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HOW EMPLOYERS CAN TACKLE DIFFICULT QUESTIONS IN AN INTERVIEW

Author: Richard Snarey

Published date: 2019/08

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​Like it or loathe it, the interview process is an essential component when it comes to vetting candidates and securing top blue-collar talent. A recent survey of 1,000 employees found that 19 per cent felt they had been mistreated in an interview.

Given that 49 per cent of UK’s employers struggle to recruit blue-collar workers (and the same percentage reports challenges in retaining them), employers must hone their interview skills to secure the best people.

To accurately gauge a candidate’s suitability, employers may need to ask difficult questions. However, in today’s candidate-driven market, asking a tricky question in the wrong way can affect the candidate’s opinion of the business and may mean they don’t accept an offer of employment.

To help employers ensure that difficult questions are handled appropriately and to get the most out of the interview process, the experts at PRS have provided their tips on how to conduct an effective interview and mitigate the risk of it going wrong.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Asking “Yes/No” Questions

While it’s not always advisable to ask closed questions, they can actually be effective when you’re tackling a difficult topic. The requirement of a simple yes/no answer can work to minimise any awkwardness around a specific area while providing the candidate with the option to open up discussions further.

Salary Expectations Should Be Mentioned (At The Right Stage)

If a role’s salary is not detailed on the job description, then discussions about it in an interview are inevitable. However, the first interview is an opportunity for you to get to know their attributes and strengths. They should display suitability for the role before entering into salary discussions, and you shouldn’t be afraid to politely decline salary questions until you’re happy the candidate could be a good fit for your business; this could be at the end of the first interview, or even in the second interview.

Flexible Working

A recent study of 2,000 workers found that more than half want benefits that help improve their work-life balance. Flexible working is becoming a common requirement for today’s candidates, and it’s likely you’ll encounter questions regarding your flexible work offering in an interview.

However, for certain roles, flexible working isn’t a viable option for businesses, and it’s crucial you communicate this if you’re asked about it in an interview. Instead, try highlighting some of the other perks that your business offers. The same study also found employees value other benefits, including extra holiday allowance, health plans, free breakfast supplies, free tea and coffee, and retailer and restaurant discounts.

Avoid Discussions Around Weakness

It’s one of the most common interview questions, and also one of the most difficult for a candidate to answer. Asking a candidate’s weaknesses not only brings negative language into the interview, but it’s also unlikely you’ll get an entirely truthful answer as they won’t be prepared to paint themselves in a bad light to a potential employer.
Some experts even suggest that the question is too personal and intrusive. HR expert Liz Ryan wrote the following on the topic for Forbes: “When you interview a job candidate, it is a conversation between equals. You are contemplating hiring another professional to assist you with something you cannot do yourself.  If you can shift your mindset away from power and control toward collaboration and brainstorming, you will be happier and your organisation will be healthier and more profitable.”

Instead, we suggest allowing candidates to elaborate on their experiences, the challenges they’ve faced in their career, and the areas in which they wish to develop.

Create A Conversation

An interview should be a partnership, rather than a scripted list of questions and answers. Employers that feel uncomfortable with the traditional Q&A format can instead encourage an open conversation with the candidate. Providing you have a consistent and fair method of evaluation in place, this style of interview will demonstrate a candidate’s interpersonal skills, and even enable you to comfortably broach more difficult topics of discussion.

A recent article for Inc states the following conversation-starters to help you transform your interview into an open dialogue:

  • I would love to hear about what you would like to do here.

  • Tell me about a time you approached a challenge at work and how you solved it successfully.

  • If you get this job, what would you need from the company, your manager and your immediate team to be successful?

  • What are you enjoying in your life right now?

Questions To Avoid

Describe yourself in three words.

This doesn’t provide nearly enough information about the candidate for you to make an informed decision about their qualities. Instead, ask about their approach to work and what part they play in a working environment.

How do you define success?

This is too abstract. Alternatively, enquire about examples of when they’ve experienced success in work.

How do you feel about travel or relocation?

What are you really trying to say here? If there’s travel involved or the possibility of relocation, then be direct and tell the candidate what’s expected of them. This will hopefully already be clear from the job description so shouldn’t come as a surprise to them.

What other roles are you pursuing?

Quite frankly, it’s none of your business, and the candidate doesn’t have to answer. If this happens, things can rapidly get awkward, and it could even leave a negative impression of your business.

How would you describe yourself?

This question is too open-ended, which can lead to the answer giving no further insight into who they are. If you conduct an effective interview, you’ll gain much more of an idea of a candidate’s personality than through questions like this.

Need More Help With Interview Questions?

Whether you’re an employer hiring for a new position or a candidate looking to brush up on your interview skills, PRS offers hands-on help and advice on how to get the best out of the interview process. For more tips on conducting effective blue-collar interviews that ensure you secure the best talent, PRS can help. Speak with the PRS team, and download our infographic Great Hiring Tips for the Blue Collar Recruiter today. It’s what hiring personnel in the know about top interview tactics all do.