Six of the best interview questions for employers to ask job applicants

Find the right person for the job with these recruitment tips from CareerOne.
Find the right person for the job with these recruitment tips from CareerOne.

It's never easy finding the right person to fill a staff vacancy and, somewhat surprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic appears to have made it even harder.

Job vacancies have been rising in regional areas of Australia, according to a recent report from the Regional Australia Institute (RAI). Skilled labour has been the hardest to find, with demand for professional staff making up about a quarter of all regional job vacancies in 2021 so far.

An August 2021 report from the National Skills Commission confirmed employers looking to recruit higher skilled staff were finding it most difficult, with many businesses saying a lack of suitable applicants to fill positions was holding back their growth.

The trend could get worse for businesses looking to recruit. The National Skills Commission report found that 18 per cent of employers were expecting to put on more staff over the next quarter, with employers in health care, social assistance, accommodation and food services most likely to have vacancies.

How do businesses find the right employee?

"Whether you're looking for a labourer, lab technician or senior manager, you want to find someone who is interested and excited by the prospect of working at your business," advises Moussa Namini, chief operating officer of fast-growing jobs platform CareerOne.

"After you've advertised your job, screening the applicants and asking the right questions during an interview can help you find the person ... you are after."

CareerOne and ACM, Australia's largest independent news brand serving suburban, regional and rural Australia, have forged a new, exclusive partnership to make it easier for employers to connect with the right jobseekers.

The job section of every ACM newspaper and website (like this one) is now powered by the CareerOne platform. Businesses can post a job ad in minutes, reaching quality local talent fast, through the classifieds team at their local paper or online. Look for the Jobs tab in the main navigation bar at the top of the home page and click through to the Post a Job section.

CareerOne listings are designed to capture jobseekers' attention with prominent company logos, photos and even videos. Employers can transform a simple position description into an immersive experience to help drive applications.

Six best interview questions

Whether you interview candidates in person, over the phone, or via video call, it's best to put the same set of questions to each individual, Mr Namini said. That way, you can be confident you are comparing candidates equally and, if you prepare the questions well, you will be confident you have covered the key components of the job.

By all means, structure the questions to fit your specific business needs, adapt questions as the interview progresses and probe further if you are looking for more detail, he said. CareerOne suggests these six questions as the basis for any interview.

Question 1: What interests you about this position?

This might seem a basic, introductory question, but look for positivity and enthusiasm in the answer. They may be qualified for the position and have the skills, but are they actually going to be passionate about working for you. Are they looking for more than a regular pay cheque? Another way to phrase this question is to say something like: "Sell this job to me." This can reveal how much they know about your company, whether they cared enough to prepare for the interview by researching the business and the position. Their response can also indicate the strength of their people skills.

Question 2: What career accomplishment makes you most proud?

This is a clever way to find out more about the candidate's work experience. You can ask a candidate what duties they performed in past jobs or what it was like to work at a specific company, but if you really want to gain insight into what a person has achieved and what's driven them to excel, ask them what singular task they completed that makes them most proud. Another good question is: "Tell me about someone you've worked with who you really admire." When your candidate tells you about their interactions with a colleague or former boss, he or she is not just revealing what they did with that person in a work environment, but also what qualities they value, at work and in life.

Question 3: What is your preferred way to work?

Rather than leave this question open-ended, provide some options. For instance, ask do they prefer working with others or on their own, and do they like to multi-task or tackle their tasks one at a time? You are looking for someone who will be a good fit for your company culture. A follow-up question could be: "In what ways do you want your next job to be different from your last?" If the applicant spends time complaining about their last boss, work environment, or lack of opportunities or challenges, that's a warning sign you could be dealing with someone who sees things negatively. If the answer is forward-looking, especially if the applicant has obviously done research on your company, this may be the person for you.

Question 4: How do you feel about doing things outside of your job description?

Job descriptions aren't always completely accurate, or comprehensive. Make sure to ask candidates if they are willing to go along with any changes required to meet the needs of your workplace. Doing this will not only make you an honest employer by admitting that their duties can change, but employees won't be as shocked later on! You could ask them to give you an example of how they had to adapt in a previous job. Look for someone who is flexible and has the potential to grow.

"Screening [job] applicants and asking the right questions during an interview can help you find the person with the qualities you are after."

Moussa Namini, CareerOne chief operating officer

Question 5: See if you can help me with this problem we're having now.

Here's an interesting way to check the candidate's knowledge of your industry. Describe a situation that is either happening now in your company or happened in the recent past. Ask the applicant how they would handle it. Watch to see if they become engaged in the detail of the problem and cover all key factors or, instead, offer meaningless platitudes. You may have found a 'keeper' if they provide a solution you hadn't considered!

Question 6: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

The hobbies of your employees may seem a bit irrelevant to the hiring process but their response is important. Employees who have varied interests are often happier people and more productive at work. Hobbies can also reveal different skills that could be useful in your industry. Ask the candidate what they are passionate about, and why. Their explanation can reveal their ability to communicate articulately, an important skill for many roles.

Employers can post job vacancies with CareerOne through their local ACM newspaper or website and reach a combined audience of more than 6.4 million people a month.

Employers can post job vacancies with CareerOne through their local ACM newspaper or website and reach a combined audience of more than 6.4 million people a month.

Announcing the new partnership between CareerOne and ACM, the media group's managing director Tony Kendall said the businesses were an ideal fit.

More than 25,000 new members are joining CareerOne every month and now the platform will extend its reach to ACM's monthly audience of 6.4 million across more than 140 publications. That means businesses will find it easier to get discovered by locals searching for local jobs, Mr Kendall said.

Read more about ACM

CareerOne not only supports a business's recruitment needs, it also helps jobseekers discover jobs they may not have otherwise found, Mr Kendall said. CareerOne uses artificial intelligence to align a jobseeker's profile to opportunities being advertised in their system, enhancing the usual search functions offered by job sites.

This story How to find the best job candidate first appeared on The Canberra Times.