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