Interview advice: questions you should ask candidates

You’ve advertised your job and drawn up your shortlist of candidates, but you can’t go by CV alone – it’s time for the interview.

We recently discovered that over a third of employers believe that candidates are more prepared for interviews than ever before. Yet, we found that 70% of employers are spending less than one hour preparing for interview.

So we are here to help you plan ahead by looking at the interview questions you simply can’t afford to ignore.

The basics

“Tell me about yourself…”

Well-versed candidates should be able to succinctly sell their best qualities, skills and experience in a brief summary. This is also a good opportunity for you to find out the person behind the CV – what are their hobbies, motivations and approaches to working. This can be crucial when deciding who to hire.

“Why do you want the job?”

This basic question can quite easily throw candidates, as it will shine a light on how committed they are to your role. Often, this is more a case of what you don’t want to hear, as opposed to what you do.

Do they mention salary or the working hours? These may be red flags over their commitment. Or even worse, some candidates may simply reply, “Because I need a job”. This doesn’t scream someone who has fully embraced what it is your organisation does.


“What do you know about our company and our competitors?”

A detailed knowledge of your company and the struggles and challenges you face is very impressive. It shows research and dedication, and this insight will help them hit the ground running should you give them the nod.

“Where does this job fit into your career path?”

Use this simple question to check their ambitions line up with what your company can offer. You want someone on an upward trajectory, with ambition and drive – but you don’t want a short-term hire.


“Why do want to leave your current job?”

Our first curve-ball – this will give you a clue as to what motivates them in a role. Are they leaving after many years’ service, and having gained a great amount of experience – or do they immediately criticise management and teammates, or declare themselves “bored” or “overworked”?

“Describe your ideal work environment”

By finding out the style of manager, team or company they are searching for you can increase your likelihood of landing a hire with sticking power. Recent Totaljobs research shows that 60% of employers believe their most productive and engaged employees are those that fit in with their company culture. Plus, a striking 1 in 3 new hires leave within 6 months of joining a new company, meaning it can be vital to get this right

 “Tell me about a time you’ve turned a negative into a positive”

Here is another curve-ball, whereby you can find out how good they are at problem solving, thinking on their feet and securing a positive outcome. You could even ask them to tell you about a mistake that they have made. No one is perfect, but those who learn and roll with the punches can be hugely beneficial to your organisation.

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