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My three favourite interview questions

23 September 2015

My three favourite interview questions.

What’s my biggest weakness? No, that’s not one of the questions. That’s a lazy interviewers question. It goes in the bucket with “Tell me why I should give you this job?”

My biggest weakness is that I’m a rubbish interviewer. I don’t enjoy the false atmosphere and don’t always feel that it is possible to get the best out of the candidate in such circumstances – particularly if one is stuck in a regimented competency based situation.

Coming from a legal and psychology background I prefer questions where the answer is less important than the way the question is handled. So here are my three favourites for you.

Imagine, if you will, that you have just been offered this job. I’m your current boss and you have just come to me to tell me you are leaving. What do I need to say to you to make you stay?”

This needs to be asked towards the end of the interview. Ask it too early and you could have a very uncomfortable time as you realise that they is no point in going on. Most candidates will immediately answer – “there’s nothing you could say…”.

“Ok”, you say. “I’ll promote you and pay you £500,000 a week and you can have Monday and Friday off”. They will, of course smile and admit that that would be different. You then point out that between that and where they are now is a tipping point. Ask again – where is it? Pressure builds and you will get to a point where they will admit what it is about their role that has caused them to apply to you. It also lets you see if their requirement to stay is achievable or not. Imagine they say – I’d like more responsibility and a little more money and respect. You now know that they can easily be swayed and they could be looking for an offer as a bargaining tool. Beware.

Did you know that every CV I see has at least one lie or exaggeration in it. Pause – they will become edgy as they think you have spotted theirs! Look at their CV on your desk and ask “Where is your lie or maybe you’ve over-egged it somewhere?”

Candidates are unlikely to bring up any blurring of the facts without some kind of prompting. OK, so it’s still unlikely they’ll admit whether they’ve been ‘creative’ with your chronology, and answers here should always be in the negative. However, if they’re able to use a little humour to break the tension, and convincingly reassure you that everything they’ve written is above-board, you might be on to a winner. The important thing is to watch their reaction rather than just listening. They should stay relaxed and maybe use some humour to defuse the situation.

Where does your boss think you are now?

Killer! Do they lie to you as well as their employer? You are not looking for a flippant answer. If they admit that they were happy to lie to their current employer in any way, shape or form, is unlikely to be an endearing trait. Even ‘white lies’ have the potential to do more harm than good. The most reliable candidates will either explain that they booked a day’s leave in advance, or managed to work it into their current schedule.

Naturally, we all have our favourite interview questions. I’d love to hear yours. 

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