Six questions to try asking interviewees

23 Mar 2015

Every business and the individuals within that business will probably already have a well-established interview style that works for them and produces results. However, it can be good to try a ‘different’ style of questioning, with the aim of getting some more information from your interviewee. Below are six examples of the type of questions that you might want to consider mixing in to your normal interview style, all designed to produce information which could prove very helpful.


If you could take back one decision during the course of your career, which one would it be?

This is almost another way of asking the ‘what are your weaknesses’ question, but the framing leads the interviewee down the route of providing a specific example, which could be revealing. Often interviewees come prepared to talk about strengths and weaknesses in general but not to provide specifics. The unexpected nature of the question should help to get an interesting answer and there’s a lot to learn about the interviewee’s self-awareness, their ability to think on their feet and a surefire example of a mistake they probably won’t be making again in your employment.


If you were offered your choice of bonus or reward for a successful resolution of an average size case, what would you pick?

This is a difficult question for the interviewee to answer and, again, can reveal many of their qualities. The temptation will be there for the interviewee to suggest a humble amount of bonus, but they might not want to undersell themselves either. Confident applicants may well suggest something large. The safe option for the interviewee is to recount an example of a bonus they have previously received, which might give you some idea of their current or past working conditions.


Can you give an example of an occasion where you ‘broke the rules’ and justify it?

Feel free to replace ‘the rules’ with something more specific, like company rules or regulatory rules but steer away from a question framed around ‘the law’. What you’re looking for here is not only how much attention the applicant pays to the guidance provided to them but their reaction now to how and why they took this route. Was there really no other choice or is this something they enjoy doing on a regular basis? Does this seem reckless or is there justification? How does the applicant view the decision now? All of this can be very revealing about character and the interviewees approach to their work.


At your appraisal in a year’s time, what will you be disappointed to realise hasn’t happened / you haven’t achieved?

There are a huge variety of answers to this, which again reveals a lot about the interviewees aims when taking the position. If the answer is ‘promotion’, this might seem a good positive mantra, but not if you don’t expect to have any very senior positions opening up in the next twelve months. If you will be setting targets then now is the time for the interviewee to tell you what they would be uncomfortable not achieving, which might help you to set reasonable goals. For those coming in to lead or manage a team or department, look for the answer to be something around this, assuming they have started their planning before entering the interview room!


What do you not like to do in your work?

Again, this is another question designed to make sure you’re getting an honest view of the applicant. Everyone has elements of their job that they don’t like but clearly it would be a concern if the interviewee answered with something you specifically want them to focus on. It might be interesting to follow this up with, ‘if you were asked to do a lot of that element in a new job, how would you deal with it?’. This should give you a view on the interviewees thought process when things are not going well for them which is bound to happen at some point and is not connected to how good you are as a firm or they are as an employee or partner.


Why did you leave your last three jobs and how did the process go with your places of work?

If the employee is joining you in a senior position, such as partner, it’s likely that you’ll want them to stay with you for a significant period of time. Getting a view on why and how they have left their places on employment in the past can help you (and them) to make sure that this is not the case this time.


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