10 Tips to Help You Secure Top Talent

4 years ago


Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the interview is not only to find out about your candidate and whether they have the right skills for the role or the right attitude to fit into your team.

These days, you need to sell the opportunity and your company to the candidate. It’s not just about putting “bums on seats”.

Interviewing works both ways.

We are in an age where the candidate is king, and there are many departments and industries that cry out for skilled people. Yes, sometimes you interview someone, and they are out of work, so are likely to accept an offer regardless, but this is becoming less and less likely in the current climate…

Say you interview the perfect candidate and they have other offers on the table, why would they choose you?

Your interview is a way to show how you treat current and potential employees. More often than not, they will want a company that invests in them and takes them seriously, not necessarily one who asks what flavour ice-cream they would be and why.

I read and often write, countless articles on how candidates should behave in interview, what they should say, what they should ask, even down to what they should wear. But it’s rare that there is advice readily available for interviewers.

During my time working in recruitment, I have prepared many candidates for interview, only for the interviewer to ask peculiar or even inappropriate questions.

So, here is a list of my favourite questions to ask at interview, and also questions you should avoid asking when recruiting new talent.

Useful Questions to Ask:

1 Why have you applied for this role/what interests you about this role?

A simple question, but it will give you a good idea why the candidate is sat there in front of you. Are they looking for a stepping stone, and will leave as soon they have the experience? Or are they in it for the long run, wanting to make a career in your company? You need to establish if they are applying because they want to add value to your business.

2. What do you know about <business name>?

We always tell our candidates to research the business before attending an interview. Not only does it help with their preparation and give them an idea of the company values and culture, it also shows their ability to research and think outside of the box.

Have they spent five minutes on your home page before setting off for the interview? Or have they researched the company inside and out, scoured through articles and social media to know what you’re about.

3. Give me an example when…

I love this question, It’s easy to put on a CV that you can project manage, so ask them to give an example.

Fantastic customer service skills? Tell me when you had to handle a particularly difficult call.

Data Entry? Give me an example of when you had to handle high volumes of data.

Make them prove to you, and also to themselves, that they have the right skills for the role, and can transfer their skill and experience to your role.

4. What makes you different?

Representing our candidates in the marketplace is a large part of my role, so I often ask, “What makes you different?” Why should I represent them, and not someone with similar experience? What makes them employable? The answer to this will give you an insight to what the candidate has to offer, what they feel they can bring to the business, and also how articulate they are at expressing themselves.

 5. What do you like to do in your spare time?

Nobody likes a workaholic, most businesses want to employ three-dimensional people, people with hobbies, interests, a life outside of the 9-5. Find out what makes your candidate tick, you may even have something in common.

Avoid these Questions at All Costs!:

1 How old are you?

Believe it or not, this question is asked more often than you would think. Not only is this inappropriate (and often offensive) in a vast majority of situations, it is also illegal to discriminate on age. If they are 18 or 56, as long as they can do the role in hand, and add value to your business, does it matter what their date of birth is? Read more on ageism in the workplace here.

2. If you could be a <insert irrelevant word>, what would you be and why?

You may think this will provide an insight into their inner psyche, but questions like this, in any shape or form, are unnecessary, and the likelihood is, your candidate will not appreciate them. They annoy good candidates, and alienate most applicants. Do you want your ideal candidate refusing the role as they feel the interviewer won’t take them seriously? Focus on them, the role in hand, and the part they will play in the future of your business. Not who they would invite round for dinner, or what breed of dog they would be.

3. What are your weaknesses?

Weakness- It doesn’t really have positive connotations. No one wants to admit to a weakness at the best of times, let alone in front of a potential manager. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to discuss points of improvement, to allow for training programmes to be prepared prior to their start date, but it’s all about the phrasing. Try asking “what abilities would you need to improve or develop should you be successful in this role?”

4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

The job market is more fluid and transitional than ever before. For example, five years ago, I wanted to be a teacher. Four years ago, I was straight out of university, not knowing what I wanted. Three years ago, I was an administrator in recruitment, who would never have dreamed of being a consultant. Plans change and when at the start of a new career, people won’t know what they want in a years’ time, let alone five! (And if they do, they are clearly more organised than the majority of us!).

All you will achieve from asking this is a well-rehearsed answer, offering very little insight into the candidate’s desires. More suitable questions to ask would include “what are your ambitions?”, “do you have any long-term goals?” or “What do you aspire to be?”.

5. What is your current/most recent salary?

Asking what pay grade the candidate is currently on, or about any salary history, isn’t necessary when recruiting for your role. The ideal candidate could be on minimum wage, but their skills make them worth a lot more, or equally, they could be on more money and willing to take a salary cut.

All that should matter to you is the role they have applied for, and the salary linked to that. Even with this in mind, I would avoid salary discussions in the first interview.

This list is by no means exhaustive. If you can think of any other fantastic questions to ask when interviewing, or if you have been asked a particularly strange question before, let me know!

If you’re currently going through the interview process and would like some advice on how to get the most out of them, please feel free to contact me;

Maria Leyland

01254 239363

[email protected]





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