personal information.
Legislation has prohibited certain questions being asked during an interview to prevent people from being discriminated against. This includes anything related to religious affiliation, political leaning, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, criminal record, disability, family or personal life. It also includes some less obvious questions; for example, the following questions should be avoided:
- How many sick days have you taken off in the last year?
- Do you smoke?
- How many years do you see yourself in the workforce?
- Are you married? Do you have children?
- How old are you?
While you may ask questions directly pertinent to the job, such as how premises could be made accessible for potential employees, anything that doesn’t have a direct impact on the job you’re hiring for is off limits.
3. Why should I hire you?
This question is surprisingly common, but it appears aggressive and will likely put your candidate on the backfoot. Your questions should aim to challenge the candidate and test their abilities, but not to make them uncomfortable. Ask them what they could contribute to the organisation or what unique attributes they would bring to the role to get a better sense of why they’re interviewing for you.
4. Any weird interview questions
There are many companies that have a reputation for asking questions ranging from slightly unusual to completely bizarre. Here are some prime examples:
- How many footballs are there in the UK?
- If you were a fruit, which fruit would you be?
- How would you escape a desert island?
- Which Disney character are you most similar to?
- What’s your favourite colour?
Generally, the argument for these kinds of questions is that they make a candidate think on their feet and demonstrate how they tackle unique problems. More often than not, rather than inciting exceptional responses, these interview questions will put the candidates under more pressure and shake their confidence without giving you any real insight into their skills and abilities.
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
This can be a difficult question for anyone in any situation. Being asked by a potential employer forces a candidate to say they see themselves at your company in five years, whether or not this is true. Ask a broader question that allows them to express themselves more freely, such as ‘What are your career goals?’ or ‘How do you see yourself developing from this role?’
If you’re recruiting a new position or need some advice, speak to one of our consultants today.