When it comes to running interviews, having good interview questions can separate you from employing the next high flier to that resource sapping problem child.
Let’s face it, there are three things you need to get right (and answer comprehensively):
We've split this article into three parts:
- Emotional Intelligence and self-awareness
- Team building / teamwork
- Values and motivation
You might want to start off with a few, simple questions. Here are some of the more regularly used ones. And why you should use them.
1. What attracted you to this role?
You want to find out whether they've done some basic research on your company and the role itself. So, expect to see a clear idea of the job and their view of the role it encompasses, as well as how they can contribute.
2. Why are you leaving your current employer?
Expect to get a generic answer here. Most people are very conscious of saying the wrong things, but they should have planned for this question. And the answers will provide an insight into their values, goals, and their needs from an employer.
3. Tell me about how you continuously develop your skills? Give me some recent examples.
This is one of my most popular of the good interview questions, as it gets them to think about their own development. A lot of people don’t really give this too much thought. But a great team consists of constant learning. If they’re not used to it or not inclined, alarm bells could be ringing.
People who are active learners help provide continuous improvement amongst the team.
4. What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
The fourth of the good interview questions section. This aims to identify how self-aware they are. You can use it to expand on some of their answers. Drill down to certain specific points; Particularly on how they can use their skills to excel in this new role.
When they identify their weaknesses, ask them what they've done so far to try and improve them. And watch out for weaknesses that you see would clash with your team’s or organisation’s values.
5. What are your main motivators?
What things motivate them? Do they get inspired by learning? Are they interested in what your business does? Here’s a another way to look at the values of your organisation and see if they fit with theirs.
Inject some of these questions into your interviews and you’ll quickly weed out the good from great; the high fliers from low achievers.
These questions are more dynamic and require quick thinking from the candidate.
Use them to see how they really tick. As with all the questions, think of answers that you’d like to see and those that you don’t. Take notes as you go and then build a profile on that candidate, for review after the interview is completed.
6. Tell Me About an Experience Where You Struggled Getting the Job Done, but Persevered and Got Through It.
You’re looking for a determined mindset and perseverance. It’s ok to fail. But too many people give up or become negative too soon. And so, with this question, you’re looking for willingness to keep going and innovation to overcome hurdles.
Exactly what the problem was
Why was it a problem?
How did they overcome it?
What did they learn, and what would they do differently if they were to do it again?
Did they seek help? (this could show whether they are happy to share problems and solutions amongst a team)
7. What’s Better: to Provide Something Good and on time, or Late and Perfect?
Obviously, they’re conscious of a right and wrong answer, here. And the ideal answer is to provide something good and on time. The idea being, “don’t let perfection get in the way of progress”.
Being a perfectionist has its strengths but stopping any work being delivered on time is a big no. Where do they fit on this scale?
You’re looking for how they answer this question and their reasons. If you’re happy that they won’t cause a bottleneck, then great! If they're notoriously slow because everything has to be perfect, does it fit in the job spec or not? If not, this should be a red flag.
Either way, let them answer and see where it takes you.
8. Tell Me About a Time When You Made a Costly Mistake?
This is a good gauge of self-awareness. The beauty about this question is that a well-prepared person should have an answer up their sleeve for this one. If they are stumped, it says a lot about their preparation for the interview, in itself.
If they provide an answer, look for clues like being assured enough to take ownership. To learn from their mistakes. People who take responsibility and learn are usually honest and mindful people. – A good asset to have in any team.
People who blame others or can’t remember when the last time they made a mistake must be treated with caution…
9. What Was the Biggest Decision You've Had to Make in the Last Year? Why Was It So Big and What Did You Do?
This question identifies how good their decision making is.
Look for how quick the decision was made: Was it done quickly, or did it take a lot of time until they made up their mind? Did they constantly change their mind? Did they make their mind up on logic and fact?
Did they use other people to bounce ideas off? Or did they spend the time reflecting upon it themselves?
It doesn’t have to be work related. The answer could be entirely personal.
But look for how they approached the problem, how they came up with the solution and, what they eventually did. Do they demonstrate a good decision making process?
Can they call on others to to help see the problem from different angles? This is a good trait of team work and leadership. No one should really make decisions solely on their own. You can get a one-dimensional view on things if you go it alone.
10. If I Were to Interview all Those that You’ve Worked With, What Percentage Would Not Be an Ally of Yours? What Typical Words Would They Describe You By?
This is one of my favourite good interview questions. And it normally stops candidates in their tracks. You’re asking them to reply to what they would feel as a negative discussion point.
The fact is, no-one is liked by everyone. Clashes happen through difference in opinion, work ethics, and values.
You’re testing them to see if they can be open and mindful enough to understand this.
You’re also testing to see what answers they have identified. Any terms like stubborn, and controlling, could be things to watch out for.
Things like passionate and driven, could be positive clues.
The bottom line is this: Try to identify how polarising this person is. Do they treat people with respect, but naturally have a small number that just don’t warm to them? Or do they polarise a large proportion of the group, which could provide potential problems to you?
11. Give us an Example of an Achievement from a Previous Position, That’ll Show Me That You Can Thrive in This Role.
This cuts to the chase. But it ensures that the candidate can identify the requirements of the job and how they can hit the ground running in this new role.
Get them to be specific and drill down to details. What was it?
"Walk me through the process of how you identified it."
"What did you do to analyse, improve and then take action?"
Look for thoroughness in their approach.
What someone did before, gives a great indicator what they can achieve in their new role. This question will allow you to see how they link the new role requirements to their existing experience.
And frankly, if they can’t cite any examples, perhaps they don’t have the experience?
12. Can You Explain Something to Me That’s Complicated, and Which You Know Well?
This could be either in a professional context or personal. But the point is to try to get them to communicate clearly and fluently, a complicated subject. You’re looking for how good their communication skills are.
And the ability to explain detailed terms and convey them effectively is a critical skill for any team or leader. You’ll find that those people who can do this, are dynamic influencers and can have a positive effect on a team and business.
If they can do this with ease, it’s a great tick in the box. This skill is hard to find in a lot of people.
13. What are the 3 Things You’d do in Your New Role, if You Were Hired?
This is another favourite of the good interview questions list, because it puts the candidate into the position of being in the job, right now.
They can show you their thinking. Their angle or attack, and what they would do to hit the ground running.
And they can provide detail as to how they could make it their own.
Look for their knowledge in the role. And how they can call on their own experience from previous roles.
Does it make sense what they’re saying? Are they already planning their impact, or is it hot air? You’ll find out by asking this question.
14. When Have You Been Most Satisfied in Your Life?
This gives you a reflection of their values. Do they match yours and those of your team’s or business?
It’s sometimes answered with some form of trepidation from the candidate as they can feel that it could be answered incorrectly. But it can help paint a picture. And it may show you what they want from a job, their boss, their family.
It allows you to have a go at considering what motivates them as a person and how you could lead them effectively, to help achieve this.
15. What things DON’T You Like to Do?
Coming in at number 15 on the good interview questions list. It’s a curve ball thrown at the candidate. They’ll be conscious of saying what could be deemed right or wrong.
But it’s an interesting question and can promote a good conversation.
If you’re advertising for a Business Analyst role, it wouldn’t be the best answer if that person said they get bored with dealing with numbers and spread sheets.
You’ll be amazed at the answers some people give when the interview gets going and the guard lowers a little.
16. We’re Constantly Striving to Improve Every Day. This is Normally in the Form of Making Things Better, Reducing Cost or Improving Productivity. Tell me About a Recent Improvement You Made in Your Role. And the Process You Went Through to Achieve It.
This is my personal favourite of the list of good interview questions.
(It’s probably because my background is also deep rooted in continuous improvement, too.)
But it’s an important question: How open are they at making change happen and taking the initiative in their role to improve? No-one likes change, but those that actively improve and can demonstrate this are priceless.
You don’t want people that will fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo.
How they answer will give a reflection of whether they’re change leaders or not.
You can quickly separate those that are of a continuous improvement mindset…
And those that believe change is something you do if you have the time…
Ok, we’ve got our 16 good interview questions.
We’ve sorted the 5 foundational ones, which most would expect you to say. And which can create a good stand point from.
We’ve got 11 of the great ones, to scatter into your interview.
Here’s a few examples of bad questions to try to avoid, too (and reasons why).
It’s best to ask clear and concise questions, so they can expand on them and give examples. At the end of the interview, you’ll get more than enough detail which covers who they are and what they’re like by using the good interview questions list.
Better questions will ask for examples when something happened, as in those above. They’re clearer and well defined.
It also puts unneeded pressure on the candidate to tell you their figure on the spot.
Perhaps they would like to get through and then do a bit of negotiating afterwards.
I hope these good interview good questions prove helpful. Just don’t forget the bad ones too, so you don’t ask them during your next rounds of hiring.