What are the best questions to ask during job interviews?

The hiring manager must give the candidate a chance to showcase what they have to offer

The hiring process for any organisation should always start with a good job description. Getty Images
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You can always find good tips online for candidates interviewing for new jobs, but there is less advice out there for the people sitting on the other side of the table and leading the interview process.

Interviews do not always follow the same process, no two are the same, but often the person leading the interview might not be giving the interviewee the best chance of showcasing what they have to offer.

Similarly, they might not be selling the role or the company in the best possible way.

The best managers do not always make the best interviewers, and they may not have an HR person in the business to support them.

The hiring process for any organisation should always start with a good job description, which should outline not only the role itself, but also the purpose or reason for the job.

Is it a new role or a replacement, maternity cover or for business growth? A good job description will also give an insight into the company itself and its culture.

In my opinion, a job description should be similar in size to a CV, which should be between one and three pages.

If the candidate has read a clear job description before the interview takes place, it will allow them to prepare relevant questions during the meeting.

The interview itself should have some structure, but not too rigid and formal.

It’s quite normal for any meeting to start off with some ice-breaking chat before getting into the details, then introductions and more details about the role and company.

One of the first questions I would ask during an interview would be: “What do you know about our company and the role you have applied for?”

This will be a quick way to get an understanding of what preparation the candidate has done.

A candidate that has done their homework will stand out more than someone that says: “I haven’t really heard of the company and/or haven’t had time to research.”

Another good question would be: “What tools/support/training do you feel you would need to be successful in this role?”

It’s quite rare for a person to fit 100 per cent of the requirements for a role, but most of what might need improvement should be coachable.

If the employer and employee are clear on what they need from each other before working together, it will make the onboarding process much smoother with no surprises later.

Non-coachable assets such as showing up on time, going the extra mile, being positive and passionate will show up (or not) quite quickly during a probation period.

Another question I often ask is: “What is your preferred management style?”

Earlier in my career when I was new to managing a team, I had a very one-dimensional approach, which did not work then and would not work now.

Clearly, I will try my best to treat everyone fairly, but a different approach is needed for different personalities.

Where do you see yourself in three years is probably a cliché to be avoided, but understanding what someone’s future goals is very useful – if it’s important to them, then it’s good for you to know as an employer.

Are they looking for a promotion or training courses? How can the organisation help them achieve their goals?

Overcoming adversity or tackling a tough challenge is an asset to any business, so asking for examples of this in previous roles will offer a good indication of how a person approaches and manages a task.

As mentioned, many of us are not trained in how to conduct interviews, and many will simply default back to the way they have always done it.

There may not be anything wrong with this, but the best piece of advice I can give to anyone who wants to attract the right people to their organisation is to have as many people involved in the process as possible.

This is particularly helpful for smaller companies as it will give the candidate an open view of the team.

If it’s an office with four people and you are looking to hire a fifth, this person will have an immediate and large impact on the team.

In this instance, it is also important to get everyone’s buy in for hire. If everyone is committed to bringing the person on board, they are much more likely to try to help them settle in and support them when they join.

A good recruitment company should help in writing the job description and will be an important part of the interview process, managing the first screening and meetings before presenting the hiring manager with a final shortlist.

John Armstrong is founder and managing director of JCA Associates

Updated: August 11, 2023, 4:00 AM