In a competitive job market, it can be difficult to choose between really similar candidates. So understanding the right questions to ask in an interview to further discover the person behind the resume, and differentiate between your shortlisted candidates, is often valuable.

Asking these interview questions will help determine the best person for the job.

1. Tell me about yourself

This is a commonly asked question designed to break the ice. It’s a great question as it lets you, the interviewer, get a feel for the individual and weed out those who may not be well-aligned to your company’s values or mission. You are looking for a brief, concise description of who they are and their key qualifications, strengths, and skills.

2. Why do you want to work here?

This quickly gives an indication of a candidate’s enthusiasm for the role, as well as their level of knowledge about the company. If the answer is just because they “need a job” then they are probably not the candidate you are looking for.

This also covers the other common question, “What do you know about us as a company?” It’s commonly shared as a key interview preparation tip that candidates should have invested some time in researching the company. Depending on their career experience, they may even understand the markets you trade in, the current landscape of your industry, your key competitors and any plans for growth.

3. What are your biggest strengths?

This gives you an idea of what the candidate thinks they are particularly good at and you can see how this would fit into the role. You can then ask how they have demonstrated these in the past with recent real examples.

The converse is also true when asking about weaknesses, although you can be faced with platitudes such as, “I work too hard”. Admitting a failing or area for improvement demonstrates a willingness to grow, which is a desirable trait for any employee, and most weaknesses can be worked on to be developed into a strength, if your business is willing to support them.

4. What did you like/dislike about your last role?

This allows you to identify candidates’ key interests and align these with the responsibilities of the role you are recruiting for. Check for their areas of likes/dislikes and see whether you get a majority of ‘likes’ that fit in well with the role you need to fill. Do be transparent if they share a majority of ‘dislikes’ as this question also helps candidates understand and advise you if the role isn’t quite for them – it’s better to find out in the interview stage rather than have them start the job and leave not long after.

5. What are your goals for the future?

This is a good one to establish the candidate’s level of ambition and the extent to which they have planned out their career. It tests the boundaries of their commitment to their career path and can help you gauge whether they are a good long-term prospect for your business. 

Watch out for clichés such as, “I want your job”. If they do say that, get them to explain why – and listen for indicators around growth, learning and adding value to your company.

RELATED: 5 steps to building a career plan for a new staff member

6. What is the most difficult situation you’ve faced at work?

This one gives you an insight into a candidate’s problem-solving skills or how they deal with conflict, should the role you’re hiring for rely on strong team dynamics. 

Look for the way they approached the problem, including actions they took and the solution they found. What was the outcome? And was it satisfactory for everyone? How did they handle all the stakeholders involved, and were there any tough conversations needed? Their answer will tell you how they handle setbacks, and importantly, how they pushed through.

7. Why do you want to leave your current job?

This question could potentially tell you why they will eventually leave you if they join your company. Perhaps they wanted more responsibility, or new experiences and challenges to allow them to grow, which their current workplace just can’t provide. If an employee is a genuine asset, a company will often try to retain them rather than having to hire or retrain, so also try to find out why they didn’t get the opportunities they wanted.

If their response leans towards being fed up, not liking colleagues or any other negative comments, be weary that the same scenario can happen again.

8. How will you resign from your job?

This is a tricky one and not often asked, but it can tell you a lot about a person’s ethics and values. It also sheds light on the state of their relationship with their current manager and colleagues. 

If the question seems too direct, you can reframe it as, “If you were offered the role, what is your notice period and how will you inform your manager/boss? How do you think they will take the news?”

9. How would you describe your ideal workplace?

Asking this question is a great way to gauge culture fit, which can be key deciding factor – especially if multiple candidates have met the selection criteria for skills and experience. 

The goal here is to uncover the candidate’s values and what’s important to them in a work environment, as well as the colleagues in their direct team. Ideally, those values align with your workplace and team culture.

10. What does a great manager look like to you?

If you’re potentially going to be managing this person, asking this question can provide useful insights into how they like to be communicated with and led. 

It can also help you assess their general attitude and working style, so you can evaluate whether they’re the right fit for your team.

Need support with finding the best candidates? Get in touch with Page Personnel to step up your hiring process.

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