Published: 04/12/2017

10 essential questions to ask a candidate

Business Growth

As a small business owner, you will most likely be involved in most aspects of your enterprise. One of these areas could be recruitment. More often than not, small business owners will find themselves heavily involved in the hiring of new staff and interviewing candidates. Looking at potential candidates for your business is something that needs real thought. You may not be in the luxurious position of being able to hire a lot of people - so ‘quality over quantity’ is the approach you need to take when it comes to recruitment for your business.

But how do you know that you have a good candidate on your hands? The best way to get an idea is by having questions which will allow you to separate the great from the good. Let’s take a look at some excellent pre-prepared questions that will give you the best candidates. In this first part, we take a look at essential questions that you should be asking.

"Tell me about yourself?"

A great ‘little ice-breaker’ to get things moving. Open ended questions like this are a good way to see how a candidate can think on their feet. If someone finds it hard to answer this question you know they are either not that interesting or lack the ability to improvise in a situation. Conversely, if you get an answer which is erudite and clear you will know that you are speaking to someone who has something to say for themselves - which might give you an indication that they are a good cultural fit for the organisation.

"Why do you want to work for this company?"

Simple question, but one which is vital. You want to know why they feel they are a perfect fit for your business. How do they see an alignment between what they offer and what your business does. It’s incredibly important that they are able to answer this question with real clarity. It will firstly demonstrate that they understand your business and most crucially of all if they feel that they can plug a gap that you haven’t currently addressed. It’s a great early question that will get to the most important issues early on in the interview.

"Can you give an example of how something you did in you previous role had a positive impact on the organisation?"

Ah, now this one will really cut to the chase. As a small business owner the one thing you’ll want to see above all else from candidates is how they have delivered ROI (return on investment) in their previous role. In layman's terms, you’re really trying to see is if they have provided significant value in the past. Did they win a big contract, help drive sales or help construct a more user-friendly website which boosted conversion rates? If they can give you a satisfactory answer you will have a potentially suitable candidate on your hands.

"Was there a point where you once found something difficult at work and how did you resolve it?"

This is a really good question to assess the character of the candidate in front of you. This is also intentionally vague and it's a way to test someone's ability to think on their feet. The working world is never perfect. There is always office politics to contend with and this is something you should bear in mind when you interview. If they have handled a difficult situation to the best of their ability, and aren’t slandering their current place of work, you can feel secure in the fact that this candidate will be able to handle a challenge that is out of their control.

"Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?"

Hopefully their answer will be working for you. But in all seriousness, this is a good way to see how ambitious the candidate is and if they do indeed see themselves working for you in the long term. It’s also a great indicator of how much passion and drive they have. If they have seriously thought about this, you will know that the candidate is conscientious and will take pride in their work - another good sign of a potentially viable candidate.

"Do you have any questions for me?"

Probably the most common question of all, but possibly the most significant you can ask. If they don’t have any questions it's very telling. It shows that they haven’t taken the time to even look at your company and also demonstrates a lack of interest in what the role might entail. You want someone who is curious and shows interest in your company. Maybe they have seen an article about your business in the local paper and what to know how successful this was in generating interest. If they do, fantastic. This is exactly what you want to hear. Asking the candidate for questions gives them a platform to show off and change the dynamic of the interview. You can really get to have proper conversation with them on a more level field.

David Goulden Copywriter
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