The stories of bizarre and outlandish interview questions to ask candidates are legendary. Such as Google asking interviewees “How many cows are there in Canada?” or Gallup’s “What do you think about when you are alone in the car?”
I’m not always sure why companies like to throw these sorts of interview questions into the mix unless they’re trying to gauge creativity or ability to think on one’s feet. Perhaps for a company like Google there are just so many applicants that they need to find inventive interview questions to ask as a way to cut down the numbers somehow – who knows?
In the main hiring companies should just stick to the prosaic and the effective when interviewing candidates. Interview questions that try and measure skills, desire to join, and ability to fit in.
Here are the ten best interview questions to ask candidates. They’re not ground breaking in their originality; but they work if asked correctly and the answers are listened to attentively and recorded accurately:
#1 Tell me about yourself
A great way to get the ball rolling. Look for a confident coherent answer that doesn’t ramble and highlights aspects and experiences that relate well to the job opportunity and the organisation.
#2 Why do you want this job?
Ideally you want to hear enthusiasm, interest for this particular opportunity (not just a need for any old job) and evidence of some homework having been done.
#3 What are your key strengths or skills?
Here you’re wanting to find examples of skills that match what you have outlined in your person specifications and job descriptions.
#4 What would you describe as your greatest weakness?
This is a tricky one to answer and can often flummox candidates. It’s a good way to see how they react under pressure and at the same time hopefully hear an answer that is full of honesty and self-reflection but doesn’t reveal a flaw that writes them off. The best answers are those that admit a weakness (e.g. time planning) but describe steps taken to counter it (e.g. I now keep a day diary and plan my work more thoroughly).
#5 What are your career aspirations?
One of the key reasons talent leaks out of companies is because employers don’t ask right at the start what headroom they might need to make over the next two to three years to give them the career opportunities they need to develop and therefore keep employees engaged.
#6 Why did you leave your last job?
A great question to shake out any skeletons from the closet. The reasons given should be professional, understandable, and non-critical of the last employer.
#7 What achievements are you most proud of?
The canny interviewees will have prepared answers to this question in advance and give concrete examples that relate directly to the vacancy’s key tasks and measurement criteria. Give the interviewees the chance to shine and knock your socks off.
#8 Tell me about a time when things didn’t go right and what you did?
No job runs smoothly all the time and so you need to hire superstar employees who can respond to problems and then find and implement solutions.
#9 What do you know about us?
Any candidate worth their salt would have done a considerable amount of research on your organisation before attending the interview. If they haven’t then it’s a sure sign they’re not engaged fully in the process, are lazy minded or disorganised. Or perhaps all three.
#10 What would you like to ask us?
Following on from question #9 you can now give the floor to the candidate to ask you some questions. Here they can demonstrate enthusiasm for the opportunity, research skills, industry knowledge, ambition etc. Often I find some of the most illuminating insights come from these exchanges that take place towards the end of the interview when some of the formality has fallen away and it feels more like a conversation.
Photo credit: cartoon by Nick. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.