When hiring a new employee within your start-up, asking the right questions can be particularly powerful. With more than 80% of employee turnover attributed to bad hiring and more than 90% of start-ups failing within their first year, finding the right person for the job is extremely important.

As a general rule, the closer in nature the job role is to the activities or hobbies a candidate enjoys doing outside of work, the easier it will be to help train, motivate and incentivise them.

We all have our own unique style of interviewing and peculiar questions we like to ask. We are no different. Here are together some of our favourite and most revealing questions that we believe will help you to decipher and get a good read on your next applicant.

1. Pitch [name of your company] as if I were buying your product/service

A great question to start with that immediately puts the candidate under stress. It will illustrate how much preparation and homework has been done before stepping into the interview.

In many cases some candidates will find this task easier than others. Sales and marketing execs are more likely to be able to spin off a sales pitch compared with an internal facing computer scientist. This is absolutely fine. It is not always the delivery that counts, it’s the clear understanding of your business, your products/services and where you value comes from.

If a candidate can impress at this stage of the interview with their knowledge, dedication and passion towards your business, you are off to a great start. These are all key ingredients needed to grow a successful start-up.

2. How can you help my business?

A good follow on question that once again tests a candidate’s research and preparation. This question moves past the “what are you good at and why do I hire you” questions and cuts straight to that point.

If a candidate can illustrate that they have taken the time to learn the information on your company website and scowl the web to find addition pieces of material to come up with ways their skills and experience can add value to your business – you’re a onto a winner.

When a candidate can deliver new ideas and provide clear explanations on how they would go about implementing them within the interview stage, they are likely to curious, dedicated and passionate about what you do and be an asset to your company.

3. Tell me about a time that you ‘screwed up’

The classic question that all candidates should be prepared for. This question can show self-awareness, ownership and honesty from the get-go.

When a person is able to honestly fess-up to a time they screwed up and completely understand how it affected the company, their co-workers and themselves is more likely to be mindful and demonstrate humility. We have all hard the “fake” screw-ups like – I am a perfectionist, so I couldn’t complete a project on time or I worked too hard and burnt out. These answers can illustrate a general lack of ownership and can be seen as red flags.

Self-awareness, honesty and humility are all traits that a quality candidate who is able to learn from their mistakes and come out stronger on the other side.

4. What sort of work environment brings out your best performance?

Most modern day start-up work environments are a lot more flexible than their corporate counter parts. Though generally flexible on location, office hours and clothing – you’re traditional 9-5 is usually non-existent.

This question allows you to probe for specifics. You can find out what environment a candidate thrives in and how it translates to your company’s current structure. If you are a tight-knit team who like to work into the night and every other weekend, you really do not want someone who is an early riser, who prefers to work alone and never on weekends.

People generally have a preferred environment – it’s just human nature. Candidates who say I can complete my best work when working alone, with a team, under water, on a plane at night or during the day, they are probably not being completely honest.

5. What do you LOVE to do?

As a general rule, the closer in nature the job role is to the activities or hobbies a candidate enjoys doing outside of work, the easier it will be to help train, motivate and incentivise them.

Asking the question "So, what would you spend your time doing if you didn't have to work?" will give you profound insights into the candidates’ personality and what they'll naturally be good at. If what a candidate enjoys outside of work can be transferred or emulated into the work environment, and it aligns with the interests of your current team, creativity and productivity are likely to increase.

An example could be a computer scientist who loves building robots in his spare time, you may be able to come up with some creative ways to get the best of his abilities in the workplace.

6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This question is best used at the end of the interview. A good answer should articulate short term goals (the immediate impact) and long term goals (how that impact has affected the company).

You are looking for ambition and motivation. A major red flag to be aware of is the candidate who plans to be the same position five years from now. A good approach is to write down how you see the candidate progressing over the next 5 years. How does their answer align and is it realistic?

You ultimately want to hire someone who is ready to jump into the deep end from the word go, but also someone who has put some thought into their future. If you can see ambition and drive within a candidate setting goals and hitting milestones becomes a lot easier.