December 19th, 2016 | Sterling

The Best and Worst Interview Questions to Ask a Candidate

Asking the right questions in an interview will help recruiting managers find out about the person behind the CV. The best questions will reveal a candidate’s personality, attitude, skills, experience, abilities and potential cultural fit. On the other hand, asking the wrong questions will leave you at risk of making a bad hire and will just waste everyone’s time. Here is a selection of some of the best and worst interview questions to ask a candidate.

Best questions:

What has been your most significant career accomplishment to date?

This will give you an insight into an applicant’s achievements, as well as how they arrived at their success. A good candidate will be proud of what they’ve accomplished, but also give credit to others, recognising that success at work is often a team effort. The answer to this question will tell you about how the candidate performed in their last role, what they consider to be an achievement and what is important to them at work. Past achievements can also be a good indicator of future successes, giving you a little glimpse of what they may accomplish in your company.

Tell me about a time when things didn’t turn out how you had hoped and mistakes were made. How did you deal with it and what did you learn?

A candidate with the right attitude will view mistakes as a learning experience and opportunity for growth. They will take ownership of the situation, which demonstrates they are mindful and self-aware. Their answer will also give you insight into their problem-solving skills and how they recover from difficult situations. Let’s be honest, everyone screws up at some point – it’s how we manage and learn from it that counts.

This type of question can also help weed out a bad candidate, as they may be quick to blame others or even claim they’ve never failed at anything in their career to date. Alarm bells should ring here, as this would suggest they can’t take responsibility for their mistakes and are unable to recognise their faults or weaknesses.

How would you describe the relationship with your co-workers? What have been your best and worst working relationships?

Ask this question if you’d like to know how well this person would fit into your team, how they will interact with existing employees and what kind of relationships they would be keen to develop. It may be difficult for them to discuss their worst working relationships, but should give insight into how they managed any bad relationships and overcame problems. It could also flag up any hires, who may think nothing of criticising a former colleague or boss in front of a potential future employer.

Taking into account everything you have learned about this role and our business, what sort of contribution do you think you could make?

In this day and age, with Google at our fingertips, it really isn’t that difficult for an applicant to swot up about a business before attending an interview. Candidates who have taken the time to research your company and the role in advance will demonstrate they are truly interested in working for you and believe they will be a valuable asset. They should view this question as an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and explain how their knowledge, experience and skills can directly contribute to the success of your organisation. Candidates who haven’t prepared will stumble on this question, which shows they may not be that bothered about working for you or have the required skillset.

Worst questions

If you were ‘x’, what ‘x’ would you be?

Feel free to insert words like tree, car, film, song and animal into this question. Sure, it’s a quirky, fun thing to ask, but will their response have much to do with whether they have the ability and experience to do the job? Probably not. Plus, some applicants could even get a little miffed that you’re wasting their time with such random, irrelevant questions, rather than being given the chance to prove themselves and demonstrate why you should hire them.

What are your weaknesses?

This question is just too much of a cliché. And it quite often elicits a rather clichéd response, like “I’m a perfectionist.” What’s more, it’s such a common question that many candidates will be expecting it, so will have a ready-prepared answer that is likely to be insincere. You probably won’t get an honest response either, because who is actually going to reveal their true faults in a job interview? The last thing you want to do is encourage dishonesty so perhaps try to focus on asking questions that naturally reveal their true character.

Can you tell me about yourself?

You already have their CV and cover letter, you may even have looked them up on LinkedIn before the interview, so chances are you have a fair idea about their background leading up to this point. There is therefore absolutely no point wasting valuable interview time with open-ended questions like this that don’t focus on exactly how the candidate’s experience can contribute to the business and the position being offered. You may even risk leaving a bad impression on the interviewee, as this question could be perceived as being rather unimaginative, showing you haven’t fully prepared for the interview.

What is your religion? How old are you? Are you married? Do you have, or plan to have, children?

Questions like these are a legal minefield. Not only are they inappropriate, but if you make a hiring decision based on a candidate’s responses to these kinds of questions, you will be breaking the law. If in doubt, be sure to run all of your interview questions through your legal department to ensure that you are following the law and remaining compliant along the way.

When it comes to getting a job, some people will lie and an interview can only go so far in weeding out any bad candidates. To truly avoid making a bad hire, always perform a thorough background check so you know exactly who you are recruiting. Learn more about the possible risks associated with poor hiring decisions in our white paper, “How to Avoid a Bad Hire.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.