Employer interview questions

While it’s expected that candidates will prepare well for an upcoming job interview, the exact same can be said for hiring managers. Developing a good selection of interview questions for employers is a key part of the hiring process, helping to tease out key details about a candidate’s strengths, weaknesses and personality.

Our list of recommended interview questions for employers will help you maximise the value of the meeting and narrow down the most suitable candidate for the job on offer.

Interview questions for employers to get the ball rolling

This is a common first interview question for employers, and rightly so. It serves as a handy ice-breaker giving the candidate time to relax, yet still with scope to provide valuable insights.

While some candidates may offer a summary of their career history, others will choose to provide fresh details such as their long term career aspirations. Either way, look for candidates who align their response to the role on offer, in particular noting how they can add value to the organisation.

Why are you interested in working for this company?

Among the possible range of interview questions for employers, this one will identify those candidates who have done some background research. The better-prepared candidates will be able to offer tailored responses, sharing their own knowledge of the company’s growth, its mission and values, or deliver thoughtful insights into why they find the role attractive.

Can you describe your strengths?

Plenty of candidates will anticipate this interview question and be able to list off their skills or talents. Ideally, look for the candidates who can relate their strengths directly to the role at hand. Don’t skip an opportunity to ask for concrete examples of how personal strengths have benefitted a previous/current employer or underpinned the candidate’s professional success. 

What are some of your weaknesses?

When it comes to employer interview questions, few can elicit more cringe worthy responses than asking a candidate about their weaknesses. Some of the more clichéd answers run along the lines of “I work too hard” or “I always aim too high”.

Candidates may even roll their eyes at the question, unable to see the point of it. However, enquiring about personal weaknesses can reveal useful insights into a candidate’s self-awareness and commitment to personal development – more so if the response is framed in a positive light. That said, be on the lookout for red flags. Responses like “I always sleep through my alarm and struggle to get to work each day” can highlight a problem employee.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This is not designed to test a candidate’s psychic powers. Rather, asking about long term plans gives a hiring manager an idea of an applicant’s motivation and career goals and how these complement the role and company culture.

In particular, watch out for clues that a candidate may not be committed to the organisation. Responses such as “I plan to be on a beach in Bali” or “I expect to be running my own business” suggest it may not be long before the position is re-advertised.

Can you give me an example of a time when you encountered a business challenge and how you overcame it?

Here’s one for the behavioural scientists. This question aims to gauge three critical factors – the candidate’s ability to recognise a problem or challenge, develop a solution or plan of action, and outline how their actions benefitted the company. In short, it’s an opportunity for the candidate to showcase their initiative and problem solving skills as they relate to a work-related issue.  

For instance, a top candidate may give an example of how they saw money being wasted in the workplace followed by a description of the suggestions they offered to deliver cost savings, and the steps that were taken to implement the candidate’s idea. The explanation should ideally round off with a clear figure of how much the company was able to save as a result of their initiative.

What are the most important things you are looking for in your next role?

Candidates may offer a broad range of responses to this question, and hiring managers can narrow down the better answers by looking for what is relevant to the company and the role in question.

Discussions about being able to expand personal skill sets, have the flexibility to exercise initiative or take on more responsibility can all indicate an applicant who is motivated by more than just a pay packet.

Why are you leaving your current job?

When it comes to interview questions for employers, this question may need to be framed with sensitivity. A candidate may have been made redundant, or be returning to the workforce after taking time out to study or raise a family. Whatever the case, it is worth reviewing a candidate’s resume before posing the question to indicate you’re familiar with their circumstances.

In general, this question aims to uncover several key pieces of information. Firstly, was the candidate asked to leave or are they moving on voluntarily? If the former applies, aim to pinpoint the underlying reason – was it performance related or integrity-based. Bear in mind, there may be entirely valid reasons behind a forced resignation including a corporate merger.

If the candidate is leaving on their own terms, look for the way their response is framed. It’s perfectly reasonable for a candidate to want to further their skills with a more challenging role but that’s very different from a candidate who uses the interview to complain about being unfairly overlooked for a promotion.

A top candidate will frame their answer in a professional, positive light without making disparaging comments about current/past employers.

What salary are you looking for?

Preparation always pays off when it comes to drafting employer interview questions, and while the issue of salary may not be raised at a first interview, it needs to be discussed at some point. That’s when it is essential to be familiar with the latest trends and salary benchmarks.

The Robert Half Salary Guide allows hiring managers to offer competitive salaries while also recognising whether a candidate’s expectations are reasonable.

Do you have any questions you would like to ask?

Turning the tables in an interview offers an opportunity to assess a candidate’s enthusiasm for the role and how much they have researched the position and the company.

Ideally, a candidate will use this interview question to clarify any uncertainties, ask about next steps, and also cover any issues the hiring manager hasn’t already addressed such as the availability of professional development programs or mentoring.

The right interview questions for employers can provide a roadmap to gain meaningful insights into a candidate in a limited timeframe. This enhances the likelihood of identifying those applicants who will make a valuable contribution to the company and its culture over the long term.

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