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Interviewing? Find out how to get the best out of your interviewee.

In the past we’ve written about interviews and how to handle being on the interviewee side of the table, so we thought it was about time we wrote for those on the other side! So if you are the one conducting the interview and want to know exactly what questions you should be asking, then read on…

The first thing to remember about an interview is that this is your opportunity to uncover the personality behind the person that you are interviewing and whether they are right for the job. You have already decided that their CV says they can do the job, so now it is time to find out if they are a likeable person, if you can see yourself working with them and if they will fit into your team.

So bearing that in mind, get the CV questions out of the way first. Pick a couple of key roles they have had in the past and ask for more info - just to check that they did what their CV says they did. Once you are happy that they are suitably qualified and experienced, set the CV aside and get to know the person sitting in front of you by turning the following key questions into open discussions:

What’s your greatest personal achievement?
This can be anything at all, large or small, and it doesn’t have to be as impressive as climbing Mount Everest. The point here is that you want to extract their values, their motivations and what is important to them.

Why are you leaving your current job?
Ideally you want to find out if they left under a cloud or if they left because something at their last role wasn’t right. If their reason has a distinct possibility of repeating itself at your company then this is a good time to find that out.

Why do you want to work for us?
Hopefully here they talk about your company and show that they have done a bit of research, but mainly you want to see if they have picked up on something about your company that resonates with them - something that makes them determined to work for you and become a dedicated employee. 

What excites you most about this position?
Again, this should tell you how much research they have done into the role and how well they are prepared for what the role will entail. Ideally they will mention bringing a new perspective, new ideas and lots of enthusiasm.

What is your ideal working environment?
Obviously you want them to describe your own working environment to a tee, but really you are looking for some synergy between your own working environment and their ideal one. If their ideal working environment is the polar opposite to yours then this is a good indication that this person won’t be happy. They may also have some ideas about working environments that you could bring to your own, so explore this further with them.

What do you like to do outside of work?
Their answers here can provide all sorts of insights into things such as family values, social activities and hobbies. All of these should give you a peek at their personality and whether there are any commonalities between them, yourself and colleagues, giving a hint at whether everyone will get on.

What was the culture like at your last job and did it suit you?
This is where you want to find out how they interacted with management, colleagues and visitors. It is different to ‘working environment’ so make sure you steer them to talk about culture - was it happy, relaxed, informal - and did they enjoy working in this culture or did it make them uncomfy. Again, similarities here between their previous culture and the one you encourage at your own company should be identified.

Name one thing in your professional history that you would have done differently.
Most importantly here you want to see that they are not regularly making bad decisions! Encourage them to open up about a mistake or wrong turn they made, what led to it and how they recovered. Hopefully this will signal to you that this career path is their chosen one and whatever history they have overcome has led them here. It should also give you an insight into whether facing adversity made them stronger.

What sort of people do you like to work with?
You may have covered a lot of this when talking about culture, but the main thing here is to make sure that you don’t see any issues being caused between this person and your existing staff.

If you get the job what is the first thing you will tackle in the role?
There’s no right or wrong answer here as the role may just need a seamless transition rather than someone coming in to troubleshoot. Equally you want to see that someone if going to be proactive, get to know their colleagues and hit the ground running.

 If you ask the above questions and encourage the interviewee to elaborate on their answers then you will gain a real insight into their personality and their values in and outside of work. You will identify how they will interact with your existing workforce, their ability to do the job and their ability to handle things that are thrown at them.

Most importantly you will have spent some quality time with your candidate chatting openly, so if you felt relaxed and enjoyed their company for the duration of the interview then it sounds like this candidate would be a great fit with other colleagues, your culture and your environment. Offer them the job!