Two women shake hands at a job interview while a man sits beside them holding a CV.
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5 interview questions to help secure the best talent

19 Jan 2022

Hays’ Gaelle Blake examines how changing what you ask job candidates might help you find the employees that best suit your company.

While Covid-19 still lingers on, focus is now firmly on how to return to growth when operating with backdrop of uncertainty and unease.

It’s your people and their uniquely human skills that will play the most pivotal part in ensuring your organisation achieves the growth you’re aiming for.

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Of course, this crisis may likely mean that large elements of your existing business model need to change. New markets may need to be explored. Perhaps, entirely different product or services offerings will need to be developed and at speed.

It’s inevitable then that the roles and skills needed to help you deliver on these changes in a meaningful, effective and sustainable way, will need to be different too. This requires a different approach to hiring.

Once you’ve understood what your immediate and future workforce requirements are likely to be, now is the time to start the process.

Of course, most candidates will be interviewed at some point as part of their assessment process. As with face-to-face interviews, asking the right questions of candidates during remote interviews is an incredibly important part of finding the right person for the role you’re hiring for.

But you’re now hiring in a different world, for a different world. That means it’s important to consider whether the questions you’re asking during job interviews going forward need to be changed too.

With this in mind, there are a few questions to consider asking candidates as you assess whether they have the right skills to help your organisation not only survive but thrive in the next era of work.

Do you prefer to work independently or as part of a team?

It is becoming increasingly likely that a hybrid way of working will become more common. By ‘hybrid’, we mean part of a team will work from the office and the other part will work from home. This will be an entirely new way of functioning for many organisations.

So, when interviewing, it’s important to assess where the candidate would prefer to spend most of their time and in which setting they might deliver the most value to your business.

For many hiring managers, this was a common interview question pre-Covid, but the answer suddenly has far more meaning and importance as we enter the next era of work.

How do you work productively remotely, ensuring your motivation remains high?

Remote working is no longer be seen as a ‘perk’. From now on, candidates will demand a higher level of flexibility, meaning they are afforded the autonomy by their employer to work remotely – whether that be from their homes or somewhere else.

During the pandemic, most managers have been pleased with the levels of productivity within their ‘suddenly remote’ teams. Most will attest to the fact that much of this has been down to giving their people the freedom to form their own new habits and schedules, helping them to work in a way that they find personally most effective.

So, going forward into the next era of work, where remote working will become the norm and pressure on your team to perform will be at an all-time high, it’s extremely important that you hire candidates who are productive, engaged and motivated while working remotely.

Click here to check out more on the Hays Viewpoint blog.

How do you practise lifelong learning and continuous upskilling?

The pandemic has emphasised the need for organisations to ensure their people are agile, adaptable and have the skills necessary to adapt to the challenges and opportunities that have come with the sudden transition to remote working, but also that are on the horizon as we enter into the next era of work.

Of course, employers need to play their part delivering personalised and digitalised training and ultimately embedding a culture of lifelong learning into their organisations. But it’s also important that employees are committed to their own learning – that continuous upskilling becomes a habit and something they enjoy and get fulfilment out of.

So, ask this question of your candidates to understand if they are committed to their own lifelong learning and, if so, how they practise it. You could even ask them what new skills they’ve recently learnt independently and how they went about learning them.

Tell me about a time you’ve failed

There are many unknowns as we look to the future. Organisations are quickly changing direction, seeking out new markets and potentially new customers. All this change and uncertainty means that there will undoubtedly be bumps along the way as you start to realign both your business and your people.

Some things will go well, others won’t and that’s OK, we are all learning as we go along here. As Hays CEO Alistair Cox says: “There is no instruction manual that we can refer to, no business school text, no management guru, to reassure us that we’re making the right decisions or that we are headed in the right direction. We can compare notes with others, but none of us have ever dealt with this before, so we are writing the playbook each day and each day brings a new issue to deal with.”

To be successful in the future, the next era of work will demand an increased aptitude for learning, which we’ve already discussed, but also a sense of being comfortable with being uncomfortable – with being out of one’s comfort zone.

So, by asking your interviews to explain a time they’ve failed, you’ll be able to assess if they really do feel comfortable with failure. If, in fact, they see it as an opportunity for growth and learning, tackling unknowns or challenges with a mindset of growth.

How do you inject an element of creativity into your work?

As digital transformation and automation accelerates, it will be our innately human skills that will hold the highest value and drive the biggest impact.

All roles, now more so than ever, will demand an element of creativity, innovative thinking and problem-solving. So, asking candidates how they inject creativity into their work will become increasingly important. For example, that could be by brainstorming with a colleague, listening to a podcast, or even going for a walk to disconnect, allowing the mind to relax and giving it the freedom and space to think creatively or find solutions more quickly.

These are just a few examples of the types of interview questions that I believe hiring managers should be asking candidates as we transition into the next era of work.

Of course, I haven’t covered all bases here. You may, for example, want to find out more about a candidate’s communication style – particularly when working on complex projects across dispersed, hybrid teams. Or perhaps you’re keen to understand whether they are already competent in using the specific tools that have kept your business going over the past couple of months, for example, Zoom, Teams, Skype, Hangouts or Slack.

Your business has changed as a result of the pandemic and so have your people – both current and future. So, it’s important the questions you ask when interviewing reflect that. After all, if you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t hire the right people to really help set your organisation apart in the next era of work.

By Gaelle Blake

Gaelle Blake is director of Hays permanent appointments for the UK and Ireland. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays blog.

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