With Milkround season in full swing, we are meeting a lot of eager undergraduates looking to land their first role. Whilst every firm has a slightly different hiring process and format, there are certain questions that will definitely come up. Here are five tips we give potential interviewers:
Why are you here today?
This is one of the most basic questions to ask but one of the most difficult to answer. The majority of candidates will turn up well-prepared to answer queries about their professional expertise and relevant experience, but won’t have given any time to introspection and why they want to be associated with the organisation in question.
A classic reaction is for the candidate to talk about how great the company is, but they fail to realise that this doesn’t actually answer the question. The benefit of starting with this question is to open up the interview and allow the candidate to take the lead.
As an employer, you are looking for evidence that the candidate is there to further his or her career first and foremost. Do they have a clear idea of their career path? Knowledge of the specific job role and why that role is suited to them is always good, as is proof that they are serious about adding value to your company.
Why are you interested in working for us?
This is an opportunity for the candidates to demonstrate the research they have done into your business. You’re looking for people who don’t just regurgitate what they have seen on the homepage of your website, but rather come equipped with knowledge about the work you have done in the past and reasons as to why this interests them.
Outstanding candidates will also be aware of your competitors and offer suggestions as to how you can compete with them. This question also gives you as the employer the opportunity to teach the candidate more about the company and job role, and put right any false assumptions the candidate may have.
What are your two greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Again, a basic question but a must-have. This gives you a chance to check for humility and self-awareness, while giving the candidate an opportunity to sell their best assets. You are trying to determine which assets the candidate has that will help them succeed in the job, as well as what could be problematic. Ask for two strengths and two weaknesses as, more often than not, candidates will have a well-rehearsed one of each. Two gives you the chance to probe more.
What environment do you thrive in most?
Every company, big and small will have roles where you need to flex up and down – very defined job roles and responsibilities are fast becoming a thing of the past. This question assesses the candidate’s adaptability, because in today’s business environment anyone who craves too much structure might not suit the business dynamic.
This is how you assess how closely the candidate’s ideal working environment fits with the reality of your business. Outstanding candidates will, you hope, see through this question and be able to describe the working environment of the company to which they are applying, having done their research, and describe how they would fit into this. Watch out for candidates who simply repeat the information you have fed them earlier in the interview.
What do you do for fun?
Businesses and teams are like small families. It can be an intense environment and staff will often share every high and low together, so asking the candidate about their life outside work will give you an idea about what they are interested in and how they will be once they are settled into the business and begin to interact more freely with their colleagues. If you do decide to hire them, you will be spending 40-50 hours a week together so you need to be sure they suit the social dynamic of the business. Shared culture is one of the most important things to establish in your team or business.
This article that first appeared in The Guardian.