6 great questions to ask a job candidate

Tuesday 1 December, 2015 | By: Colin Fruk | Tags: HR, hiring, culture;

You’ve survived the Seek-driven deluge of applicants and shortlisted some potentials. What questions will help you find the right person? We ask some seasoned employers to offer up their best tried-and-tested tips.

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6. What’s your dream job?

In today’s tough job market, chances are really high that the applicant has been unsuccessful in other job interviews and is casting a wide net to see what kind of job they can land.

“Many people join up for a sales role because they can’t get the job they really want,” says Salesmasters founder Peter McKeon. “Their best interview is always at the point of application and, within 30 or 60 days, they turn out to be a poor fit for the job.”

Asking about their dream job and their career aspirations – assuming they tell you the truth – lets you see if the role your offering is the right step to help them get there.

5. What would you do if…?

“New Word Order partner Suzanne Oxford has recruited several team members for her creative agency. She says getting applicants to discuss solutions to specific work issues allows her to assess applicants’ experience and fit for the role.

“One of the best hires I ever made was someone who demonstrated in the interview that they were a creative, lateral thinker.

“Throughout his time with us, one of the most valuable contributions he made to our business was to help the rest of us see different solutions to issues when they arose.”

4. How have you handled a really disgruntled customer?

Brisbane lighting shop owner Harry Charalambous employs seven sales staff. He said the customer always comes first when he’s hiring.

“When I ask this question, I ask them to tell me the whole story,” he said.

“Did they try talking them down at the front counter or did they move them away? What were the first few words they said to bring them down?

“I’m looking to see how well they managed to get the customer down from being angry, and how they turned it around into a positive and, hopefully, into a sale or solution.

“That tells me what they’ll do if the situation arises.”

3. Tell me about a time you screwed up.

Ah, a perennial classic.

“I think a well-prepared candidate should expect a question like this to come up in an interview,” Suzanne says. “What I listen for is a fake answer.

“A line like, ‘I worked too hard and burned out’ or a story that subtly shifts the blame onto someone else makes me suspect they don’t have the honesty to own up to genuine mistakes and the drive to do better.”

2. Tell me how you work in teams.

“Neuropower senior consultant Phil Slade says his neuroscience business likes to test candidates’ fit with their team through short-term projects.

In interviews, he’s looking for team fit, too, and so he asks questions around good and bad team experiences, the roles people have played in them, and why they think they ended the way they did.

“Most organisations work as teams and not individuals,” he said.

“You can recruit well by matching competencies and you might even try to match the person with your organisational culture.

“But the team may need a different type of person altogether.

“This team fit can often be more important than competencies or org culture because it’s the team’s ability to work together that’s going to result in a higher functioning unit and better productivity for the company in the long run.”

1. It’s your first week of work and there’s something you don’t understand…

Phil said he likes to give candidates a few potential answers to this question – a sort of verbal multiple choice – to gauge their problem-solving independence.

“So you might suggest the answers could be, ‘work it out yourself’, or ‘talk to your supervisor’, or ‘find someone who looks experienced’.

“None of the answers are wrong in themselves, but only one of the answers should fit the way you want them to work.

“You might prefer someone who honours the chain of command and takes issues to their supervisor.

“But in an innovative company, you might need a maverick who can think for themselves and be independent.

“Choose the answer – and the candidate – that best fits how you want them to work.”

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