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12 QUESTIONS TO ASK CANDIDATES: FIRST INTERVIEW

Author: Richard Snarey

Published date: 2019/08

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​We all know that the first time you meet a candidate at the interview stage can be daunting for both parties. While it’s likely the candidate will be nervous, employers are also under pressure to sell the company and the role.

With specific blue-collar positions, such as those in contract management or engineering, requiring a two-stage interview process, it’s critical that you nail that first stage. This is especially important when you consider that 47 per cent of job seekers said that the in-person interview had the biggest impact on their impression of an employer and a job, according to a survey by Jobvite.

Also, the 2018 Talent Board North American Candidate Experience Research Report revealed that 60 per cent of candidates would share a negative candidate experience with their friends and family, with 35 per cent sharing it online.

The team at PRS works closely with a wide range of blue-collar employers to help them conduct the most effective interviews so they can bag the very best talent. Here, you’ll find our top 12 recommended questions to ask candidates in a first-stage interview and the reasons why.

1. What three qualities will you bring to this role?

This is a great question to kick things off with as it allows the candidate to focus on their positive attributes and explain precisely why they’d be a great fit for your business. Asking for a specific number of qualities means they’re more likely to provide a succinct answer, rather than reel off as much as possible to try and cover what you’re looking for.

2. What continual professional development/training have you up took in the past two years?

The desire to learn and the evidence it’s been put into practice is a key indicator of a good candidate. It shows their commitment to professional development and an awareness that they have areas of improvement.

3. Tell me about the relationships you've had with the teams you've managed.

Rather than asking a closed question about the number of people a candidate has managed, dig a little deeper to find out about their experiences. The size of a team doesn’t provide an indicator of a person’s management style. This question will hopefully enable the candidate to open up about specific experiences and achievements.

4. What do you think would be the main challenges facing you in this role?

The candidate should provide you with two crucial pieces of information when they answer this; the first being whether they’ve read the job description properly, and the second, a demonstration of their self-awareness when it comes to personal challenges.

5. Tell us about a time when things didn’t go well in a previous role and how you handled it.

You want to know that a candidate can think on their feet and make fast decisions if necessary. While this can sound like a negative question, this is a great way to demonstrate your acknowledgement, as an employer, that mistakes happen, but it’s how you handle them that matters.

6. How much has your career changed in the past X years? What’s been the driving force behind these changes?

Compare and contrast questions like this one work well to get candidates to demonstrate growth and self-awareness of how their career has evolved. By asking why these changes have occurred, you will hopefully learn about the candidate’s development, the effect of an evolving technological landscape and their knowledge of industry changes. 

7. What do you look for from an employer?

An interview is a two-way street and is your opportunity to get to know what the candidate expects you to deliver. This is not only essential due to today’s blue-collar talent shortages, but it also offers an insight into the needs of the modern workplace.

8. Where do you see your career in the next X years? How will you get there?

The answer to this question will give you an insight into a candidate’s ambition and plans for the future, but can your company offer this? If a candidate states they want to move into a more senior role within 12 months and you know your company can’t accommodate this, is it fair to progress to the next stage?

9. When is the right time to move on from a job?

This is an alternative way of asking, “Why did you leave your last role?”. A candidate knows they should always remain positive when discussing a previous employer, so instead ask them what factors go into deciding to move on. Much like question 7 in our list, this will give greater insights into their expectations of an employer and what they want from their career.

10. When did you last accomplish something new in work?

You want to know that a candidate is curious and willing to learn new things, whatever stage they are in their career. This question is deliberately open, allowing the candidate to discuss anything from completing a course, adopting new technology, or handling an employee matter.

11. What are the three qualities you look for in a leader?

Again, you’re gathering information on what the candidate expects from you as an employer. Finding out their expectations of leadership gives a fantastic insight into what they value the most and demonstrates their commitment to professionalism at the same time.

12. Do you have any questions for me?

The types of questions a candidate asks at the end of an interview reveal what’s most important to them. Will they ask you about the company culture or salary? Development opportunities or what the average working day entails? Of course, there are no right or wrong questions that a candidate can ask, but you’ll be able to gauge personality and communication style.