The killer interview questions every employer should ask

Here are some killer interview questions that allow you to sort the wheat from the chaff – and some signals that should send alarm bells ringing.

Having interviewed hundreds of people over the years, made more than my fair share of hiring mistakes – and having responded very badly to interview questions myself – the following tips are borne from bitter experience of hiring with speed and repenting at my leisure. I can only hope you can avoid some of the mistakes that I made with these key questions.

Tell me about a work achievement you are most proud of?

A deceptively simple question, but a very powerful one.

The main problem with any interview is getting through the fluff and guff of a CV to the heart of a candidate’s approach to work challenges.

When they nominate an achievement, delve into the detail. What results did you actually achieve? What was their position and role? What were the key challenges and how did you overcome them? 

How did you create a plan? What resources did you have? How did you manage the plan, resources and deadlines? What was your management style and how did you get results from your team? What went right, what went wrong, what would you do differently?

You will quickly build up an amazing insight into how an interviewee approaches work and get things done. If a candidate can’t name a strong or big achievement – alarm bells should start ringing.

Can you describe an ideal colleague?

This can be particularly revealing as most candidates will describe their own strengths. Also ask them what they don’t like about colleagues – as it can reveal pet hates.

What exactly would you do to solve this challenge?

Give a practical example of a challenge that is facing you or your business right now and get the candidate to give you a practical step-by-step view on how they would overcome this challenge. 

The key is to distinguish between a consultant and a doer that can do good things for you. It is much easier to give a top level answer and broad brush advice. But you are looking for specific points and actions.

What exactly would you do? Have you done something similar in the past and exactly how did you overcome the challenge and what were the results?

This way you move from the often fictional world of a CV to the real world.

What would you do in your first 100 days in the job?

This gets to the heart of how a candidate would approach their day-to-day role and how they would manage targets and planning. A vague answer should get alarm bells ringing.

What you are looking for is somebody that has the initiative, experience, wherewithal and passion to hit the ground running. If they haven’t thought about how they would approach the role, the role is probably not right for them.

Warning, warning, warning

Other warning signals to watch out for:

  • Inappropriately dressed candidates – if they can’t be bothered for an interview, they are not going to be bothered in their day-to-day role.
  • Poor social media profiles – either poorly maintained and managed or even worse some worrying posts or comments.
  • Lacklustre research – into the role, the company, the interviewer, the sector and market…or even failing to remember all parts of their CV.
So my final bit of advice. If you have any doubts about a candidate at the outset, they are only likely to get bigger over time. Trust your gut feeling, otherwise it could come back to hit you in the gut in the future.

Andy Yates is an experienced entrepreneur and investor-director at Huddlebuy.co.uk – Europe’s largest daily money-saving site for small businesses.

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