10 Gold Standard Interview Questions

All interviewers go through a set pack of staid and dull questions but all organisations today need flexible and charismatic people. The key is asking different questions to bring out what the candidate really thinks and what they are capable of.

Try them – I did and recruited some amazing staff.

1. Have you ever fired someone and if so how did it feel?
(Anyone who has done it and said they enjoyed the investigation behind the decision, enjoyed actually telling the employee they were being dismissed and enjoyed the aftermath should be treated with a barge-pole!. Deeply suspicious personality traits I would suggest).

2. Describe your top three priorities at work and at home.
(Doing my job to a high standard, working as a team member and being able to work on my own initiative would be commendable answers for the workplace. Enjoying the company of my family, good standard of living and being able to provide and support my family would be similarly good. Avoid like the plague those who want to buy flash cars and go on expensive holidays!).

3. When were you wrong?
(Good selection of work/non-work responses needed here. Anyone who has never been wrong is either telling an untruth or is seriously in need of professional help).

4. What is your external role in this job?
(Response needs to show that the candidate is very aware of the way in which the job/ themselves interact with others and how both they and their Department/employer is perceived accordingly. The brash and loud salesperson in the pub spreading the virtues if themselves and their product to anyone who is listening should be creating alarm bells all around).

5. Describe your dream house.
(Buckingham Palace or terraced inner city street equally good as long as the candidate describes and you can evaluate why they think the way they do).

6. What professional moment frightened you most?
(“I’ve never been frightened in a professional situation” is the response that should see you heading for the door! Self confidence is good but not if it just goes too far. Can the candidate actually explain and evaluate why that particular situation was frightening? More importantly can they evaluate the situation and even more importantly what have they learned from the experience???).

7. You must dismiss your Head of Marketing or Head of Engineering – which would you remove first?
(Classic dilemma – depends if the Marketing person does not understand the market and has commissioned the wrong products OR if the products are right but the manufacturing process is flawed OR both. The roles are equally weighted until you can analyse where the weakness lies and when you do who is to say that EITHER should be dismissed at that point. In six months time perhaps you could make this decision).

8. Your top salesperson is distracted and sales are falling fast – what would you do?
(Cosy chat to get underneath the drop in performance and to sort out an appropriate Action Plan. Where does the distraction come from? Is it actually a distraction or are they half way out of the door already? How long have sales been “falling fast?” Is the product past its Life Cycle and it’s not their fault? A “get rid now” response should bring the interview to a quick closure!).

9. What did you like/dislike about your last job?
(Answers should have plenty of honesty and evaluation in them – “ I could not stand my Boss” and “the money was very bad” send only one message. “I really like it and enjoy the work” raises many questions about why they are here now chatting through this. Good, evaluative and structured responses needed! “How long have you got?” would be a very worrying answer!

10. If I offered to pay for part time study at Cambridge University what new subject would you choose to study and why?
(A subject that had a direct benefit to the organisation but which also allowed strong and meaningful opportunity for personal development would be what I would accept as an answer. Even if the subject was far removed from the business as long as it could be justified and evaluated as something that had some payback in terms of the skills of the candidate that would equally be worthwhile for me. “I’ve always been interested in Astronomy because I like looking at the stars” would get me running for the hills every time.

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