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Four Interview Questions That Employers Should Always Ask

Depending on the exact vacancy you need to fill, you may need to assess many different skills at interview.

However there are few key general questions that we believe every candidate should be able to answer - and their answers will help you look beyond the CV and get to the person, and their approach to work.

Added on 03.03.2014

What would you say has been your greatest achievement in any job so far?

Whatever their answer, dig deeper and get them to paint a complete picture of

  • their position and responsibilities at the time;
  • the key challenges they had to face;
  • the timescale involved;
  • the resources at their disposal (including people);
  • how they managed those resources;
  • the plan they developed / approach used to tackle the task;
  • how this helped overcome challenges;
  • any setbacks and how these were handled;
  • what they learned from the experience and what they might do differently next time.

Doing this should give you insight into many useful things including how the candidate approaches tasks, what they feel is important about work, and even what they consider difficult (they are hardly going to list a task that didn't present them with some problems). It could also give indications of how they work with or manage others, and their ability to learn from successes and mistakes.

What qualities would your ideal colleague have?

Most candidates will describe their own strengths, although some may describe qualities or competencies that they may not feel they have.

Again, following up this question with a request for them to explain each of their answers will let you know which it is, and tell you a bit more about your candidate's skill set and personality. Are they realistic about their abilities or could they be over-estimating themselves?

How would you help me solve this problem?

Tell the candidate you'd like them to help you with a brainstorming exercise, then give them a real example of a challenge that your business is facing or has faced.

Once you're sure that the candidate understands this perfectly (and that you're not using any jargon or other language that they couldn't be expected to be familiar with) ask them for their thoughts on what steps could be followed to find a solution. You could help them by taking notes, acting as if the two of you were drawing up a strategy.

This will enable you to see how well your candidate 'thinks on their feet'. It can be a fairly challenging exercise, but if the discussion arising from the two questions above has gone well, then the candidate should be fairly relaxed and up to the challenge.

What would you do in your first 3 months here?

If you're interviewing for a management role or any other position where the candidate should have the skills and experience needed to 'hit the ground running' then they should have seriously thought about what you want them to achieve, what they want to achieve, and how they'll go about doing this.

Even if they are starting in a more junior role or one where training is required, they should still have some idea of where they see themselves in your company, and what they will be doing and capable of doing.