Ten health and safety interview questions

Ten Health and Safety Interview Questions

We have created a list of ten health and safety interview questions we would recommend asking a candidate for a health and safety role.

So, you’ve sifted through the application forms, read numerous CV's and drawn up a short list of candidates for your health and safety position. You decide to invite a select few to a first interview. Some of the questions you have already considered asking might include:
  • What weaknesses do you have?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • Describe a situation in which you led a team/worked in a team
  • What has been your greatest achievement
    While these are indeed tried and tested questions, candidates will no doubt conduct an online search and have pre-prepared model answers. While you don’t want to scare off candidates with bizarre questioning, it makes sense to ‘mix it up a bit’ to get a genuine response.
    It is assumed that the candidates all have the required qualifications or competencies for the role; this is to sort out who will fit your company. Below are a list of ten questions that we would recommend asking:


    1) What do you think this job entails?

    It’s amazing how many candidates have no idea what specific day-to-day activities they will be doing. This could be the fault of the job description, or that they have not bothered to read the full spec. Either way, the answer will tell you what the candidate hopes the job will entail – do they have unrealistic expectations or are they on the right wavelength?

    2) Can you describe an ideal line manager or colleague?

    This can be particularly revealing as most candidates will describe their own strengths. Also, ask them what they don’t like about colleagues as it can reveal pet hates.  Sometimes there are no right or wrong answers, just information you can link together to see if this person will fit your company.

    3) What would you do in the first three months of the job?

    A poor candidate will give a vague answer. A better candidate can see themselves in the role so will be able to talk through their initial actions. After all, you want somebody who has initiative, experience and passion to hit the ground running.

    4) What will your present colleagues miss most about you?

    This can be very revealing; the candidate is asked to analyse how other people see them. Most candidates would use this question to talk about their strengths – beware of the candidate who says ‘my practical jokes’!  If a candidate says they were known for organizing the best staff social events, this makes them a good team player who understands the importance of workplace culture; and answers about staying behind to complete an urgent deadline also implies a team player, but also someone who goes the extra mile in order to get the job done.

    5) What is the biggest mistake you made in your life and what did you learn from it?

    Companies want staff who won’t panic when things go wrong, but can speak honestly about their personal shortcomings; their resilience and their explanation of how the experience made them a better person as a result.

    H&S Interview Questions

    6) A client or other manager with some health and safety knowledge is contradicting your report: what do you do?

    No one likes to be criticised, but this question is looking not only at the veracity of the report, but how the candidate would handle difficult situations with diplomacy but calm firmness.

    7) Sum up our business in one sentence.

    How much homework has the candidate done? Do they understand your core business and better still can they condense this into just one sentence? Most companies need people who can grasp a situation and explain it to others.

    8) Tell me about some recent new, or major changes to, health and safety legislation

    This is the first health and safety-specific question. It does not really matter which legislation is mentioned, what you are looking for is someone who keeps abreast of legislative changes and can speak authoritatively on the subject.

    9) What makes you my ideal candidate?

    Better candidates will have done their homework and know your needs; they can match every one of your needs with their qualifications and experiences. For example, “you need someone who can implement a strong health and safety management system. In my current job, I achieved OHSAS18001 in twelve months and I’m confident I can do the same for you.”

    10) Which is more important – health and safety, or productivity?

    The answer, of course, is that neither one is more important than the other, but that health and safety should be part of every business consideration – not an add-on.

    Improved health and safety can lead to increased productivity, lower staff turnover and better employee relations.

    There are times when health and safety will come more to the fore, but the ideal situation is for all levels of the business to consider health and safety risks along with operational risk, financial risk, reputational risk etc., in their everyday work – then health and safety culture will be alive and well in your organisation.

    We can help you find your ideal candidate to fulfill your health and safety needs. Take a look at our additional services page for more information.


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