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Hiring interview questions: 5 tips on what to ask candidates

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Asking the right interview questions is your most important tool for finding the best people to hire for your business. But it can be tricky to figure out the right questions to ask and how to evaluate candidates based on their answers.

The first step is preparation. Screen out applicants who are obviously unqualified, then arrange interviews with the short-listed candidates. You can do a brief interview by phone as a further screening step.

Before the interview, thoroughly review the candidate’s application and jot down any questions that occur to you.

It’s often helpful to do more than one interview with leading contenders and to include other people in the process, such as a human-resources manager and the person’s potential supervisor.

Here are some tips on interview questions you can ask.

1. Job ability

Prepare a list of questions geared to determining who has the best skills, credentials and experience to do the job and grow within your business. You also want to gauge the person’s motivation, decision-making skills and ability to work with your team. Here are useful questions to ask.

  • Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What are your main strengths? Describe how they helped you in a specific work situation.
  • What is your proudest work accomplishment?
  • Can you describe a time when you were criticized for your work and how you dealt with that?
  • Could you describe a work challenge you faced and what you did?
  • What are your long-term goals?

2. Personality

Questions about a candidate’s personality can reveal how well he or she would work with your team. These may include asking about favourite books and movies, role models and how they’ve dealt with on-the-job conflicts. You can also ask the applicant to describe the work culture at their previous job and their ideal work culture.

However, be careful to avoid make hiring decisions based primarily on a candidate’s “fit” with your organization’s culture. Rejecting a candidate on such grounds may leave you vulnerable to a discrimination complaint (see more on avoiding discrimination below).

3. Ask for their questions

You can get interesting insights by asking if the interviewee has any questions for you. Well-prepared candidates will ask thoughtful questions that show their expertise, readiness to work and desire to do well.

4. Employment assessments

It can be helpful to include written, oral or other tests of the candidate’s abilities. These can include cognitive ability tests and/or doing a piece of work of the kind he or she would be doing in the job.

5. Avoid discrimination

Your interview should not include any potentially discriminatory and/or personal questions, such as those related to marital status, ethnic origin, race, religious convictions, political beliefs, age, sexual orientation, disabilities or family status including whether the candidate has children. Research laws on hiring to make sure your questions are appropriate.

You should ask about any inconsistencies that arise, gaps in the job application and things that seem glossed over. You can also briefly outline your company’s vision and goals and ask the applicant to explain how they will help you attain these.

You can help ensure fairness by asking all candidates the same questions and evaluating answers consistently. While it’s important to take notes about the candidate’s answers, you should also use an evaluation scorecard to more objectively evaluate candidates.

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