Ask the right questions and get the best out of a candidate at interview


It’s not uncommon for a recruiting process to be treated with frustration, weariness and a ‘here we go again’ attitude. Just to get the job ad written can take time, let alone the wait for incoming applications and their screening to a suitable shortlist. And all this whilst in the background you have a team crying out for help with their workload as they cover the responsibilities of the vacant role. Before you know it, the interview’s in half an hour and you can’t remember which CV applied to the candidate so you cram with a quick skim of their experience and jot down some applicable questions.

This isn’t an unusual circumstance, especially in businesses that don’t have a dedicated recruitment function. But with a little bit of foresight and some valuable preparation time, you’ll get significantly more worth from your interviews which will ultimately inform the right decision.

Tell me about a time…

A combination of both behavioural and situational questions will provide you with a holistic view on a candidate’s thought process and problem-solving abilities. These are open questions (as opposed to closed questions) and will therefore require the candidate to tell you a bit of a story and paint a complete picture of their experience and approach to work. These should be defined ahead of the interview with the desired competencies in mind.

A behavioural question typically asks a candidate to describe a former situation where they may have had to apply initiative and problem-solve. Behavioural questions are quite popular among interviewers quite simply because previous experience is the most reliable predictor of future behaviour. For example, if the available role were to require a candidate to have client contact, you could ask a question along the lines of, ‘Can you describe a time where you’ve had to manage a customer complaint?’

A situational question focuses on hypothetical circumstances and it is here that you might be able to be a little more specific about the job responsibilities at hand. For example, if one of the role responsibilities included the organisation of the company’s file management and administrative process, you might consider asking, ‘Tell us how you might approach an audit of our administrative processes and what the resulting system might look like’.

Don’t forget the soft skills

It can be tempting to hire prospective employees based on specific skillsets, past experience, and referrals. Personality type and soft skills like patience and enthusiasm, however, factor into workers’ success just as much (if not more) than their ability to touch type or manage a diary. Unlike industry experience and hard skills, soft skills often cannot be taught, though they can make or break a successful onboarding process.

Basing recruitment efforts from CVs alone is counterproductive and fails to account for these valuable interpersonal skills. In the case of junior candidates and millennials who lack extensive work histories, a paper form rarely demonstrates a candidate’s true capabilities.

Have fun

Interviews can be daunting at the best of times for both parties, and the best way to truly get the best out of you and your candidate is for you both to feel at ease. Making someone comfortable could entail the simplest of details such as a warm smile of encouragement and some light-hearted conversation at the start of the interview. Where relevant, try and keep the interview conversational so that it doesn’t feel too much like an interrogation. Sit back, relax and enjoy it. Ultimately, a successful interview should be about liking one another and getting on as much as it is about them having the right set of skills for the job.

For more information or if you would like some guidance on further interview techniques, get in touch.

Author David Morel Tiger Recruitment Team

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