Questions employers should always ask in an interview

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When hiring an executive assistant, PA or other administrative position, it is essential to get the interview right. The judgement you make at the end could have dramatic consequences for your team or your business. Before every meeting with a potential employee, it is worth taking the time to prepare, going through the questions you are going to ask and working out what you want to get out of the process.

The nature of these questions will depend on your business, the role you are conducting interviews for, and the technical skills required. However, there are key questions which every interviewer should ask.


Why did you leave your last position, or why are you looking to leave your current job?

Whilst most candidates will have a perfectly acceptable reason for moving on, there are some whose reasons might not stand up to further questioning. Trust your gut instinct and if you are unhappy with the candidate’s response, then challenge them by asking the following question:

If the reason you left your position had not been an issue after all, would you have stayed?

This seems innocuous enough, but you will be amazed how a candidate can open up to this probe. Repeat this question until you get to the real reason for leaving. This will help you form a more accurate opinion of the candidate.

What were the salaries and benefits for your last three roles?

Interviewers often enquire as to a candidate’s salary in their current/last role. However, it is important to find out the last three. This will tell you about a candidate’s progression and, if a candidate has been given a big pay rise in a job, their value as an employee. Find out the starting and leaving salary for each job. Context is important here. A lack of any visible salary increase doesn’t necessarily indicate a bad candidate. Market forces and a previous employer’s modus operandi might have prevented an increase. You may like to familiarise yourself with position salaries beforehand so you can benchmark their previous salaries against what you’re offering.

Benefits can also make a huge difference to an offer, so it is worth asking what benefits the candidate was enjoying at their previous company. This ensures full transparency and gives you an opportunity to discuss your own benefit packages.

Please explain the gap in your CV

Many people have taken time out of their career; maybe to start a family, take a sabbatical, or go travelling. However, it is common knowledge that every gap should be explained on a CV so there should be no discrepancies.

If dates don’t line up, it is reasonable to ask the candidate why – this could also trigger a conversation that reveals a little more about their life experiences and personality.


Many employers want to make sure that a candidate is going to fit in to the culture of the company, regardless of whether or not they have the technical skills to do the job. Here are a few questions that can help you in assessing a candidate’s fit.

Who are your referees and why have you chosen them?

This is a question that candidates don’t necessarily expect and therefore prepare for. The answer often gives a good insight into a candidate’s reasoning and their level of confidence in the opinions of their peers. The split between personal and business references can be particularly interesting.

Discuss your interests and achievements.

This perhaps gives the most accurate assessment as to a candidate’s personality and without delving too deep, you can quickly determine whether there is common ground between the interviewee and the people he/she will be working with. Candidates are advised to take this section of their CV seriously so should be able to talk animatedly about anything listed here.

There are obviously many questions that can be asked in interview, but the above are ones that can elicit a telling response and help you make the right hiring decisions quickly and efficiently. There are also some questions you definitely shouldn’t ask in interview.

If you’re ready to hire a PA or EA, get in touch today. If you’re looking for guidance on interviewing, read our complete interview and selection guide for employers.

Author Jane Leese Tiger Recruitment Team

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