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Essential Job Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

27 June 2021

As an employer, chances are you’ve taken part in a variety of interviews over the years, both as an interviewer and an interviewee. Some will love them, some will hate them but very few will be able to avoid them - a necessary evil of the working world.

Naturally, in the interest of hiring the very best talent, the art of conducting an interview is something that any employer will want to have down to a science (or artsy science, if we’re being technical).

That being said, best practice within the interview itself can vary wildly from one employer to the next, not to mention from one role to the next. For example, hr interview questions may differ from sales interview questions, while interview questions for managers will likely differ to 

As times change, so too does the recruitment process and interviews are no exception. Take a look at recruitment during the global pandemic and the necessary move to video interviews for proof of just that. The same can apply to employers from different generations.

Modern employers will often prefer the laid-back, conversational approach, while old-school bosses may favour a more traditional Q&A grilling. Whichever avenue you prefer, it’s worth keeping in mind that some of the most common interview questions are that way for a reason and well worth including.

So, with that in mind, let’s dive right in and wade through those familiar waters of the interview with our recruiter’s guide to the very best interview questions to ask as our ever-buoyant armbands.


Why do you want to work here?

When mulling over exactly what questions to ask in an interview with a possible new hire, this is as good a place to start as any. An all-time classic, this question will immediately sort the passionate from the indifferent and give you an instant idea of who wants a job and who wants this job.

Finding a candidate that’s the right fit for your company and the team can be a tough task, which is exactly why you need to weed out those looking for employment and those looking to work for you. Whether it’s the job or the company itself that they want to work for, finding a candidate that’s passionate for the role is imperative, particularly when it comes to long-term recruits.

Loyal employees passionate about the company they work for or the role they have will be far less likely to fly the nest the second a better role opens up, ultimately leaving you back at square one again. Similarly, those who have an affinity for their job will also be far more likely to go the extra mile when it matters most.

If you really want to see who is paying attention, you can take this question one step further and ask the candidate to relay a specific detail about the position itself. Asking the candidate what it is about the job that attracted them the most is a fool-proof way to find out exactly who has studied the job description and paid attention to the details.


Why do you want to leave your existing position?

Much like the previous question, the answer to this will reveal a lot about the interviewee’s professional character. That being said, unlike the previous question, it can also open a whole can of worms and provide the potential for some serious negativity - so enter with caution!

People leave their current place of employment every single day for a myriad of reasons, ranging from personal circumstance to professional differences and everywhere in between. Identifying exactly why your role has been pinpointed as their next port of call can be insightful on a number of levels and provide a deeper window into your candidate’s personality than you might think.

Many jobseekers will leave an existing job for career progression. If so, this is very much a good thing as it shows ambition and a desire to achieve more than they are able to at their current place of employment. The fact that they see your position as a way of facilitating that is an obvious indication that they view your company as a step up, where they are able to progress through hard work.

Meanwhile, a candidate may wish to move on for more personal reasons, such as managerial issues, lack of work/life balance or simply the fact that they weren’t a good fit for the team. If that is indeed the case, now is the perfect time to put those concerns to rest. Remember, a job interview is a two-way street and it’s just as important that you sell the role to the candidate as they sell themselves to you.

That being said, as mentioned earlier, this question can be a trigger for candidates to talk negatively about their existing employer. Depending on the subsequent ferocity and willingness to speak negatively of their current boss, it can be a red flag that he/she may not be loyal to their employers. After all, that same candidate could very well be speaking of you the same way down the line.


Where does your boss think you are right now?

Another great real-world question to ask at interview, the answer to this one can tell you a LOT about the person sitting in front of you and is a great follow up to the last question.

Interviews can and usually do take place during the working day. For office workers in particular, this tends to be 9-5 hours which poses a catch-22 issue of attending a job interview that clashes with your actual working hours.

Assuming your candidate is employed at the time of interview, a good employee would arrange to take annual leave in order to attend said job interview. Conversely, any employee who goes AWOL to do their own thing is one that almost certainly can’t be trusted.

Worse still, if your candidate has actively lied to their employer in order to attend your interview, it should immediately set off some serious alarm bells. Any candidate that is willing to lie to their current boss is almost certainly willing to lie to you in the future, and deceitful workers are rarely best for business.

While there will naturally be exceptions to this rule, it’s a good rule of thumb as far as reliability goes and provides an immediate indication of character. Think of it as a moral barometer - it’s not always going to be 100% accurate but it’s worth taking into account all the same.


Where do you see yourself in five years?

When it comes to clichés at interview, this one is right up there with “sell me this pen” - but you can’t argue with results!

Hard working employees are the backbone of any successful company. Naturally, these hard workers usually have such a driven work ethic as a result of a determination to progress, and there’s no better way to uncover ambition than this classic question.

Conversely, you may not be looking for a go-getting trailblazer with their eyes set on bigger and better things. Maybe you’re seeking a content candidate happy to settle into a singular role for the long haul and make the position their own. Again, if that is the case, those exact traits can be identified instantly with this one simple question.

Meanwhile, this question can also be a great way to sniff out arrogant candidates as well. If the answer to this question is “where you’re sitting” or words to that effect, you could be dealing with an over-confident personality that may cause friction within the team down the line.


Do YOU have any questions for us?

An all-time classic show-closer if there ever was, flipping the script and placing the power of the interview in the hands of the interviewee is the perfect way to not only round off an interview, but also the ideal scenario for you to clear up any grey areas or misconceptions that the candidate may have about the role.

A candidate that has come prepared for the interview will often be ready with a handful of quick-fire questions in the chamber, ready to unload at will. That being said, there are bad and good questions to ask at the end of an interview as well; for example, anything relating to perks, holiday entitlement and lunch breaks should raise instant red flags.

Keep an eye out for candidates quizzing you on the office environment, the team and the business itself. These are the people who are legitimately invested in your job opportunity and those that are worth considering for the role.

Finally, don’t be afraid to go over your allotted time during this part of the interview. If a strong candidate is chewing your ear off with questions about your business, let them chew away. It shows they are passionate and truly eager to gain as much information about their would-be employer as possible.

Above all else, if your candidate does have a laundry list of questions ready to ask you, it provides you with the perfect avenue to get to know them even better. An extra 15 minutes talking about the role they may indeed be offered is only going to make them more hungry for the job, and could be the difference between them accepting the position and rejecting your offer.


So, there you have it - our five best questions to ask at an interview. For more job interview questions to ask your would-be employees, speak to one of our recruitment specialists today and turn your next interview into your candidates last!


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