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Smart Ways to Deliver the 10 Most Common Interview Questions

Many people are poor at conducting interviews, though many think they are good at it.

Interviews are called INTERview, not INTRAview for a reason. An employer finds out if a candidate is suitable for the role, while the candidate discovers if the organisation is right for him or her

To be fair, just as candidates prepare for interviews, interviewers need to ensure they are trained to conduct interviews. In short, your interview skills (as an employer) should be up to standard. Interview questions generally fall into (by level of difficulty) 3 categories:

BEHAVIOURAL - Questions about past work experiences in order to find out if candidates have the skills needed for the job through demonstrated behaviours. These questions focus on how various work situations were handled in the past in order to predict how candidates might behave given the same situation in future. They also work on a principle that past experiences are indicators of future results.

SITUATIONAL - Commonly confused with behavioural questions, situational questions are specific questions about what may happen on a job. Candidates are required to assess a situation (not necessarily related to a past experience) and provide solutions. These questions involve problem-solving and handling difficult circumstances in the workplace, while providing you with a better understanding of how they might approach a situation.

STRESS TEST - Stress interview questions are designed to put the candidates into an awkward situation, to discover how candidates perform under pressure and how they may potentially approach stressful situations at work. These questions can also be used to observe if candidates can react to events effectively without prior thought. However, they have their own critics and increasingly become discredited as research shows they may not be directly related to help you select the best candidate. Conversely, stress test questions can create negative candidate experience when candidates feel humiliated by random questions.

Below are 10 most common interview questions and how else to better deliver them.

1. Tell me about yourself - This is a lazy interviewer question and honestly you are giving advantage to the candidate as he or she can alter the direction of the conversation in any way they want. Instead, ask: "Why did you take on this career path?", "Tell me about what you do in summary or perhaps a sentence?". Specific questions shows you, as an employer, knows what you are asking for and well prepared for the interview.

2. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? - Awfully old school question and mostly inappropriate as it may backfire with the candidate asking for context about where the company will be in 5 years. Instead, ask: "How far do you think you can go in your career and why?", "What kind of skills would you like to development in the near future?" to give evidence that they have a structured and future-ready planning skills your organisation needs.

3. Why should we hire you? - Unless you are an organisation with strong employer brand, it sounds silly to ask this question, especially when you need talent to build your brand more than they need you. Instead, ask: "Why are you interested in this role?" This is a good way to focus on their actual interest and indirectly gives you a genuine idea why you should have them in your team.

4. What is your greatest weakness? - By now, ALL candidates would have rehearsed for this question that turn weaknesses into all sorts of strengths (not forgetting how their answers make you cringe at times). Why not try asking: "What is your greatest achievement?", "Tell me about a time you failed". It reveals their passion and allows them to describe how they manage failure in actual scenarios. Be sure to look not just for the context, but also the outcome about how they resolve any areas they fell short.

5. Are you comfortable to work in big/small teams? - This is both a closed (yes/no) question and a leading question where you give the candidates a chance to alter their answers to suit your needs. You will not get the real sense of the candidate's preference, but instead get answers that you want to hear. Ask: "What type of team suits you best?" without giving away the structure of your team and what you are looking out for.

6. How would you describe yourself in terms of work attitude? - Honestly, who will give a negative response? Help yourself with questions like: "What type of manager could get the best out of you and why?", "What frustrates you?", "Describe a time you were unhappy with your performance and what you did about it." You get answers directly related to candidates' level of self-awareness without giving them an easy way to reverse engineer model answers you want to know.

7. Why do you want this job? - Similar to question #3 on why you should hire them, this portrays a sense of arrogance and especially foolish if you're still unknown in the market. Try asking: "What drives you/ keeps you motivated?", "What are your expectations about working here?" These 2 ways of asking derives the same results, without candidates feeling you are just being cocky.

8. How can you contribute to our organisation? - This is an open ended question and may lead to answers that may go out of control if you intend to keep time. Why not show them your concern in employee development by asking "What are your career aspirations?" I am very sure they appreciate potential employers who are not only focused on their own (organisational) interest, but also keen to understand if the organisation has the capacity to support the career path aspired by the candidates.

9. Are you a good team player? - Everyone is, if asked this question. Even if team work is not required, a better way to ask this interview question will be: "When meeting someone new, what is the first question you will ask them?", "Who are your role models and why?" The latter is a little subtle, but it checks on the core values and measures of success of the candidate. When analysed properly, you may be able to relate their role models to potential working styles.

10. Name one development area you would like to do better. - Easy question, mediocre answers. Ask specifics such as: "What would be the first 5 things you would do in this role if hired?", "What would you do if you were challenged on an important decision that you made?" This combination of situational and stress test interview question format gives you an excellent edge by getting candidates to think on their feet quickly and creatively.

Well, I guess we all had enough of these questions put across to us traditionally, especially those open-ended strength and weakness questions. Hope these alternative ways of asking questions gave you some inspiration to get creative with people ;)

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