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Great Interview Questions To Ask Candidates

Job InterviewJob board blogs are filled with ideas for questions to ask your interviewer when you are the candidate - it's an important part of any interview. But what about if you're the one doing the interviewing? HR professionals are often the ones asking the questions, either as part of candidate screening, or further down the recruitment process. It's vital to have a robust interview process, to make sure you select the best candidate for your organisation. So, here are a few of our favourite interview questions, all of which will help you find out what a candidate is really like...

Tell me (in 5 minutes or less) your first ever memory, and all the major points in your life that have brought you to this point.

This one obviously helps you to get to know your candidate's history. Yes, you know their employment history from their CV - but this question helps understand why they have worked in a particular job or industry, their reasons for leaving and reasons for applying to your vacancy, all within a few minutes.

If you were to meet a friend in 5 years time, what would you like to be able to tell them?

By asking this question, you're finding out what is important to the candidate - are they ambitious, with hopes they'll be talking about a recent promotion? What's their work-life balance like - do they only talk about work-related subjects here, or do they include aspects of their personal life too?

How do you measure success?

This is a great way to uncover what motivates an applicant. Do they judge their success in terms of money, happiness, praise from others, hitting targets? Does their answer fit with how you measure success in your team or business? If you do hire this person, you also know how best to manage them and get the best out of them in your team.

Describe your best boss, and your worst.

Another way to find out how best to manage your new team member when they come on board. You can compare their answer to the personality and style of the manager they will be reporting to, and therefore know how well (or otherwise!) they are likely to get on in the office. Knowing this in advance should greatly reduce the chance of a new-starter not fitting in with their team.

How would your best friend describe you in 5 words?

A short and snappy way to get the heart of your candidate's personality. The words they choose here will really show how they believe they are perceived, and give you plenty of insight into the traits they believe are most prominent in themselves. The only question is, does "good sense of humour" count as 1 word, or 4!

What Makes A Successful Job Advert?

Any HR professional is likely to have some recruiting duties at some point in their career, whether full-time as a Talent Manager, or as part of a more generalist position such as HR Advisor. As recruitment is a topic we know a thing or two about, here are our top pieces of advice to make sure your job adverts attract the talent you need...

Keyword SearchChoose The Job Title With Care

Don't get me wrong, I love an inventive job title. Who wouldn't want to be a 'Chief Experience Officer' or a 'Brand Evangelist'? However, when advertising your roles, whatever they may be, it's important to be straightforward with their titles. Remember candidates search for jobs as you would search in Google - by keywords. So all the excellent candidates searching for 'Marketing Manager' roles may never see your 'Brand Evangelist' advert, as they're unlikely to search by such an usual term.

Be Specific With Location

We're not saying you need to give the office address in your advert. However 'London' is a big place - and for those not looking to relocate it is off-putting to not know if a job is commutable before applying. So be specific, if the job is in Putney - say so! It benefits both parties - candidates don't waste time applying to a job they can't travel to, and you don't waste time screening them unnecessarily.

SalaryShow The Salary

We find that jobs with a stated salary receive 20% more applications than those that don't. So while it's tempting to leave it as 'negotiable' you could be deterring top talent from hitting the apply button! Be up front with your candidates - they'll appreciate your honesty, and if they're in demand that could be a reason for them to choose you.

Keep Concise

The most effective job descriptions are usually around 300 words long. Of course, a particularly technical or niche role may require a longer than usual job description - we're not recommending missing out important information! What we are suggesting is that you keep the details short and sweet, so candidates are fully informed as quickly as possible. Bullet points are a great way of getting across a large amount of attributes or responsibilities in a snappy way.

spell1Think About Your Presentation

A job advert is an advert for your brand, not just for the role. So make sure it looks the part! If you're uploading a logo, use a good quality image file (72ppi minimum) to make sure the image is crisp and clear. Separate your job description into clear paragraphs, and remember to spell check - you wouldn't be impressed with a typo in a CV, so advertise as you would like to be applied to! If you're recruiting for your company, make sure you check out the range of niche job boards in our group - we could have a specialist job board perfect for your needs.

Mental Well-Being In The Workplace

The recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign has really brought mental illness to the forefront of current affairs. So, we thought now was a great time to look into mental health issues in the workplace. The mental health charity Mind states that 1 in 6 workers are currently dealing with a mental health problem - which is actually a staggering statistic. Take a moment to work out how many that is in your office - in ours that equates to 6 people, more than the whole marketing department!
medium_14929372692 The recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign has really brought mental illness to the forefront of current affairs. So, we thought now was a great time to look into mental health issues in the workplace. The mental health charity Mind states that 1 in 6 workers are currently dealing with a mental health problem - which is actually a staggering statistic. Take a moment to work out how many that is in your office - in ours that equates to 6 people, more than the whole marketing department! Here’s a few ways to promote good mental health in your workplace...

Peer Support

Having a ‘buddy scheme’ is a great way to make sure no staff member feels they have nowhere to turn. By providing a peer outside the management structure that a person can go to with any concerns, worries or issues you can really help reduce feelings of helplessness.

Clear Expectations

Make sure all team members are clear on what is expected of them , and how they can achieve it. A major cause of anxiety and stress is feeling that demands are too high. If expectations are achievable and staff are given all the support needed to achieve them, you should be well on your way to a happy workforce.

Encourage a  Good Work/ Life Balance

We’re not saying it should be flexi time and unlimited breaks for everyone - some things are just not practical! However, a little flexibility is always helpful, and organised social activities can really help your team to bond, as well as show to them that you’re not all work and no play!
For a host of information and resources, check out Mind, the mental health charity's website here.

“I Regretted My First Graduate Job”

After the release of the A Level results and GCSE’s over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a surge in visits and applications to Simply HR Jobs. Which brought us to the question; “How many graduates actually stay in their first jobs for life?”


This lead us to do a bit of research into the topic and we soon found out that almost two thirds of graduates regret their first job roles. Almost a quarter of graduates leave their first role within the first year of joining. These figures come from global research carried out by CEB. It is suggested that there is a severe disconnect between employers attraction strategies and what graduates are looking for from their potential employers, with 87% of graduate employers stating they still have unfilled graduate roles. CEB’s chief science and analytics officer, Eugene Burke, goes on to state that “today’s graduates want to understand what opportunities there are to develop and grow, demonstrate the talents they have and progress in the organisation,” he said. “Many firms simply lack clear intelligence on their graduate talent to know what is going to make them stay and be high-performing employees.” Burke went on to add that employers must change the way they act or they will continue to see a disappointing return on their graduate recruitment strategies. If you’re a graduate who has just received their A Level or GCSE results, take a look at some of the roles on offer in HR here. However, take this article as a pointer and remember to make sure that you are passionate about the role you’re applying for.

13 CEOs Share Their Favorite Job Interview Questions

We stumbled across this article on LinkedIn the other day and thought it was too good not to share with our audience.

Everyone has their own unique interview questions, us included, we like to ask our potential employees 'if they were a biscuit, what biscuit would they be and why?'

Anyway, here is Jeff Haden's article, he asks 13 of the most influential CEO's what their favorite job interview questions.


Interview questions: Everyone has them.

And everyone wishes they had better ones.

So I asked smart people from a variety of fields for their favorite interview question and what it tells them about the candidate.

1. Why have you had X number of jobs in Y years?

This question helps me get a full picture of the candidate's work history. What keeps them motivated? Why, if they have, did they jump from job to job? And what is the key factor when they leave?

The answer shows me their loyalty and their reasoning process. Do they believe someone always keeps them down (managers, bosses, etc.)? Do they get bored easily?

There is nothing inherently wrong with moving from job to job -- the reasons why are what matters.

-- Shama Kabani, The Marketing Zen Group founder and CEO

2. If we're sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great twelve months it's been for you in this role, what did we achieve together?

For me, the most important thing about interviews is that the interviewee interviews us. I need to know they've done their homework, truly understand our company and the role... and really want it.

The candidate should have enough strategic vision to not only talk about how good the year has been but to answer with an eye towards that bigger-picture understanding of the company -- and why they want to be here.

-- Randy Garutti, Shake Shack CEO

3. When have you been most satisfied in your life?

Except with entry-level candidates, I presume reasonable job skill and intellect. Plus I believe smart people with relevant experience adapt quickly and excel in new environments where the culture fits and inspires them. So, I concentrate on character and how well theirs matches that of my organization.

This question opens the door for a different kind of conversation where I push to see the match between life in my company and what this person needs to be their best and better in my company than he or she could be anywhere else.

-- Dick Cross, Cross Partnership founder and CEO

4. If you got hired, loved everything about this job, and are paid the salary you asked for, what kind of offer from another company would you consider?

I like to find out how much the candidate is driven by money versus working at a place they love.

Can they be bought?

You'd be surprised by some of the answers.

-- Ilya Pozin, Ciplex founder

5. Who is your role model, and why?

The question can reveal how introspective the candidate is about their own personal and professional development, which is a quality I have found to be highly correlated with success and ambition.

Plus it can show what attributes and behaviors the candidate aspires to.

-- Clara Shih, Hearsay Social co-founder and CEO

6. What things do you not like to do?

We tend to assume people who have held a role enjoy all aspects of that role, but I've found that is seldom the case.

Getting an honest answer to the question requires persistence, though. I usually have to ask it a few times in different ways, but the answers are always worth the effort. For instance, I interviewed a sales candidate who said she didn't enjoy meeting new people.

My favorite was the finance candidate who told me he hated dealing with mundane details and checking his work. Next!

-- Art Papas, Bullhorn founder and CEO

7. Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

I find that this question opens the door to further questions and enables someone to highlight themselves in a specific, non-generic way.

Plus additional questions can easily follow: What position did you hold when you achieved this accomplishment? How did it impact your growth at the company? Who else was involved and how did the accomplishment impact your team?

Discussing a single accomplishment is an easy way to open doors to additional information and insight about the person, their work habits, and how they work with others.

-- Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation CEO

8. What's your superpower... or spirit animal?

During her interview I asked my current executive assistant what was her favorite animal. She told me it was a duck, because ducks are calm on the surface and hustling like crazy getting things done under the surface.

I think this was an amazing response and a perfect description for the role of an EA. For the record, she's been working with us for over a year now and is amazing at her job.

-- Ryan Holmes, HootSuite CEO

9. We're constantly making things better, faster, smarter or less expensive. We leverage technology or improve processes. In other words, we strive to do more--with less. Tell me about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive.

Good candidates will have lots of answers to this question. Great candidates will get excited as they share their answers.

In 13 years we've only passed along one price increase to our customers. That's not because our costs have decreased--quite the contrary. We've been able to maintain our prices because we've gotten better at what we do. Our team, at every level, has their ears to the ground looking for problems to solve.

Every new employee needs to do that, too.

-- Edward Wimmer, RoadID co-founder

10. Discuss a specific accomplishment you've achieved in a previous position that indicates you will thrive in this position.

Past performance is usually the best indicator of future success.

If the candidate can't point to a prior accomplishment, they are unlikely to be able to accomplish much at our organization--or yours.

-- Dave Lavinsky, Growthink co-founder and president

11. So, what's your story?

This inane question immediately puts an interviewee on the defensive because there is no right answer or wrong answer. But there is an answer.

It's a question that asks for a creative response. It's an invitation to the candidate to play the game and see where it goes without worrying about the right answer. By playing along, it tells me a lot about the character, imagination, and inventiveness of the person.

The question, as obtuse as it might sound to the interviewee, is the beginning of a story and in today's world of selling oneself, or one's company, it's the ability to tell a story and create a feeling that sells the brand--whether it's a product or a person.

The way they look at me when the question is asked also tells me something about their likeability. If they act defensive, look uncomfortable, and pause longer than a few seconds, it tells me they probably take things too literally and are not broad thinkers. In our business we need broad thinkers.

-- Richard Funess, Finn Partners managing partner

12. What questions do you have for me?

I love asking this question really early in the interview--it shows me whether the candidate can think quickly on their feet, and also reveals their level of preparation and strategic thinking.

I often find you can learn more about a person based on the questions they ask versus the answers they give.

-- Scott Dorsey, ExactTarget co-founder and CEO

13. Tell us about a time when things didn't go the way you wanted -- like a promotion you wanted and didn't get, or a project that didn't turn out how you had hoped.

It's a simple question that says so much. Candidates may say they understand the importance of working as a team but that doesn't mean they actually know how to work as a team. We need self-starters that will view their position as a partnership.

Answers tend to fall into three basic categories: 1) blame 2) self-deprecation, or 3) opportunity for growth.

Our company requires focused employees willing to wear many hats and sometimes go above and beyond the job description, so I want team players with the right attitude and approach. If the candidate points fingers, blames, goes negative on former employers, communicates with a sense of entitlement, or speaks in terms of their role as an individual as opposed to their position as a partnership, he or she won't do well here.

But if they take responsibility and are eager to put what they have learned to work, they will thrive in our meritocracy.

-- Tony Knopp, Spotlight Ticket Management co-founder and CEO

Looking for a job in HR? Check out the latest HR roles here.

Job vacancy growth hits 15 year high

Sales professionalsThe rate of growth in job vacancies this November was the fastest seen in 15 years, according to the latest survey from the body that represents recruitment firms and HR professionals. Salary growth is also healthy – at a six year high.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) says its job vacancies index, which uses data from 400 recruitment firms, rose to the highest level since July 1998. All four regions (North, South, Midlands, London) have seen job vacancy growth, with the Midlands leading the field with the fastest growth. The strongest demand was for engineers, followed by nursing staff and other medical and care workers. Construction workers were the least in demand.

REC CEO Kevin Green said: “We enter the New Year with job vacancies increasing at the fastest pace in 15 years. The fact that our figures show starting salary growth hitting a six year high, combined with continued skill and talent shortages, indicates that we can expect salaries to increase and job fluidity to accelerate into 2014.”

“REC UK Report on Jobs shows that all sectors, all regions and both the private and public sector are in growth, which is fantastic news for British businesses, the UK economy and people looking for work in 2014.”
» Read more: Job vacancy growth hits 15 year high

Dismissed or been made redundant? Check your legal position here

redundancy image Have you just lost your job in HR? Maybe you've been fired, or maybe you've been told you're being made redundant. It’s possible you felt like you had to resign because of something happening at work.

If one of these situations has occurred, it is crucial to understand the actual process of losing your job, say the experts at Contact Law. Understanding this could be the difference between being able to get another job quickly, getting compensation for your situation, or even being offered an alternative position and remaining in employment.

Contact Law has designed an easy-to-use flow chat that gives you immediate information about what your rights are and what you should do next.
» Read more: Dismissed or been made redundant? Check your legal position here

Stress affected almost 5 million UK workers last year

Coping with rejection letters byStress is still a major problem across the British workforce, and a big issue for HR professionals to manage, according to new research. A massive 5 million workers, or one in six UK employees, have called in sick due to stress in the last year, says research from pensions provider Friends Life. So which are the most stressed employees?

It seems that young employees are most stressed about the possibility of redundancy, with 36% saying they were worried about losing their job. In addition, young people are worried about money (35%) and work (22%). This reflects the situation many young workers face. Five years of recession, pay freezes, the rising cost of living and job insecurity are simply part of everyday life for most working people today. And these issues are often the root cause of stress.

The research found men are more likely to be stressed due to work than women, with 31% of men saying work causes them the most stress, compared to 23% of women. David Williams, who is director of group protection at Friends Life, says: “UK economic output is improving but this is not having as positive an effect on UK workers’ stress levels as we would have hoped.”
» Read more: Stress affected almost 5 million UK workers last year

Record number of apprenticeships for 2012/13

Apprenticeships cropApprenticeships have really taken off in recent years with a record number of British people – nearly 860,000 – known to be taking part in an apprenticeship in 2012/13, according to new figures.

This was almost 370,000 more than three years ago, according to statistics released by the Skills Funding Agency. The number of participants in higher apprenticeships also increased by 50,000 this year.

Since 2010, over 1.5 million people have signed up for an apprenticeship place. However there was a slight drop in the number of apprenticeship starts in 2012/13 at 495,100, compared to 520,600 in 2011/12.

Skills minister Matthew Hancock hailed these figures, saying: “This is good news for the economy, and good news for those getting the skills they need to prosper. There are now more options than ever before with a focus on the quality and rigour that people and employers want from apprenticeships.”
» Read more: Record number of apprenticeships for 2012/13

Job prospects highest for six years

We're Hiring SignHere’s some good news for jobseekers in the UK, and for those working in HR resourcing and recruitment.

Job prospects for the final quarter of this year look their brightest for six years, a study has found. Jobs are being created in engineering, finance, business services and green energy. In fact every sector apart from construction are hiring more people than they’re firing.

According to a quarterly survey of 2,100 companies by Manpower Group, employers expect to increase staff in every sector except construction, strongest hiring plans were in northwest and eastern England.

These findings echo other recent surveys suggesting that vacancies are rising, increasing hopes that the economic recovery will eventually be felt in the UK jobs market.

The ManpowerGroup survey showed a net employment outlook of plus six per cent, meaning that more employers are planning to recruit than to reduce their workforces.
» Read more: Job prospects highest for six years