What are the best questions for employers to ask at interview?


21 November 2016

employer interviewing applicant

When preparing to interview potential new employees for your clinic, how do you prepare your key questions? Do you return to the same set you’ve been using for years? Do you search online for a set you can copy? Or, do you get creative and think up something completely original? However you put your interview questions together, you need to think about whether they are likely to prompt the responses you want to hear.

The questions you ask at interview should be designed to collect clear answers to qualifying questions, to instigate open, in-depth responses, and to get a fully rounded image of your interviewee, both in terms of work ability, and personality. These are our 10 top tips for getting the most out of an interviewee.

 

1. Don’t ask closed-ended questions

 

If you ask a question that can easily be answered just with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, then you may not get much of an interesting answer. It’s easy to rephrase questions so they elicit a more insightful response. For example, instead of asking ‘would you consider yourself good at customer service?’ ask ‘what do you do to provide great customer service?’

 

2. Do ask certain standard questions

 

There are some common interview questions that suit almost every role you could be interviewing for, and questions that help any manager or business owner get a sense of a candidate’s suitability. For example, asking an interviewee to suggest their main strengths and weaknesses may give you a better idea of how they would fit with your existing team skills.

Asking the simple question ‘why are you interested in this particular role?’ may help you understand whether your interviewee is looking for progression, for a better package, or for a change of role. Asking this could also reveal whether they have a genuine interest in the specified position, and respect for your company.

 

3. Tailor some questions to the role, and your business

 

Tailor some questions to be specific to your business, otherwise you could end up with a general view of what your interviewee may be like as an employee, but not what they may be capable of in a specific role at your clinic. Ask clinicians about the number of treatments they have performed and the range of clientele they have worked with. Ask interviewees for specific examples of their successes, and how they could be transferred to your business. You could also ask candidates to give examples of how they have previously handled situations relevant to your industry, such as how to operate with confidentiality, and how to handle patient complaints.

 

4. Clarify the requirements of the role

 

During an interview, it’s wise to make sure both you and your interviewee are on the same page when it comes to the requirements of your role. Applicants should have done their homework on your clinic before they meet you, but your job advert may not have been comprehensive enough to explain the finer details of what you’re looking for in an employee. It’s wise to mention if you require employees to work a rota that includes evenings or weekends, or to give an example of the targets that have to be hit to earn commission on treatment or product sales.

 

5. Don’t pack in too many questions

 

The first round of interviews doesn’t have to be the last. If you feel that you need more than one session to cover all of your questions, or you need longer to get the right impression of someone, then think about splitting the process into more than one interview stage. Interviews can be a tense time for nervous interviewees, so you may get a better idea of who they really are if you speak to them on more than one occasion.

If you don’t feel that you can fit in two rounds of face-to-face interviews, the first round could potentially be carried out via telephone, or via Skype. This way you can still ask your most important questions, but save yourself a bit of time, and narrow down the field before arranging face-to-face meetings.

 

6. Remember the qualifying questions

 

Your vacant role may come with certain specific requirements that you cannot change or be flexible on. If this is the case, make sure you discuss them with your candidates and cover any issues that need clarification.

If your staff are often expected to work outside of their contracted hours, check whether they have any external commitments that prevent them from doing so. If you need your new member of staff to have perfect written English, arrange a brief test rather than just using their CV as evidence. If your interviewee is a clinician, remember to check they have the correct training documentation and certificates, so you can make sure they can be insured.

 

7. Don’t get ahead of yourself

 

The first interview stage can be used to see if you have candidates who meet the essential requirements of the role, and the interviewees can get a better idea of whether the role is really the one they want, too. Don’t start talking about potential salaries and start dates with every interviewee, especially at an early stage when you still have no idea who may be offered the role. If you do meet someone who you feel is absolutely ideal for your clinic, then it is a good idea to arrange a second meeting with them as soon as possible, but don’t get anyone’s hopes up unnecessarily, take the time to make sure you’ve made the right decision.

 

8. Only ask unusual questions if they can produce a relevant or useful answer

 

Asking an interviewee what their favourite animal is may appear like a clever personality test to some, but a silly, irrelevant question to others. If you’re bored of standard interview questions, or want to see how interviewees respond to an unusual question, make sure you frame the question so they understand what you’re getting at.

 

9. Keep it professional

 

Remember that you are interviewing to find a person who has the skills to do the job in hand, and the personality to fit into your current team. It can sometimes be easy to make a judgement of someone from their personal interests, living arrangements or family set-up. Preconceptions can be formed from someone’s chosen politics or religion, whether they’re single, married or divorced, or just from the type of sport or music someone likes. It’s also easy to make an incorrect judgement when you haven’t known someone that long.

Don’t let yourself fall into that trap and stick to asking questions that have some relevance to the role. It’s ok to ask someone if they have any family commitments that prevent them from working late, but it isn’t really fair to ask about someone’s marital status, as that has no bearing on someone’s working ability.

 

10. Let the interviewee ask questions too

 

One of your key interview questions should always be, ‘do you have any questions to ask us?’ While your interviewee may have already asked you some questions throughout the interview, they may have been in response to a specific subject of conversation. They may also have some queries they have not yet mentioned, so before you conclude, give them the space to ask away. This may also address something you forgot to include, so could bring important information to your attention.

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