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Best interview questions to ask new staff

Be sure to ask the right interview questions when taking on staff for your business, so when you interview staff you can compare different candidates and hire the best person for the job.

If you’re a growing small business or a sole trader looking to expand, there comes a time when it makes sense to hire additional staff. Asking the right interview questions when you interview staff is important – no matter if the role is for a short term temp or a permanent position within your business. Preparing a list of great questions makes it easier to compare potential employees, and provides a structure that helps you conduct a good interview.

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Before the interview, write down your list of questions. Interview questions should focus on the candidate’s employment history, their skills and experience in relation to the role you’re interviewing for, and how well they work with other people. A great employee will be a boon to any growing business, while a bad employee can sow discord in the office and make costly mistakes. Take time now to get it right with some great interview questions.

How to ask good interview questions

Interview questions fall into two camps – open-ended questions that let the candidate expand their answer, and directed interview questions where you’re looking for a specific type of answer, usually supported with an example or evidence.
When interviewing, it’s best to use open-ended questions to get a broad feel of the candidate, then use directed questions to home in on the detail. For example, follow the question ‘What did you do in you last job’ (open-ended) with a specific question relating to a task within the job, such as ‘Tell me about a time you dealt with an unhappy customer? What did you do? What was the result?’
Make sure you listen carefully to any answers and take notes. If the candidate says something interesting, be prepared to ask further questions about it.

Interview questions about past employment

These types of questions help you understand the duties and tasks a potential employee carried out in the past, and are a good set of opening questions as the candidate is able to answer from their experience and is on familiar ground.
• What kinds of jobs and roles have you recently been doing?
• What did your job involve? What kinds of tasks and duties were you responsible for?
• What did you like most about the job? What did you like least about it?
• Tell me about a time when something went wrong in your job? What did you do about it?
• Why are you looking for a new job?

Interview questions about working with others

Staff problems tend to involve issues between different employees, and poor communication between staff. Clashing personalities can cause problems, so make sure you get the candidate to reveal how they work with others.
• How do you like to be managed? What type of management doesn’t work?
• How would your previous manager describe you? How would your previous colleagues describe you?
• How you have faced an issue with a co-worker or manager? How did you resolve it?

Interview questions about the new role

Ideally, it’s best to employ someone who has actively sought out the role and is interested in working for your business. Avoid staff who adopt an any-job-will-do approach – they won’t be committed to the role or likely to stay with the business. A good candidate will have researched your company and the role before the interview.
• What do you know about the company?
• What prompted you to apply for this role? What do you hope to get from it?
• What do you think you will bring to the role? What would be your concerns about the role?
• What other types of role have you applied for?

Skills based interview questions

Your business may require specialist skills for the role – make sure you ask directed questions that provide evidence of these skills and relevant experience.
• What type of skills do you think you need for this role?
• Tell me about a specific time you used these skills?
• Tell me how you would tackle this element of the job? How would you approach it? What do you think the problems could be?

Best interview questions about staff challenges

Staff who can cope with challenges and who can work well when things get difficult are vital for a well-functioning small business.
• What are your strengths? What are your weaker areas?
• What motivates you at work? What can cause you to feel demotivated?
• How do you work within a team? How do you work as an individual? Which do you prefer?
• What’s been your biggest lesson in life?


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Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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