Strategy, Legal & Operations

Interview questions employers should ask and avoid

Think about your interview questions carefully before you see candidates

As your business grows, one of the most important decisions you will make is likely to be who to hire into your team. Getting it right can be difficult, but asking effective interview questions can help ensure you recruit the right person for your business.

You’ll no doubt want to ask many interview questions relating specifically to their experience and expertise, but it’s just as important to examine the softer skills that they can bring to your team.

In this article, we look at a number of questions that can really help you in your bid to find the ideal candidate. And we also highlight a series of areas that you should avoid when it comes to your interview questions, namely around discrimination.

Great interview questions to ask potential job candidates

Here are some great suggestions that could give you the extra insights you need to choose the right candidate for your business:

What do you know about the company and why does it appeal to you?

Not only is it a straightforward question that will help relax the candidate, it will also tell you a lot about the preparation and research they have done, as well as finding out if their goals and ambitions match those of your business.

Red flags here include little or no research, researching the wrong company/role (it does happen) and little or no idea as to why they have applied.

Strong answers include thorough research and a clear picture of how it ties in with their own goals and ambitions.

What are you like on a bad day?

Everyone has good days and bad days at work. How we handle the challenges tells us a lot more about someone than how they react when things have gone well.

Ideally ,you want to hear an acknowledgement of their weaknesses and ways in which they cope. This is a sign of emotional intelligence – a key skill in the modern work environment.

What was it like when you left your previous company?

This is one of the questions that often gives some of the richest insights. A lavish party indicates they built strong relationships with colleagues, while a muted exit may show they failed to relate.

What has been your proudest professional moment?

This is a great question that allows you to find out what makes the candidate tick.

Follow it up with questions about who else was involved and how they ensured they got the right outcome. This will really shine a light on how they approach their work.

Interview questions to avoid asking potential candidates

There are a series of interview questions that should be avoided on the grounds of discrimination. You need to avoid asking questions relating to any of the protected characteristics from The Equality Acts 1998-2015.

They cover the following areas:

  • Gender
  • Civil status
  • Family status
  • Membership of the Traveller community
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
  • Race
  • Disability

Asking questions on these topics could land you and your business in hot water, so make sure you avoid them.

What employers can do to get the most out of the interview

Make sure you give the candidate an honest and accurate appraisal of the role and the company.

One of the main reasons people leave a job is because it wasn’t what they expected. Although you may be tempted to tell them that it’s a laugh a minute and everyone is best friends, if it isn’t true they won’t hang around for long.

Allow the candidate to ask you questions as well.

If all they ask is about salary and holidays then beware. Ideally, you want to see questions that show some real thought has gone into the role. For example, how their performance will be managed, what success looks like, and so on.

While there is no sure fire way of ensuring you will hire the right person, by focusing on the key skills needed for the role as well as ensuring their goals align with your own, you will increase your chances of success.

Finally, five things to remember when interviewing job candidates

  • Focus on asking interview questions that will give you insight you can use.
  • Be aware of legal requirements.
  • Ensure you make notes throughout so you can refer back afterwards.
  • Keep them updated. If the interview process is taking a long time (or even if you decide that you no longer need to hire), let your interviewees know what is happening. You could end up losing a key potential candidate if you fail to communicate with them and they believe they’re out of the running.
  • Give honest feedback. If your interviewee isn’t right for your business then tell them. They may not want to hear it but getting an honest answer will help them in the long run.