HRM speaks with eight recruitment specialists who share their best interview questions to gauge candidate suitability.
Imagine you’re a candidate walking into a job interview. If you’ve done your homework, you’ve probably anticipated some of the questions the recruiter is going to ask and have some pre-prepared answers up your sleeve.
Recruiter: “So, tell us about some of your flaws.”
You: “Caring too much and working too hard.”
Recruiter: “Okay, how do you work with a team?”
You: “Very well. I am truly fantastic at teamwork. The best, ever!”
Recruiter: “Great. And how do you manage stressful situations?”
You: “Extremely well. I thrive in stressful situations. You could light me on fire and I’d be able to calmly locate the office fire extinguisher.”
Recruiter: “Fantastic. You’re perfect. You’re hired!”
The thing about asking the same old questions is that you get the same old answers, and those answers aren’t usually reflective of the candidates true skillset or personality. They’ll say whatever they have to in order to get the job – even if that means lying through their teeth.
To find out how you can shake things up and avoid tired, obvious questions, HRM talked to eight recruitment specialists from Australia and New Zealand and asked them to share their best out of the box questions, and explain what they’re assessing for.
Ask a recruiter
What will you do if you don’t get this role? – Bianca Jones, New Zealand Country Manager of Talent International
“The reason for asking this question is that it gives an insight into their motivation in applying for a particular role. It lets us know the candidate’s focus and what they’re looking for, and it also covers off other avenues that we can explore if they are not successful.”
If you put forward a strong recommendation on a business-critical decision and it was turned down by one of your colleagues, how would you handle this? – Justin Falk, founder and CEO of TalentVine
“When you’re looking to hire someone, you want to ensure they have EQ as well as expertise. This question will assess whether the candidate is able to influence decisions based on facts as opposed to emotions. Their answer will also provide you with clarity into how they are likely to react to conflict in the workplace.”
Can you tell me how you are working to overcome a shortcoming? – Lisa Morris, Director of Hays Human Resources
“I like to ask questions to find out how self-aware a candidate is and whether they take action to overcome any technical or soft skill shortcomings. I ask this rather than asking ‘What are your weaknesses?’, which many people struggle to answer. This allows me to see if someone is a lifelong learner, ready to make improvements and whether or not they are solutions focused.”
If we were to ask your best friend to describe you in three words, what do you think they would say? – Charlotte Perkins, Manager, Frazer Jones
“I like to ask this question as it flips the ‘describe yourself in three words’ question on its head and you end up with a more honest answer and a better insight into their good (and bad!) qualities.”
Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a colleague or manager about an issue you felt strongly about. What was the issue and how did you go about resolving it? – Nina Mapson Bone, managing director of Beaumont People
“The worst answer is, ‘I’ve never had an issue in the workplace’. That tells me they are either very passive, or probably don’t realise that they might be the issue.”
“I also like to assess how well they’ll interact with our customers, and that comes down to how well they listen and ask questions. It’s a simple question that often gets asked, but when I ask ‘What questions do you have for me?’ at the end of the interview, I’m still assessing them. I’m looking to see if they can ask a question on something that hasn’t already been covered (thinking on their feet), or ask a question that expands on something we’ve discussed (listening and developing a conversation).
“If they don’t ask any questions, and they are interviewing for a customer facing role, I won’t hire them.”
Describe the work environment or culture in which you are most productive and happy? What makes you feel good in that environment and can you describe this with a concrete example? – Dr Crissa Summer, Director, Talent Management – NSW & ACT, Hudson.
“Our approach to recruitment and selection is based on the Hudson Performance Driver Model, as represented below, which provides a framework that encapsulates the many facets required for effectively assessing capability. The questions above are designed to tap into the ‘want to’ element which is a high indicator of performance but not often the focus in current recruitment processes.”
If you could design your own working week, how would you structure your days?
Tell me about a time in your current role where you felt you didn’t receive enough flexibility and what you would have liked your employer to do differently? – Nick Robertson, Senior Consultant, Mahlab.
“One of the issues we face a lot is an increasing desire for “flexibility”. This is often used as a generic, catch all term and means vastly different things to different people.”
“The last one pulls out some very interesting answers. For example, ‘I was having a massage on my non-working day and I had to reschedule because I had an urgent work call.’ i.e. first world problems.”
Share an example of when you’ve been responsible for a team outcome aligned to the organisation’s best interests, and disagreed with the approach being taken. Why did you disagree and what action did you take? – Jonathan Tabah, Director, Advisory, Gartner.
“In today’s business world decision-making is often driven by influence and consensus, not by hierarchy and authority. To ensure the right decisions are being made in this environment, candidates must confirm that the decisions they’ll make are aligned to the organisation’s best interest and second, that they’re able to rally others and drive consensus-based decisions forward.”
What are some of your go to interview questions? Or what’s one of the most interesting questions that you’ve been asked in an interview. Tell us in the comment section below.
AHRI’s Recruitment and workplace relations short course is designed to offer a refresher to HR professionals who want to stay up to date on the best practices around candidate selection and fair, legal dismissal.