Interviewing Candidates – Do you know what to say? What to ask?

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Do you know what to say? What to ask?

Work out what you want to know and ask the questions you need to ask to get that information?

Clients often ask me – What kind of interview should I have? What shall I ask?

Shall we do a Behavioural Interview? Situational Interview? Stress Interview? Case Study Interview? Portfolio Interview, CV Based Interview?

What matters is if the interview questions are relevant to the particular job and job description and the company and give you a chance to assess the candidates’ suitability for the job without asking any questions that can be deemed to be illegal and discriminatory ( if you don’t know what these might be then YES do look these up on the internet!).

Sometimes business owners I work with have been used to having someone else do first interviews for them, or have recruited before and hired someone that didn’t work out so they feel that they should do it differently this time – hence their questions.

That’s great – I love it when people want to learn – I know I do – but sometimes doing internet research can lead you down an unnecessarily complex rabbit hole of information, where you can get lost and end up with a list of interview questions to ask, that have no relevance to the job, your company culture or the kind of person you are looking for.

In my experience, you should evaluate the following as a minimum in the first interview.


  • Understanding of the job for which they are applying
  • Ability to do the job
  • Relevance of experience
  • Personality
  • Flexibility
  • Personal accountability
  • Future potential

Your questions should be specific to the particular job and give you answers that enable you to evaluate the interviewee based on your Job Description and Person Specification so that you are asking each candidate the same questions. There may be culture and attitude questions that you ask all prospective employees, and these can be included as well.

If the most important thing for you is that they sound good on the phone and enjoy working with customers and solving their problems, then tailor your interview questions around that.

For this role for example – Start with a phone interview, which has been prearranged, and where they have been emailed a copy of your full Job Description – NOT YOUR ADVERT- where you ask some open questions, listen and take notes.

What do you know about this job? What do you know about our business and what we do?

If they have no idea about the job…. Why? What does this say about them? No knowledge of your business or a cursory understanding? Not able to use Google? Look at your company website? Not a good sign. Do they sound flat, bored? tired?  Or upbeat smiley friendly and professional? If they are not able to articulate their answers clearly, then they are not a person who is suitable for a phone-based role where they are representing your business, have to think on their feet and deal with the unexpected.

Can you give me an example of a time when a customer has not been happy and what you have done to rectify that?

Did they take ownership for resolving the problem? Or did they just tell their supervisor and take no interest or responsibility for sorting out the issue/finding a solution and or learning from it. What respect and consideration do they show for the customer in this scenario?

What do you think might be some of the problems that our customers might encounter when buying from us?

Can they use empathy? Think on their feet? Have they really given your job any thought at all? Done any research?  Are they prepared to stretch themselves and use their brain?

These 4 questions will probably take 20 minutes – (sometimes a lot less! ) to go through on the phone and will save a huge amount of your time.

You will learn about their attitude, their customer service skills, how they sound on the phone, their personal accountability, their ability to think on their feet and use materials easily available to them, to improve themselves and generally do the best they can.

You will need to have a CV based work history interview where you ask questions about their day-to-day work and reasons for leaving, which helps to validate the CV. It also gives you an insight into the level of responsibility, relevant experience and skill levels as well as communication skills. Adding relevant situational questions about responsibility/accountability ability to work under pressure, if relevant- customer solution situations, under-delivery/failure to meet targets.

So, in conclusion, my best advice is to keep it simple and base the interview on finding out what you want to know. If you have a question on your Interview Script – ask yourself what the ideal answer is to this question – why are you asking it? What will this question tell you about the candidate?

Happy Interviewing!

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