When carrying out interviews, what are the best questions and strategies you use to determine whether the candidate is really the right person for the role? Is there a standard set of questions that works best, or is each individual and role unique in its approach?
Today we are asking the experts and business leaders how they personally navigate interviews and their thoughts on conducting a productive and positive experience for both interviewer and interviewee – whether that’s in a podcast, job or media setting.
What are the right questions to ask?
Samantha Dybac, Founder The PR Hub & Host Influence Unlocked podcast
As the host of the podcast, Influence Unlocked, I have learnt the key to asking really great questions is to understand my audience and then really listen to what the interviewee has to say so I can then follow up with a relevant question. Planning ahead and having an idea of what questions you want to ask is good but ultimately too much rigidity will take away from the quality of the interview and you might miss those ‘golden nugget’ moments. Ask questions that invite sharing and storytelling rather than those that evoke only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and don’t be afraid to delve a little deeper if the guest invites you into a topic.
Joseph Robins, Payments Expert, GoCardless
The question I come back to again and again when I’m interviewing is this:
You’re at a BBQ with friends and you bring up that you’re interviewing with GoCardless. How would you go about describing what we do to someone that’s never heard of us before?
The reason I love this question so much is that it helps answer so many of the questions I’d have about the candidate, regardless of seniority. For starters, it helps me understand how much research the candidate has done on us as a company. Do they know the basics of what we’re about? It also lets them demonstrate their succinct communication, which is especially important when you’re explaining a fairly complex product or service and if the role is client facing.
Finally, and perhaps at the more senior end of town, it helps me understand their why. What connection have they found between what we’re looking to achieve and their values? I’m very lucky and proud to work in a values driven business like GoCardless, and the best people I’ve worked with know their why and live and breath it every day.
Tom Cornell, Head of Assessment (APAC) at HireVue
Because virtual interviews are new to many candidates, employers are well advised to construct a positive interview process to begin engaging top talent. Beyond asking relevant questions, nailing the candidate experience is more important than ever.
Job candidates should be treated like consumers. With interviews increasingly occurring virtually, the risk of candidates growing frustrated with the process and seeking employment elsewhere is very real.
Bad candidate experiences can limit a company’s future talent pool and end up costing time and money later on.
Monica Watt, Chief Human Resources Officer, ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll
Unfortunately in today’s environment, many employers will be hiring for roles that need to stretch a lot further than they ordinarily would. This means that any new recruit needs to be the right fit for right now but also someone who can grow as the company grows.
When interviewing a candidate it’s crucial to look beyond the hard technical skills that go with the role. To get a real understanding about a candidate’s potential employers need to hone in on the core skills, the skills that show someone can manage well with change and ambiguity.
Scenario based or example based questions are a great tool to use to get an insight into someone’s core skills. For example, ask a candidate to explain a time where something changed in the business and what they did to adapt to that. Someone with core skills will focus on not just the technical response about changing process or procedure but how they managed their internal stakeholders and kept things ready to move onto the next change.
Alison Hill, CEO of Pragmatic Thinking
There are a couple of questions that I always ask throughout the hiring process, questions that give an indication of not just skills and fit, but also of timing.
These questions include:
- Why us? (What is it about what you’ve seen about our business that you are drawn to?)
- Why now? (What is it about now that makes it the right time in your career and life to be exploring this opportunity?)
- From what you know about this work and what you’ve researched, what do you see being the day-to-day activities of this role? (This question gives a great insight into their perception of the position and key priorities).
Rojie Tadros, CEO and Founder, Payday Deals
Working in the online retail space, having a strong company culture is incredibly important for us to have a highly productive team, and in the current work climate, this is more important than ever. I always base a number of questions around finding out what kind of person the candidate is (what makes them tick) over qualifications or technical skills. Hard skills can always be taught, while soft skills are much harder to shape. A question I like to ask is what drives and motivates them at work, whether it’s career progression, achievement, money or community etc. This gives you an insight into their suitability for the role and more importantly, the required management style to maximise their potential within the team.
Another good question is if they have any hidden talents or hobbies. This can reveal how they spend their spare time / where they get their joy in life, and whether or not they will fit in well with the current team and company culture. This reduces the potential for future team conflicts and makes it easier to transition them into the role initially so they can start adding value faster.
George Hedon, founder and CEO of Pause Fest
Companies should hire talent based on their motivation and character, and not just if they can do the job. There are many intricacies in picking the right candidate to discover later if they can perform in a given environment.
In 2004, I was being interviewed for the Apple’s first European store on Regent St in London. They set 24 people down in a room and after a brief introduction, they asked us to self-form into teams of five and create a campaign of how to sell the muffins that were on the table back to them in 15 minutes. This exercise gave them the immediate picture on how each individual behaves and performs naturally.
There are many articles written about how happy teams build better products and as a result of that, your company culture wins. People work better when they are having fun so why can’t the interview process be fun too.
Weh Yeoh, CEO and Co-Founder of Umbo
There’s a hiring adage along the lines of “you hire for attitude and values, and train for skills.” It’s really important to check if the person aligns with the organisation’s values. More so than have them run through their list of skills and achievements, which you can glean from a resume.
The first question I always ask is what makes someone excited about working with us, followed up with what makes them nervous. I want to get a sense of why they are interested in working with Umbo, but also if they are self-aware enough to know what challenges they might face.
We always run through scenarios and role plays too, that way you get a sense of how the person might act in a given scenario. Finally, the questions a candidate asks you speaks volumes. If their only question is about pay or logistics, this isn’t a good sign.
Phoebe Netto, Pure PR
It is important to be prepared for the countless things that you simply can’t plan for, the most common inconsistency being the questions you are asked. This is simply something you can’t predict, and ‘curve-ball’ questions are a great way for interviewees to see how you respond under pressure, or to seek new info. Here is how to be prepared.
Do your research: Find out as much as you can about your interviewee and interview and don’t be afraid to ask questions, such as: Which aspects of my story do you think will be best suited to this story? Is there anyone else being interviewed for the piece? Or will this be recorded?
If you’re lucky, the journalist might give you an overview of the questions ahead of time.
Sabri Suby, King Kong
Unless you have the right team executing your business ideas, you won’t have the means to fine-tune your offering and get it to market successfully. There is a definite art to hiring to win, and building an A-team.
Hire for attitude, not ‘good on paper.’ A good CV might give you a candidate with the right skills but it’s only part of the equation. Ask questions which expose a can-do attitude, someone who’s not afraid of hard work and can match the same drive and culture as the rest of your team.
Sell the role to the candidate. Whilst they need to be selling why they are fit for that role, you need to big it up, too, and don’t stop selling it if they land the position. Their drive for the business should mirror yours, so make sure that culture is embedded from the get go.
Building a team starts with knowing who you need to drive your business further and then bringing them along for the ride. While having the right skills helps, it’s the right attitude and the right culture that counts because that’s what will give your business extra mileage, and this is what should lead your interview questions.
Melissa Hyland, HR Manager, ipSCAPE
As a technology company, ipSCAPE regularly interviews for roles that require extensive hands-on technical experience. Many candidates will submit resumes that showcase the right skillset; however, during the interview process we may ask technical and behavioural questions which highlight if the candidate possesses the right experience to work in our innovative and fast-paced culture.
So, how do we identify if a candidate is the right fit?
As the Human Resource Manager at ipSCAPE, I review resumes and conduct phone screenings before the first interview. During this process, it is important to understand their background, professional experience and if they are a cultural fit.
Given we are a fast growing startup, driving innovation in Cloud Communication I would ask “What experience have you had in a SaaS environment?”
I would also ask ‘What makes you interested in working at a company like ipSCAPE?’ This is an important question to ask as it can reveal the candidates motivations for applying, if they are interested in the product and if they are a culture fit.