Conducting a successful interview
Illustration: Phil Couzens

Conducting Successful Job Interviews

What to ask them, and what to ask yourself

With a degree of uncertainty remaining with the Japanese economy, there is a lot hanging on new hires at the moment. People are rebuilding teams cut during the downturn, but employers are cautious about who they take on.

There is no doubt that a new hire is a significant investment and now more than ever it is important to make sure you are getting what you really need – and an interview is your most important tool in assessing whether or not the candidate is the right fit.

When it comes to interviews, talk is definitely NOT cheap, and below are a few general questions you might consider in handling the interview process.

Ask yourself how good your interview skills are

There is a lot riding on an interview and it is important to know your own strengths and weaknesses in assessing a candidate. Below are a few questions you might want to ask yourself to make sure you are on the right track.

  • Do you know what to look for in a candidate?
  • Do you know what questions to ask to bring out the right information?
  • Can you spot if someone is exaggerating or hiding the truth?
  • Do you know how to manage either overly talkative or less communicative candidates?
  • Are you overselling the role/company?
  • Are you talking too much and not letting the candidate speak?

Make sure you ask them the questions that get you the information you need

Some questions can get to the core of what the person is about even without their intending to reveal anything. Here are a few that may allow you to perceive more than the candidate would generally reveal.

  • “Why are you changing jobs?” - Be wary of candidates who bad mouth a past employer
  • “What did you like about your last job?” - A candidate who can’t answer this is probably incapable of thinking beyond the basic mechanics of the job.
  • “If you could have made improvements in your last job, what would they have been?” - This should give you an idea of the candidate’s lateral thinking capabilities and reveal their general attitude.
  • “Describe the qualities of someone you’ve worked with that you admire.” - This will give you insight into what the candidate may strive to be like.
  • “What kinds of people annoy you most?” - Often candidates will cite character traits that do not apply to themselves.
  • “Describe an ‘emergency’ situation in a previous job when you have had to reschedule your time.” - This is a way of finding out if the candidate would be willing to work extra hours if needed.

Interviews should not be confrontational exercises. In fact, building rapport is one of the best ways to ensure you communicate with each other effectively—and the ability to build that rapport is often a good sign that you may work well together.

Just remember to ask the open ended questions—the who, what, why, when, where and how. Let the candidate do the talking, and be a good listener.

(David Price is a Senior Manager for specialized recruitment firm Robert Half International)

Other posts by David Price:


I am looking at it, from the other side...
This is really good to know, It is always great to see what the other party is thinking and coming from!