Interview questions – Finding the person behind the mask

Interview questions - Finding the person behind the mask

What are your objectives when you conduct an interview? I’d suggest they might include taking a view on whether the candidate has the skills, knowledge and abilities to do the job, to assess what they can bring to the role and the team, then to delve into their personality, their attitude and values.

An interview is a relatively short space of time to really understand a candidate. And all candidates, to some degree or other, are wearing a mask. So it’s worth thinking carefully about your interview questions and coming up with some that will give you more of an insight into the real person.

Here’s our suggestions to start you off:

Tell me about your story 

This is a great opener. It’s really broad and so leaves things open for the candidate to share whatever they want to, such as how they came to be in the industry, what lead them to their current role, their family, their interests. It helps you to get to know a bit more about the candidate on a personal level and also gives you a feel for what they want to share and what they close up about.

When you’ve had a hard day, how do you get your motivation back?

We all have tough days from time to time. How the candidate answers this will give you a feel about how resilient and self-motivated they are. It will also reveal whether, as an employer, you have the necessary resources to motivate the candidate.  

Who is your biggest role model in life? 

The answer to this question can give you some insight into how self-focused someone is. Are their role models positive, does the candidate give credit to others, how have they been influenced them and why. It’s a great question for finding out a bit more about the candidate’s upbringing and values system.

What do people get wrong about you? 

This will show how high the candidate’s level of self-awareness is and whether they are prepared to be honest and make themselves vulnerable. It’s an interesting query, designed to delve below the surface and will show how the candidate views themselves versus feedback they might have got in the past.

How would you handle a teammate who isn’t pulling their weight on a task?

Would the candidate start with a problem-solving conversation with the teammate, or would they take over the task themselves? The response reveals details of their communication and problem-solving abilities. The answers might well take your conversation into new and interesting directions about discipline, support, mentoring, and so on.

What is your biggest regret?

This is quite a personal question; you could get answers that relate to work or to their personal lives. You might get a long, detailed response or a brief, emotional one. It’s one that really helps you to understand the candidate’s character and maturity.

How do you help make your company money?

Every job has to pay for itself in some way or another. This conversation shows whether the candidate can take a bigger view of their role in the company and understand how their performance can impact on financial issues.

What do you not want to be doing in five years?

So much more interesting than the usual ‘what are your long term goals.’, it can help you get an insight into the type of work or environment that the individual might find demotivating. It will also help you find out about how ambitious they are.

Tell me about a time when you failed at something?

More revealing than ‘what’s your biggest weakness’, this question will tell you if they are prepared to admit to messing up, how they dealt with it and whether they took something positive away from the experience. Look out for those who blame others for their failures or who claim they have never failed at anything.

Interviewing is an art rather than a science, and there will be times when you find you are wasting your time on candidates who are wrong for the role. But if you evolve your technique to use a mix of basic and behavioural questions, with the occasional curveball thrown in, you should end up with a more in-depth picture of the person in front of you.  

Have you ever used any of these interview questions? Or do you have some favourites of your own? Do join in the conversation by commenting.

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