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Finding the Right Candidate Interview Essentials

Things that an employer must find out during an interview.

Whether it’s your 1st or 100th employee, it is essential that you select the right person and the more time and effort that you invest in the recruitment process, the greater chance is that the new employee will perform well and help your business grow.

Despite all the candidate’s preparation, employers must get the recruitment decision right.

  • Train hard, play easy
  • Recruit hard and work easier

Generally, past behaviour and performance is a very good indicator of future performance and behaviour.  However, people do change.  An immature 17 year old in their first job whose idea of a good time was drinking with their mates, sleeping in after partying hard, coming to work late with flimsy excuses about car problems and alarms clocks, someone whose major concentration was when is payday, can mature into your best worker.

It is hard for an employer to make the right decision.

So to help you use your time effectively, this blog proposes 2 lines of questioning that employers may find useful.

Technical Skills – Work Sample Questions

A good way of checking a candidate’s skill level is to ask a “work sample question”.  This is your way of not only checking that they can carry out a task that you want done, but also finding out a little about how their mind works in doing that task.

For example, if you are hiring a mechanic, you want to make sure that you know that they can repair cars.  Some examples of good questions might be:

  • A customer comes into the garage and says that their car occasionally misfires and surges – tell me how you would go about finding out what was wrong with the car and fixing it?
  • For a shop assistant role, it might be “a customer comes in and wants to return an item that is dirty – how would you deal with it and what are customer’s rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act?
  • A customer buys a shirt.  What items match the shirt?  And how would you go about upselling them on these extra items?”

If you want help setting work sample questions, get in touch with us.

Important – if you have any doubts, get them to do a practical work sample test before hiring them e.g. use your own car and put in an old spark plug.  Set a time limit to find and fix the fault.  Just watch what they do and how their logic works in finding and fixing the fault.  (Don’t ask them to service a car – keep the problem simple – it is just a short 5-10 minute test.)

Ask yourself – if they can do the job, do they have the right level of experience you want?  Drill into their CV (it might have been written by a professional CV writer).

Find out in their own words what of previous job duties relate directly to your new job.

If it is a management position, ask about their supervision, training and development of other employees responsibilities.

Check, check and check again during an interview!

Essential Behaviour Questions

If after asking the technical questions, you feel that you might want to employ this candidate, these 6 essential questions will help you get the best person.

  1. Are they familiar with what your company does?  If they haven’t done any research, know what you do, what is unique about you, and have a legitimate interest in your business, then they are wasting your and their time.

2.         Are they flexible?  Your business will change, can they change with it?  They must be able to show that they are adaptable, can multi-task, can deal with a crisis.

3.         Are they energetic and have a positive attitude?  Are they optimistic and have a “can-do” attitude?  Check that they speak positively about past employers. Negative comments and sarcastic statements about past employers and co-workers make them look petty.

4.         Are they a team player?  Will they fit into your organisation?  You will get several candidates with the right skills and experience.  Fit is critical for a small business.  Find out how well they have worked well with others.  Are they cooperative and get along well with other employees? Can they be productive with limited supervision?  How do they deal with employee conflict at work?

5.         Are they good what at they have done?  Are they trying to become an expert in their field?  If you want a supervisor, what have they done increase their knowledge base to make themselves the best supervisor possible e.g. what leadership training, reading, experience have they had? What have they learnt from past experiences as a supervisor that can apply to your organisation?

6.         Are they highly motivated?  A motivated employee is a productive employee. What have they accomplished for past employers?  Are they thorough, have good organizational skills and great attention to detail?


If you have doubts, don’t hire!

2 temptations to avoid:

  • Only 1 candidate – I have to have someone and even though I have reservations, this one is the only one that’s close enough and will just have to do.

Even if it means re-advertising and more time and effort, it is worth it to get the right person.  They can make or break your business. 

  • If you legally can, use a trial period to test whether or not the candidate will work out if you have doubts.  (This adds a layer of complexity and employment risk that as a small business owner you do not want to deal with unless you have successfully navigated that path before.)

As a small business owner, with your many hats to run your business, you are probably the sole recruiter.  The sole person who will decide what sort of person you want, develop a job description, advertise, answer any candidate queries, receive applications, shortlist, interview, make the final decision then do the letter of offer and individual employment agreement.  It can be a time consuming & sometimes daunting task & sometimes it is just easier for you to get someone to help do some of these things for you.  Remember, involving another person can increase your chance of getting the right person e.g. a senior worker can give an opinion about whether or not the person has the right technical skills, will fit, etc.

Here is a list of essentials that you must do at an interview:

  • Be polite
  • Be on time
  • Explain what the role does and how that fits into your company
  • Be clear about what you expect employees to do, how they behave, how they serve customers
  • Be clear about the employment arrangement you want e.g. trial, fixed-term or temporary, permanent, part-time, etc.
  • Know what you are prepared to pay for the right person
  • Answer questions truthfully
  • Don’t promise anything that you can’t deliver e.g. rapid promotion, big pay increases, lots of training, etc.
  • During the interview
  • Take notes
  • Don’t make a decision about suitability 5 seconds after meeting a candidate
  • Get them to talk as much as


Spend lots of time getting the recruitment decision right.  As a business owner, it is one of your critical decisions.

If you want help, please contact steve@newbyhr.com, hilary@newbyhr.com, www.newbyhr.com or ring 0212621035.

Adapted from 7 Things You Should Say In an Interview, Investopedia

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