A business is only as good as its people - and this is especially true when you're starting out and building up your team from scratch!
It’s important to find team members you can rely on to help make your business a success. Asking the right questions at an interview can get a clearer sense of who might be the perfect fit for your role.
We sat down with our Monzo’s hiring team to learn about the questions they love to ask in interviews - and why you shouldn't always rely on the first answer you're given.
1) “Do you have another example of that?”
Chris: “This is useful if you want to get a true sense of a candidate's experience. Most people have go-to stories they use when they're being interviewed. As the interviewer, you want to find out whether it’s their only example of a particular experience, or whether it’s something they’ve done consistently. It's also a helpful question if you're trying to choose between two strong candidates.”
2) “Can you explain that to me as though you were talking to a child?”
Tom: “Sometimes, the more of an expert a person is in something (and the more they're surrounded by other experts), the harder it is to bridge the gap to what a non-expert might understand. This question helps to establish your candidate's communication skills and whether they can convey their thoughts and ideas to a non-technical colleague or customer.”
3) “How did you feel about that?”
Shannon: “We want to get a sense of a person's values, not just their experience. So if you've asked a question about how the candidate has handled a tricky situation – such as delivering bad news or managing an angry customer – follow it up by asking about their emotional response at the time. It gives a real indication as to why the situation was handled in a particular way.”
4) “What would your perfect role look like?”
Faheem: "From time to time, you'll find yourself in front of a candidate who isn't giving much away. Instead of sitting there wondering, 'Why is this person here?', maybe try asking them to describe their dream job. Once you understand what motivates the candidate, you'll be in a better place to get them to open up about what's lacking in their current role, making it easier to 'sell' your job opportunity to them."
5) “Can you tell me about a time you made a mistake?”
Katie: “This is an excellent test of someone's humility and self-awareness. We all make mistakes, but what matters is what happens next. You want to see evidence that a candidate has learnt from the experience, grown as a person and taken action to prevent it from happening again. So if you've been offered a trivial example, ask for another. After all, problem-solving skills are vital in most startups and fast-growing small businesses.”
6) “Give me an example of how you worked to fix a mistake?”
George: “Similar to Katie's question, this helps identify how someone works as part of a team and whether their approach defines a no-blame culture. For example, did the candidate fix it themselves, or did they come together as a team to fix it? Did they take responsibility, and what did they learn from the experience?”
7) “Can you clarify your personal contribution to the project?”
Nina: “Often, candidates will use 'we' to describe projects or activities they've worked on, rather than explaining what they were responsible for. This isn't necessarily a bad thing – using 'we' is often a sign of a good team player and collaborator. But it can also be used by candidates to take credit for work in which they only had minor involvement. If you're unsure about who did what, don't be afraid to ask for clarification."
8) “What would a colleague say is the best thing about working with you?”
Debbie: "This is a great way to explore what a candidate perceives as their strengths, and their relationships with peers. By bringing real colleagues into the mix, you prompt candidates to think carefully, and you're more likely to get an honest answer rather than a scripted response. And you can then follow up by asking what your colleague would suggest as an area for development, to get a flavour for what the person is willing to acknowledge as a weakness."
9) “What’s your superpower?”
Lee: “No one wants to hear a candidate bragging about their achievements, but you do want to find out what they feel comes most naturally to them. Framing the question in this way is more likely to give you a detailed, insightful response from the candidate, as they'll feel the need to justify why they've chosen this attribute over another. Also, if the candidate is successful at interview, you'll already have a head start on what their day one duties might look like."
10) “What was the defining moment in your career that led you to where you are today?”
Nina: “If you're making a senior hire, this is a great question to help sift through all that professional experience and get the candidate to reveal something unique about themselves. Maybe it's an insight into what inspires them as a person, or it could be a moment of adversity that tells you about their resilience. Whatever the case, it's a thought-provoking discussion starter that can be followed up with other questions, such as, 'How did this opportunity change your performance?' or 'Where do you think you would be if this moment had gone differently?'"
11) “Talk me through a project you're most proud of from start to finish.”
Niamh: “It's important to understand what a candidate is most passionate about, but you also want to see how well they understand the work itself. Asking the candidate to explain the project from start to finish will give you a better sense of how much they really know about what they're working on - what's involved, the purpose, and why it matters.”
12) “What do you think working for us is like?”
Dylan: “This is an excellent question for a candidate who has all the right skills, but whose previous experience was for a much larger company or a company in a different sector. It's a good way to identify if they have thought carefully about the role they're applying for, and whether they'll be capable of making the transition over to your business."