Discipline and Grievance

by Kate Russell

Interview questions

Before the interview, prepare a checklist of questions to ask each candidate.

The dos and don’ts of questioning


  • Keep questions relevant, in other words make them relevant to the job
  • Prepare in advance questions that explore each applicant’s background and experience
  • Write down the answers
  • Use open and behavioural questions
  • Create a short-list of technical questions to put to all applicants and score their responses.


  • Ask questions about such things as childcare arrangements or marital status
  • Ask hypothetical questions
  • Ask discriminatory questions or make discriminatory allusions.

Types of question

There is a range of question types available for you to use in the interview. Choose the type of question that will give you the information you want and will allow you to control the pace of the interview.

Closed questions

It is generally best to avoid closed questions unless you want simple yes or no answers in order to verify facts or to take control back from a verbose candidate.

Leading questions

Leading questions are those that tend to place words in the interviewee’s mouth; for example, ‘You did manage a budget, didn’t you?’

Avoid leading questions except when you are using them to summarise what an interviewee has said to you and to check the accuracy of your understanding.

Open questions

Open questions are the basic tool of interviewing. They are called open questions because they open up the discussion with information and lead on to more questions. Once you have asked an open question, let the person talk while you keep quiet and listen. You need only interrupt with another question if the interviewee is going off the point or not giving you the information you need.


Only ask one question at a time and don’t answer it yourself!

Useful words to encourage a candidate to talk:

  • How...
  • What...
  • Where...
  • When...
  • Why...
  • Who...
  • Explain...
  • Tell me...
  • Give me an example...
  • Demonstrate...
  • Describe...

Competency-based questions

Competence or behavioural questions ask the candidate to describe specific past situations where they may have used the behaviour you are trying to assess.

Example: Tell me about a time you had to deal with a customer who had received poor service elsewhere and assumed that you would offer the same poor level of service.  

You can probe past behaviour to find out if the candidate has had the opportunity to acquire skills, their approach to using the skills and any evidence that they were successful in using the skills. Follow up these questions with open questions to get a full picture.

Example: Describe a time when you had to solve a work place problem by yourself.

  • What was the problem?
  • How did you solve it?
  • There’s usually more than one way of dealing with problems. Why did you decide to take the approach that you did?

It’s always helpful to cross-check certain skills or aptitudes by testing. For example, candidates will often describe themselves as detail conscious and explain how they achieve it. If you ask them to do a short exercise which tests detail consciousness you will be able to get a good idea.

Some useful questions

  • What impression did you form of that technique?
  • Tell me about your present job.
  • Why did you decide to leave that job?
  • How would you describe your relations with outside contractors?
  • What experience do you have of XYZ? Describe that to me.
  • What do you most enjoy about your present job?
  • What do you like least about your present job?
  • Tell me about a time when you did XYZ. How did you feel about that?

Question funnel

You could use the question funnel to get to the information you need.

1. Open question about a particular matter you want to explore ...

   2. Probe, using as many open questions as you need,

      3. Summarise to check your understanding.

         4. Close. Ask ‘Is there anything you’d like to tell me about this matter that I haven’t asked you about?’

Also look at the topics on Questioning Skills and Listening Skills.