What to ask when interviewing for your small business

by REP26 Feb 2016
There is a big difference between hiring staff for a small business and recruiting within a larger organization. Not only will you be hiring less staff, but it’s also likely you’ll be seeking an employee with a wider range of skills as well as greater flexibility, accountability and commitment.
When beginning the recruitment phase, it’s important to look for people who will not just suit your needs with regards to skill and expertise, but who also fit into the overall culture of your small business.
Most small-business owners wear many hats and don’t have a dedicated human resources department. They’re also often extremely time-poor. As a result, they don’t have much time to spend on the preparation and planning stages of interviews.
However, I’d like to stress the importance of ensuring you make the time to prepare some good questions. Doing so will ensure you recruit the right person for the job. You may just save yourself a whole heap of time later on if you discover you haven’t hired the right person for your business.
What to ask Questions such as “What animal would you be?” or “What is your favourite food?” are not OK. Not only do they tell you very little about the substance of the candidate, but it’s also likely they may be considered discriminatory or inappropriate. Even if you are a solopreneur, it’s always good business practice to be 100% professional in an interview. Word of mouth spreads fast, and you never know who your interviewee will share their experiences with. Be sure to keep in mind that every time you interview someone, you’re creating an impression of your business for the outside world.
Interview dos and don’ts
To hire the right person for your business, take a few minutes to consider the following before your next interview:
Don’t do all the talking
It’s fine to tell the candidate a little bit about your business and the role but then get straight into asking some questions. A good place to start is by asking the open question, “Tell me about yourself.” The answers you receive to this question can tell you a great deal about the person in the first few minutes.
Think up a fact-finding question
This will allow you to confirm any information included candidates’ resumes. It will also help them warm up and relax, making them feel more comfortable in responding to more difficult questions you’ll ask later on in the interview.
Drop the hypothetical questions
Avoid questions such as, “If you were in the situation … what would you do?” The truth is, when you ask a hypothetical question, you get a hypothetical answer. These days people are skilled enough to tell you want you want to hear, rather than the truth of what they really did or would do.
Ask a few behavioural questions
Behaviour-based questions (such as “Tell me about a time when…”) will focus on what a person has done in the past and the success he or she enjoyed as a result. Not only will this help you work out if the candidate is a good fit, but it will also give you a strong indication of future behaviour.
Ask questions specific to small businesses
Make sure you ask questions about things such as initiative, flexibility, problem-solving, ability to work on your own, ability to work under pressure and multitasking.
Talk less
It’s better to ask short follow-up questions such as “What happened next?” or “What was the end result?” Let them tell you the whole story in their own words.
Make sure you have a closing question
A question such as, “If this was your business, why would you hire you?” provides a great opportunity for the candidate to showcase their own unique skills and talent that they may not have had the opportunity to raise during the interview process.
Running a successful small business is often about trust, so make sure you employ someone you have belief in and you feel you can depend on. If you fill your business with staff who are self-motivated, then you can be sure your business is on the right track.
To conclude, the culture and success of your small business will be determined by your people. So, next time you’re looking at taking on new staff, make sure you do yourself a favour by taking sufficient time to plan your interview questions, giving consideration to the type of business you run. This will assist you in finding the right person every time.
Sarah Derry is the director of People Reaching Potential. Prior to founding People Reaching Potential, she was the regional director of human resources for a large multinational company.

Industry news

Submit a press release


Do you do commercial deals?