It is vital for the interviewer to thoroughly prepare a set of questions for each candidate.

It is important to avoid asking questions already answered in the documentation. Only refer to it if there are doubts or to reinforce a point. When appraising an employee profile, list the desired characteristics of each position and test the candidate against it. It is advisable to use a  list of questions or pre-defined situations.

Many banks have a list of desired behaviours, characteristics and values that define the ideal employee profile for the team and the bank. If the bank doesn’t already have them the hiring manager should create a list.  

Always ask technical questions first, and then questions related to the candidate’s experience.

Use a mix of direct questions that require a factual answer and questions that will require a more considered response. This helps the hiring manager to evaluate the candidate’s ability to structure and provide a clear and consistent explanation and helps the interviewer to have a better understanding of the interviewee.

Questions to ask in an interview

Make sure that all questions are related to the position to be filled. Some questions include:

“What has driven you to this interview?”

“What is an interesting job for you?”

“What was the worst and best job you have had, and why?”

“What characteristics does a good manager have?”

“Tell me about a difficult moment in your employment career and how you dealt with it?”

“What expertise required for this job have you used before?”

“What are your employee ambitions?”

On the day of the interview, make sure you have an interview room that is quiet, and where you can have privacy and sufficient time to complete the interview. Be on time. It is not good practice to be late and have the candidates waiting. Waiting time can have one or two effects: the candidate feels disrespected or can build stress because of insecurity.

Always treat the candidate as a customer, providing them a good service and a comfortable environment, such as offering them a drink.

It is important to bear in mind that whether the candidate is hired or not, they will tell people how professional the interview was, and that can create a good or bad perception of the hiring manager and the bank.

During the interview the manager will use the job description to evaluate the candidate’s technical capabilities, comparing them to their résumé, courses taken, qualifications and their experience.

The interviewer will evaluate the desired employee profile against that of the applicant, trying to assess if they are a leader. A good indication can be obtained by asking questions related to the challenges faced by leaders. Look for what kind of leader they are, specifically whether they can make decisions and take responsibility.

Seek examples of team-building characteristics such as leading from the front. This  helps the manager to understand whether the candidate has the characteristics that the bank views as important from a leader. Consider the role, and how important it is for all team members to be able to express their views and opinions to their line manager as well as their colleagues.

Assess if the candidate is a “dreamer” or a creative person. Can they execute what is required, or can they only talk? Can the candidate clearly communicate ideas or positions? Or is the candidate an introverted person who has difficulty in expressing themselves? Can they start and finish a task, or do they get distracted by any external influence? Can they see the implications of actions and decisions and adapt themselves?

It is also important to evaluate the individual’s profile, their beliefs and actions compared to the bank’s values. The interviewer will evaluate if what is important to the employee aligns with what is important to the bank.

Is loyalty important to the bank? Is it important for the bank that the candidate is committed to building a career? Imagine that the bank invests a lot of time and money in cross-department training, and the candidate does not see that as important. In this event, the bank will have an issue from the beginning.

Another example: the bank may have a structured multi-geographic structure – where it is important to know and understand the different aspects of the various units in different locations – but it turns out that the candidate is not willing to travel. If this is the case, the manager is better off looking for another candidate.

Before proceeding, here are a few tips of what not to ask in any interview. Over the years, we have seen these questions being asked over and over, despite their unsuitability. Questions such as “Talk a little about yourself” add nothing if the interviewer has not previously asked questions that help them to understand the candidate and their personal profile. In fact, asking such a question shows that the interviewer has not studied the candidate’s résumé.

Family and personal questions such as “Do you have or plan to have kids?”, should not be a criterion to select someone. Apart from being discriminatory and illegal in some jurisdictions, such a question simply demands unnecessary effort from the prospective employee, who has to answer it in the most suitable way, based on their perception of the interview. Avoid personal questions, such as religion, or favourite football team. A bank should not hire, or give the perception that it hires staff based on anything other than experience and employee capacity.

Another typically useless question is: “How can you help our company?” It is another vague question and is only useful if it relates to a specific issue or problem and is related to the role you the bank is seeking to fill.

The last classic ‘useless’ question is: “Tell me your weaknesses and strengths”. The candidate is seeking a job. How pragmatic and open can the interviewer believe a candidate would be?

So far we have seen that a job interview is a complex process and requires the interviewer to study the candidate’s résumé, to understand the job description and what the bank is looking for in a candidate; accordingly, it is vital to prepare appropriate questions to appraise the kind of employee and personal profile that is being sought. The manager should ensure that the interview is conducted in a quiet place, without interruption. It is important to create empathy with the candidate and always treat them professionally, clearly explaining to them what to expect during the process.

Besides the steps mentioned above, companies apply some knowledge, analytical and psychometric profile tests for junior positions to reinforce findings and opinions gathered during the interview. These can be conducted by the bank or by hiring specialised companies, in which case the bank just needs to provide the job description.

With senior positions, it is advisable to set up interviews with former employers and colleagues to check if the information provided by the candidate is accurate and to confirm (or deny) the manager’s perceptions or conclusions from the interview. Finally, the candidate should provide the company a list of references.