Questions to ask when hiring staff

Hiring a new employee for your business, can be a minefield so in order to minimise risk, it’s vital to be prepared. Not only will this instil a sense of confidence in the person being interviewed, it will also help them feel at ease and increase the chance of you getting to know them at what is usually, a nerve-wracking time.

Company cultures and job vacancies will naturally vary, so depending on the personality and skillset you are recruiting for, you will need to ensure the questions you ask, aid the decision-making process. Setting your questions in advance will provide a level playing field for the interviewees. Any variation could give someone an unfair advantage and worst-case scenario, land you with a discrimination complaint.

Sally Mlikota, Director, CBC Staff Selection shares some of her top tips for hiring managers at the interview stage.

1. First impressions last

It is important to remember that it’s not just the candidate who is being assessed at the job interview, they are also weighing up whether your company is the right fit for them, and that the job is one they want to do.

Make sure you greet them with a smile, remember (and use) their name, stand up when they enter the room and offer a firm handshake. By setting a professional tone, you are also setting expectations which reflect the company as a whole which helps build trust.

 2. What you should and should not say

To calm the nerves and to not put the candidate on the spot the second they sit down, try starting with a generic question such as ‘tell me a little bit about yourself’. Not only will this help you get to know the person a bit better, you will also be able to gauge their level of self-awareness.

At the other end of the scale, there are things you should not ask. These may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many times we hear anecdotally of candidates having to navigate their way around questions which involve age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, political persuasion, disability, marital status or pregnancy. The latter seems to remain a sticking point with people, despite awareness having increased significantly over the years in terms of discrimination. Even after the interview has concluded, you cannot under any circumstance, exclude someone because they are ‘just married’ and ‘may’ be planning a family soon.

 3. Likeability vs. capability

You may be getting along famously with the interviewee which is of course wonderful however, are they capable of doing the job?

Do keep in mind that you aren’t hiring for likeability, you are also hiring just as much for ability and whilst you might instantly warm to them, you need to ensure they are going to fit in with the rest of the team and also, that they have the skills and experience to meet the selection criteria.
A good way to determine this is to ask what attracted them to apply for the job in the first place, and why you should hire them above anyone else. These types of questions will quickly establish whether they understand what the requirements are for the job and what skills they already have which will deliver successful outcomes.

4. Behavioural Questions

These types of questions during interviews have become increasingly popular over the years and are useful to include as part of the process. Usually they start with ‘Give me an example of a time when…’ or ‘Describe how you dealt with…’.
Try to keep your questions relevant to the job. You don’t want to ask how someone deals with high stress brought about by tight deadlines, if those circumstances are unlikely to occur in the role. Use the interview time you have as efficiently as you can so you can reflect on meaningful information rather than ‘I liked him as he made me laugh’ or other subjective views.

5. Be Prepared

Make sure you have planned what you are going to wear the day before the interview and select an outfit that is appropriate and is neither too tight, nor too loose so you don’t look untidy. It is worth noting that just as a candidate would be expected to dress appropriately for an interview, so too should you as the interviewer so take some time to make a great first impression. You can learn more about what makes a good first impression, here.

Note keeping is also important for several reasons. Firstly, notes enable you to accurately reflect and review each candidate for suitability. Often after a full day conducting interviews, fatigue will have set in and those people you saw at the start of the day, will be a distant memory towards the end of it.
You may also find that an unsuccessful candidate will request feedback on what they could have done better. This is a great opportunity to give them some pointers for next time, so make sure you can reflect accurately on what they said and how they fared overall.

Occasionally, a candidate may be disgruntled about not getting the job. By keeping notes for all interviewees, you will be able to demonstrate that firstly, you asked everyone the same questions and secondly, give clear examples of why they weren’t deemed to be the most suitable person for the role.

If you want to find out more about how we can help you achieve recruitment success, get in touch or visit our HR page for details about our services.