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Features Recruitment
Four things to ask every candidate in an interview

February 5, 2020
By Rowan O'Grady

Photo: Getty Images

Have you ever questioned your own interview skills? Interviewing isn’t an everyday task for most and understandably, this means the majority of hiring managers are admittedly out of practice.

For some, the process can be almost as daunting for them as it is for the interviewee. If this sounds like you, then you could be doing your business a huge injustice without even realizing.

After all, we all know interviews are supposed to be a two-way dialogue. So, interviewers must always be aware that interviews are as much about the candidate interviewing you as an employer of choice, as it is the other way around.

By brushing up on your interview skills, and learning a few quick tricks to help keep the interviewee engaged and alert, you will not only ensure the candidate is put at ease (and as a result, gives their best performance), but you can be sure they will leave only having good things to say about your organization.


Prior to the interview, prepare a list of the questions you will want to ask the candidate. Here are some important questions you’ll want to consider asking when you conduct your next interview. .

Can you tell me a little about yourself?

This is great way to open the conversation and can also serve as an icebreaker question to help the interviewee relax. It will also provide a general overview of how they see themselves as a professional before you dive into the specifics. Additionally, it will help connect the dots on their resume so you understand not just what they have done, but also why.

Why do you want to work for the company? 

Ask the candidate what they know about your company and once the candidate has finished telling you what they know about your organization, fill in any necessary blanks. This is important to gauge whether candidates have done their research on what makes your company a unique place to work.

Try to give them an insight into what life is like at your company, and enable them to imagine working there. Describe things like the company culture, and what makes it a great place to work. You should also mention any industry accolades which set you apart from the competition, plus any interesting or widely known projects which you have been involved with. What can often excite candidates, is the prospect of having a market leader who is renowned in their field.

What are three things most important to you in a job?

Many employers only scrutinize qualifications and skills without properly evaluating how well the candidate will fit in with the team, organization and company culture. Brainstorm the keywords which describe your team, organization and culture. For instance, you may work at a close-knit organization where everyone is very friendly and team-spirited. Therefore you should look for these attributes in your candidate during the interview.

Prepare a couple questions which can reveal whether or not the candidate possesses the traits that could make them a good fit. For example, in the case of requiring a team spirited individual, you would ask questions like “How would you describe your style of working?” or “Can you give an example of a time when you worked well in a team?”

Give an example when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with that person?

It is important that you also assess the soft skills of the candidate. Soft skills are inherent personality traits which are trickier to teach and harder to measure. Think about which soft skills would be of benefit to the role, for example strong conflict resolution and problem-solving skills. Also think about the attributes the previous job holder had which were beneficial to the role, and which weren’t. You should also speak to colleagues in the industry to find out which personality traits they recommend, as well as to your recruiter to get their expertise.

Once the candidate is in front of you, how can you assess a candidate’s soft skills in an interview situation?

It’s much harder to do than assessing technical skills. Ask questions which give them the chance to demonstrate this skill. You can also read between the lines to see how they demonstrate this skill in the way they talk to you as a senior stakeholder. Do you feel that they come across as confident and able to build a rapport with key decision makers? Soft skills are not to be underestimated when interviewing for new talent, they can set the difference between a candidate that’s good on paper, and one that’s great in practice.

What are you seeking to accomplish career-wise?

Think about the opportunities available within this role. For instance, there may be scope for the successful candidate to progress their skill-set and career within your organization.  Will this candidate take advantage of the opportunities available?

You should also find out what their expectations are for training and development opportunities. Internal progression and development could be a core part of your staff retention strategy and a key driver of company performance. Therefore it is important to find a candidate whose career goals are aligned with this.

Remember to keep the interview engaging, interesting and conversational. In doing this, you sell the opportunity to the candidate as much as you would expect the candidate to sell themselves to you. More so, you will stay in their mind as an employer of choice, ensuring that they walk away saying only good things about you, your organization and the opportunity in hand.
In sum, there are plenty of things you can easily forget to assess for when interviewing for new talent, but being as prepared as possible, will increase your chances of finding, and more importantly retaining the best candidate for the job.

Rowan O’Grady is the president of Hays Canada. For more information, visit www.hays.ca.

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