Five interview questions you should be asking


Ever thought about how much a bad hire could cost your company?

Aside from salary, potential outgoings on new staff, include hiring costs, training fees and even IT and maintenance payments. And that’s before we bring time-to-hire and the cost of poor work into the equation.

In fact, recent studies have estimated that the cost of a bad hire can run into six figures, depending on the role being filled. With so much at stake, it stands to reason that finding the right people to fill your role is of paramount importance. So how can you make sure you get it right?

Simple: it’s all about asking the right questions. We spoke to hundreds of interviewers and thousands of interviewees to reveal the top five interview questions you should be asking, courtesy of James Reed’s new book, ‘Why You: 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again’.


What would your co-workers say about you?

OK, we admit it: some people are just good at interviews. However, there is a question that has the potential to trip up even the cockiest of candidates.

An example of one of the fifteen classic interview questions (the most common and commonly adapted questions asked), this interview mainstay demands a more thoughtful and engaging answer than the simple ‘tell me about yourself’. It also shows whether candidates can tread the fine line between offering up a generic answer (‘hard-working’, ‘reliable’ and, dare we say, ‘nice’) and flat-out lying.

The best candidates will instead opt for real-life to give a true picture of what they can do. Tasteful testimonials which really reveal their true character will help you separate the potential from the pretenders.

Good answer: ‘They’d call me dedicated and goal-orientated. After a recent project, I was nominated for an award by my peers which represented some of the values the business strives for. I’ve also brought along a few testimonials, if you’d like to see them’

Wrong answer: ‘I’m not too sure, to be honest. My co-workers and I aren’t really on speaking terms’


What motivates you?

What could be referred to as a career goal question, determining a candidate’s motivation early-on can be surprisingly effective.

Without knowing why an applicant really wants to work for you, you could be employing someone who wants the job for all the wrong reasons.  Will what’s on offer motivate them to do great work? Or are they just in it for the pay cheque? Will they be there for the long haul or are they just looking to fill a gap?

Finding the answer to these questions will go a long way in determining whether it’s worth taking a chance on a candidate, far beyond the simple ‘why are you applying for this position?’. If someone can adequately offer an honest and thought-out answer, they could be the right one for the role.

Good answer: ‘I went into IT straight out of university and while I enjoyed helping people solve their computer problems, what really motivated me was when I got to work on projects analysing which software programs best met a company’s needs. I really love translating people’s requirements into technical solutions and that’s what excites me about this position’.

Bad answer: ‘I just really need a job’


Where does your boss think you are now?

For many companies, finding out whether a candidate is the right fit for the company culture is almost as important as assessing their other credentials. That’s where character questions come in.

Some people refer to them as the airport test. In other words, if you were stuck in an airport with this person, would you be able to pass the time together?  And, by extension, would they fit into your company culture?

The trick to this question is testing a potential employee’s honesty. Admitting that they lied to their current employer is the easy way out, but is unlikely to be particularly endearing. Instead, indicating that they used a day’s annual leave to see you is probably an indication of a reliable candidate.

Good answer: ‘I booked today as annual leave. I know colleagues who have lied about their whereabouts in the past, but it’s not something I’d be comfortable doing’

Bad answer: ‘I’m not sure really. I just kind of walked out…’


Can you tell me about a recent situation where you used your own initiative?

Translation: will they go above and beyond in the call of duty? Or will they never venture beyond the minimum requirements?

While this competency question is relatively straightforward, the answer could reveal a lot more about your interviewees than you’d get with almost any other question.

The best responses not only answer the initial enquiry, but are also able to bring it back to the situation at hand, demonstrating how their example directly resulted in a positive effect on the business.

Good answer: ‘When I started at my last company, there was no real induction process and it took quite a while for me to get up to speed on the way everything worked. Once I had settled in, I collected all the information I had and created a training document, which included a step-by-step starting process. The company have now rolled it out to all new starters, which has saved them both the time taken getting new starters up-to-speed, and also money.’

Bad answer: ‘I often come up with my own daily schedule. I don’t really respond well to authority’


Every CV has one lie in it. What’s yours?

Finally, many companies choose to throw in a curveball question at some point, to keep the interviewee on their toes.

It could be about animals. It could be about biscuits. It could even be about Doctor Who. Whatever the question, some of the world’s biggest businesses, ranging from Amazon and Airbnb to Google, Goldman Sachs and Deloitte, are asking creative curveball questions to identify the right talent for their roles.

With research showing that as many as one in five jobseekers admits to lying on their CV, this is one of our favourites.

A successful answer here will never openly admit to blurring the lines, although may throw some humour in to break the tension.

Right answer: ‘OK, so “active lifestyle” may have been a bit of a stretch. I do go and sit in the sauna in my gym from time-to-time, if that counts? On a serious note though, I don’t believe there are any lies on my CV. I believe integrity is very important and that starts with your CV.’

Wrong answer: ‘Pass’


More interview questions

Not convinced any of these answers work for you? We’ve got more. A lot more, in fact.

For 96 other questions you could ask, buy James Reed’s new book: Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again.

Alternatively, feel free to share your own answers in the comment box below.


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