When it comes to the hiring process, interviews are usually the most important part. But are you really asking the right questions to make sure you actually get to know the candidate?
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The interview aspect of the hiring process is important for any business, but especially for small businesses where all hires need to be superstars. Regardless of whether you consider yourself a great judge of character, it’s critical to invest time and energy into the interview questions before the candidate arrives. That way, you can accurately measure one potential hire against another.

When it’s time to schedule interviews, you’ll need to consider what you want the interviews to achieve — and then produce questions that will help you get there. Below are six interview questions that you should really be asking your prospective employees.

1. “Why do you want to do this role and what can you bring to it?”

This is a fairly standard interview question that’s designed to get the candidates to tell you whether they really understand what the role involves and how well their skill set is matched for it. You’ll be able to see how much preparation has gone into their interview process and whether they have researched your company.

The best candidates should be able to identify the key elements of the role, as well as matching these to their skills and experience to the job.

2. “What kind of work environment do you thrive in and what workplace culture suits your approach best?”

This is an important question to ask as it will illustrate whether the person sitting in front of you is going to fit the culture of your company. If you need a team player and the candidate would rather work independently and is uncomfortable unless in a leadership role, then it will most likely be a bad fit.

Remember that everyone has a preferred working environment and candidates who tell you that they can fit in anywhere are probably not being honest.

3. “Please describe your relationships with previous colleagues, clients and managers.”

Again, you can use this question to drill deeper into whether this person would be a good asset for the team. You’ll be able to see the kinds of interactions they are good at and those that they find difficult, as well as the way of working that suits them best.

It’s always difficult for candidates to deal with a question about the worst working relationships so it will be interesting for you to see whether they use it as an opportunity to complain or look at situations in a constructive light.

4. “Describe a serious obstacle that you had to overcome that was standing in the way of you achieving your dreams.”

This question will show you a candidate’s goals, as well as the way that they deal with problems. The answer will give you an idea of the type of approach the candidate took to solving a problem, as well as the way that they handle problematic people in a professional environment.

You might also draw some insight into what a candidate considers to be a problem and where they draw the line in terms of acceptable and unacceptable interactions with co-workers.

5. “Tell me about one of your proudest professional achievements. Please describe it in a way that someone inside or outside of the industry could understand.”

If you’re interviewing for a technical job, this question will show you the candidate’s ability to communicate outside of their own immediate sphere. Can they only speak in jargon? Are they unable to communicate other than with those in the same department?

You can use this question to determine whether the applicant is going to be able to work in a versatile way with others in different departments/industries/locations or whether you’re dealing with someone who is limited to those who speak their language.

6. “Please describe a professional situation in which you didn’t do well.”

In most cases, a well prepared candidate will already have thought of something for a question like this, so if their response is flustered, you’ll know that that candidate put limited time into preparing for the interview.

Remember: What you’re looking for is a candidate who is able to admit to a mistake and to then take responsibility for a failure. (Click here to tweet this bit of recruiting wisdom.) We are all human and so error is normal — it’s what happens next that counts and that’s what this question is designed to reveal. Is the candidate still angry about it? Do they blame others for their own mistake? Or have they drawn something constructive from the situation and able to learn from it?

These six questions will help you gain valuable insight into the mind and behaviours of the person sitting opposite you so that you can ensure all your hires are a great fit.

James Gouge is chief executive officer at Unity Recruitment, a recruitment agency serving candidates & businesses across London.


  1. Jeff Gillis

    Very useful post Mr. Gouge

    I can tell you that those last 3 behavioral questions will certainly draw some interesting (not always in a good way!) answers. Judging by the job seekers I work with, behavioral questions really leave a lot of them scratching there heads, but I certainly see their usefulness.

    If you guys are interested in how job seekers might prepare for those last 3 check out our new blog post: http://theinterviewguys.com/behavioral-interview-questions-and-answers-101/

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