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Great questions to ask nearly any interviewee

We've written before about four all time classic questions for interviewers, and we also have a list of common questions to expect at a PR interview in our Jobseeker Tips section.

Now, here's a longer list of questions for recruiters and interviewers that should suit pretty much any interview for any role. 

Added on 18.05.2014

They are not grouped into any sort of order, but we've organised them according to the type of information they are intended to provide.

Opening questions

What brings you here today?

A good opener, this could have the interviewee open up about issues with their current employer, or show you how ambitious they are. It can reveal both positive and negative qualities. Good follow up questions could include:

What would your current manager say about you?

This puts the interviewee on the spot, so you'll see them thinking on their feet (or not, as the case might be).

Is there anything that you think is unfair about your current job?

You might not be able to get someone to talk about their current role; if you can see that this makes the person uncomfortable, ask about the job they had before their current one instead. Either way, this could give you some insight into their character and ideals.

Personality questions

We're not saying that each question here should be asked in every interview, but these are designed to get your candidate to relax and show a bit of their personality.

Tell me a bit about your biggest passion in life

It doesn't really matter what the interviewee says here; what's important is not what interests them, but the way they describe their interest. Look for a lively, enthusiastic response. Be wary of people who don't seem animated when discussing their favourite thing.

I'm planning a holiday; can you recommend anywhere?

What would you do if you were left a few acres of land?

It might not be your 'style' to ask these questions and that's fine. But one is a good ice-breaker, and both are a good way to get some informal discussion going (note: one acre is roughly the size of a football pitch).

Who inspires you?

If they don't explain why, ask them. As before, this question is not about a 'right' answer, but about what makes your candidate tick.

What frustrates or angers you?

This can often get the interviewee to open up just as much as the previous question. They might show a bit of passion, reveal what motivates them and what's important to them, give you an idea how they deal with situations and a glimpse of their personality.

If you could be any animal / famous person, who would it be?

A bit more off the wall, this one. Many people will pick an animal or celebrity that they identify with, and possesses qualities or traits that they admire and consider important. Can give insights into creativity, and can also be used to lighten the mood.

Aptitude questions

What would you say is your biggest achievement to date?

It doesn't matter whether this is work-related or in their personal life (allow them to give an answer to either or both if they wish). The point is that anyone remotely employable will have achieved something in their life, and finding out what this is gives you lots of information about their aptitude, abilities, and attitude to life in general.

What's the riskiest thing you've done at work?

Success is often the result of taking risks. Further questions to dig deeper into the exact circumstances and what the interviewee learned from the process should be very revealing.

What's the biggest mistake you've made?

Be aware that you might not get an honest answer here. However, if you get more detail from your interviewee, you might find out how they handle setbacks and their attitude to the challenges they've faced.

Attitude to work, cultural fit & specific role-related questions

We'd recommend that you leave these questions to last, and that you ask all of them for any role beyond a junior or trainee post.

What would your ideal work environment be?

This can be a half-serious, half-humorous question, but should give you more ideas on personality and whether the interviewee is going to be a good fit with your current team.

Why do you want this job?

Should reveal these important things: (a) that they understand what the job is about; (b) whether or not they've done any homework on the company and the role; (c) whether they've been paying attention to any information you've given them during the course of the interview; and (d) how they think they can help your business.

Why should we give you this job?

This should prompt the interviewee to list their skills, ability and good qualities - and give you a chance to see if you agree based on what you've established from your conversation to date. It's also a chance for the interviewee to assert and sell themselves; qualities that are likely to be useful in most roles.

If we offered you this job, what things would you do in your first few days and weeks here?

Can give you all sorts of insight into their ambition and aims, as well as confirming that they have (or have not) understood what the job entails and what their responsibilities will be.