Hiring the right person is a far trickier – and important – task in a small business than a large one. In a start-up, every person has a huge impact on success, and attitude is as important as skill. To help sniff out the best, here are five essential questions to ask.
Why are you here today?
Much like “tell me about yourself,” this is a question that shifts the emphasis onto the interviewee, who must immediately take the lead in putting across the most important points about who they are, why they want the job and how it fits into their career plans, without simply parroting back what they think the interviewer wants to hear. There are many candidates who will have thought about whether or not they can do a job without seriously considering why or whether it’s genuinely the right place for them. That will often show straight away when they are asked a question like this.
Why do you want to work here?
This is a chance for you to check how deeply the candidate has actually researched, and understands, your company – but remember that it’s not a pop quiz, it’s a two way conversation. So, if the candidate has any false assumptions about how you operate, or they are slightly wrong about how you are positioning yourself against your competitors, explain this and start a conversation. If they can respond to this intelligently, plenty questions and showing interest in why you do things that way, it suggests that they are genuinely excited about this industry and where you fit into it.
What kind of environment do you thrive in most?
This is a great question because it is likely to give you an honest answer. While a smart candidate will make an educated guess about a company’s culture by its sector and size, and will be able to talk eloquently about how they would fit into this, no one on the outside really knows how you do things at work. Now is your chance to find out whether the person you are interviewing loves structure or hates hierarchy, likes to get their head down and work hard from 9-5 or comes up with their best ideas while out for a walk or working from home. Only you can say which ways of working fits best with your company – and it will give you an idea of how happy this candidate will actually be if they joined your team.
What are your two biggest strengths and weaknesses?
A candidate that has done a sensible level of preparation will probably have rehearsed one, but two is more likely to catch them off guard and get a “real” answer. This is not about catching someone out, but it is about getting a sense of who they are, what they will struggle with or excel at, and whether they have the humility and self-awareness that is often essential in a small business!
What do you do for fun?
You certainly don’t have to share all the same interests as your team members, but if you’re going to bee cooped up working long hours together, you want to know that they have a personality and will be able to get on with others! This is also a question that helps let a person’s guard down, giving you a glimpse into who they are, what makes them tick and whether they have the kind of passion and self-motivation that an SME needs.