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May 25, 2023

Essential Interview Questions to Understand your Candidate


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Recruitment is risky! An incorrect hire will cost 30-150% of the annual salary in rehiring, lost opportunities, loss of clients, and wasted time in training. It might even a damaged organisational reputation. Yet many companies hire candidates after one or two superficial interviews.

We would never marry a person after only one or two dates, right? So why do we practise this when it comes to candidate selection when there is so much at risk? That’s why we’ve prepared these interview questions for you.

The real reason to hire

This is a challenge for businesses. People should be hired for two reasons: 

  1. They have the hard skills (skills, knowledge, experience and education), and 
  2. They have the soft skills (behaviour and emotional characteristics) to perform the job. 

We may want to hire a salesperson not just for their experience in sales, but also for their high attention to detail (a Precise person) because the product is a high-precision tool. Hiring a person solely on their previous sales track record (hard skills only) could turn disastrous.

Scientific advancement to evaluate human traits

Busy talent acquisition managers have little time to delve deeper into the psyche of job seekers and discover the inner person. But thankfully, scientific advancement in the study of human behaviour has given us tools to evaluate human characteristics and traits. Behavioural and emotional intelligence assessments allow us to understand the real candidate. It helps us discover who they are (what they want, what they need), and how that person will work with others.

Behavioural and emotional intelligence assessments allow us to understand the real candidate. Good interview questions helps us discover who they are (what they want, what they need), and how that person will work with others.
Behavioural and emotional intelligence assessments allow us to understand the real candidate.

Broadly, there are 4 behavioural styles – Progressive, People, Predictable and Precise. Each type has unique characteristics. Progressive types are confident and focus on accomplishing bottom-line results. People types are sociable, open and emphasise relationships, influences and persuasion. Predictable types are dependable and orderly. They emphasise routine, cooperation and sincerity. Precise types are analytical and accurate. They emphasise expertise and competency.  

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Top 10 interview questions for you

Our team of psychologists have developed specific questions tailored to the different behaviour styles. These are incisive interview questions that can be used to draw out insights across the spectrum of job seekers. Let’s look at some of them now.

1. What strengths or even limitations do you bring to this position?

Besides being presented with a job description (i.e. hard skills), this interview question tells you if the interviewee did his/her homework on your organisation. Did the interviewee check the job description thoroughly or did he give his standard one-answer-fits-all response?

 2. How do you view your performance in your current job?

This question allows you a peek into the candidate’s frame of mind. Typically, job seekers will speak of their best achievements and accomplishments. However, a wise candidate will also mention moments when he struggled, what he learned from tough experiences and if he had an action plan. If all seems perfectly rosy at the current job, you can follow up with this next question:

3. If you could change one thing in your current job, what would it be? Why are you leaving?

This is a favourite job interview question. The answers (and body language) can tell you a lot about the person sitting in front of you. If the candidate slings blame around or have a victim mentality, these are red flags. An eagerness to talk poorly of his or her supervisor or teammates shows a lack of professionalism. There is another advantage to this question. You will get an idea of the candidate’s expectations of an ideal position. For example, the opportunity for career advancement, flexible working hours, and so on.

 4. How do you influence others when working on a major project?

Through this behavioural question, you can assess a candidate’s leadership ability. You can also examine how he handles different people across the organisational structure. Even if the interviewee has not been in leadership positions previously, hiring managers can pick up cues. Such as, whether he’s able to listen without interrupting, willing to share knowledge and ideas or create rapport with others.

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Is  he's able to listen without interrupting, willing to share knowledge and ideas or create rapport with others?
Willing to share knowledge and ideas or create rapport with others

5. What motivates you and demotivates you at work?

You may notice that this is one of the questions in our free “Ultimate Interview Questions to Discover Behavioural Fit“. This one will help you find out what drives the candidate and if he/she is a self-starter. One of the key traits of high-performing individuals is that they are self-motivating. They are able to keep moving towards the goal even when the tasks are unpleasant or repetitive.

6. How do you feel about sudden change?

Here’s another behavioural interview question. Can the candidate deal with pressure? What is his reaction to shortened deadlines? Is he able to maintain a positive, professional attitude? Is he able to pivot quickly or does he dwell on what should have been? People of the Predictable behaviour are generally not fond of change and will need time to adapt. 

7. How does rejection impacts you?

Rejection is seldom pleasant. This seemingly simple behavioural question can provide you with more insights into a person’s psyche and motivations. To a Progressive person, who is usually strong-willed, goal-oriented and likes to be in charge, rejections are a minor setback. On the other hand, the People person, sociable and people-oriented, will not take rejection well. In fact, it could impact closing the sale – for fear of receiving a negative response.

Rejection is seldom pleasant and this seemingly simple behavioural question can provide you with more insights into a person's psyche and motivations.
Not taking rejection well

8. Tell me about a time when you made your worst mistake. What strengths did you use to get over it?

We all make mistakes. If a candidate cannot answer this common interview question, it’s a potential red flag. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and do better. Discussing failures in an interview shows that the candidate is capable of dealing with problems openly and honestly. Hence, it also shows self-awareness and awareness of their strengths to move forward. You want a person in your organisation who grows stronger in their failures, and takes accountability and responsibility rather than finger-pointing. 

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9. What did you do during the lockdown?

Let us temporarily leave aside those who had genuine health or safety issues during the pandemic. Some people could describe their lockdown as mundane or uneventful (for the People and Predictable types). Others may call it highly productive (for the Progressive and Precise types). When hiring, you’d like to know what the candidate did with their time? How was their attitude about being stuck at home? Did they seek self-improvement, take up a course, or start a new hobby? Did they spend more time with their family, or become a Netflix connoisseur?

Leaving aside those who had genuine health or safety issues during the pandemic, the average person could probably describe their lockdown as mundane or uneventful
Things to do during a lockdown

10. Why do you want to work at our organisation? What do we offer that excites you?

This ranks high on the list of must-ask job interview questions for obvious reasons. Job seekers who don’t make the effort are probably poor prospects. 

What’s next

All of these questions, are designed to help you to understand your candidate and discover the inner person. For deeper and more accurate insights, book a call with me to understand why people really matter! Our free “Ultimate Interview Questions to Discover Behavioural Fit” is available for download. In it, you will find useful questions for identifying the behaviour type of the candidate for your role.