What you need to know about interview questions
An interview gives you a brief window of time to get to know a candidate and whether they could be the best person for the job.

And making the most of the interview can come down to asking the right questions.

Justin Boots, HR Business Partner at SEEK, says different question styles can help you learn what you need to know about a candidate’s experience and abilities.

Watch as he offers tips and shares some key question types to use – plus the kinds of questions employers should avoid asking.

What can’t I ask in an interview?

Employers often ask about which questions they should avoid in interviews, Boots says.

If you’re unsure, a good rule of thumb is to ask only questions relevant to the role.  

“The purpose of an interview is to understand if the person has the right skills and capability to do the role that you’re hiring for,” he says.

“Any questioning that goes beyond that scope is off the table for any interview.”

For instance, questions about a candidate’s marital status, sexual orientation, religion or possible disability aren’t relevant to their performance.

“The answers to those questions are not going to help you ascertain whether or not someone has the skills and capabilities to do the role,” Boots says.

I would steer away from those questions and not ask those in an interview situation.”

What are behavioural interview questions?

Behavioural interview questions can reveal how someone behaved in a past situation.

For example, ask: “Think of a time when x, y, z happened. How did you respond to that? What were you feeling? What were others saying? What did you do?”

“Try to understand what the complexity was of that situation and how the individual navigated through that situation,” Boots says.

Use these questions if you want to discover how a candidate’s previous actions or behaviour can give you insight into how they may make decisions in the role.

What are situational interview questions?

If a candidate doesn’t have experience in a particular area or with an organisation, you can use situational interview questions, Boots says.

“You can set up a situational or hypothetical scenario, and ask the person to answer: ‘What would you do in this situation or if this happened?’”

Situational questions are useful if you’re hiring for a new role, moving into a new product, or you’ve acquired a new business, he says. 

“You’re testing a candidate to see whether their reaction to a new situation that you’ve never been in before as an organisation is something that would fit in and would be valued within your organisation.”

Can you have both?

In some cases, you can use a mix of behavioural and situational questioning styles, Boots says.

“You might ask someone to recall a prior experience, which is a behavioural question, and then within that you throw in a hypothetical situation,” he says.

For example:

  • Tell me about a time when x happened?
  • And what would you do if x, y, z would have happened then?
  • Would you have taken a different course, or would you have maintained the same course?
  • What do you think the likely result of that would have been?

What questions should candidates ask employers?

When candidates are given the chance to ask questions at the end of the interview, look for evidence that they’ve prepared.

Candidates can impress employers by asking relevant, insightful questions that show they’ve already researched the organisation and want to deepen that knowledge, Boots says.

For instance, candidates might ask questions around the organisation’s market performance or its main competitors.

“That shows me that they’ve already done a little bit of research into the organisation or into the role that they’re coming in to,” Boots says. “That would be really impressive from the hirer’s point of view.”