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Interview Questions for an Operations Role

What to ask in an Operations interview

Operations staff determine how smoothly your business runs day-to-day: their role is practical and organisational. Therefore, when you’re interviewing for an operations role, we recommend looking out for the following skills:

  • Excellent organisation. Operations staff need outstanding time management, a practical system for keeping track of various people and processes, a sharp eye for detail, and the ability to multitask.
  • Strong interpersonal skills. Communicating with clients and monitoring an in-house team requires a team work ethic and emotional intelligence.
  • Commercial awareness. Operations exists to make sure a business is running at its best – within itself and within its sector. It’s crucial that operations staff can think about the big picture!
  • Willingness to learn. Entry-level candidates need to be enthusiastic about their work and eager to expand their skills. They should have researched your company before their interview and be keen to gain insight into the role by speaking to you.

See our general guide to hiring graduates in operations for further tips.

Like all interviews, operations interviews should contain a mix of question types. Let’s take a closer look.

General questions about background/future

These are broad, basic questions that the candidate is likely to have prepared, and they should open the interview. The aim is to get an overview of the candidate’s experience and ambitions – that is, a sense of where they are in their career and what they are likely to want from this job.

Possible questions could include:

  • Talk me through your CV.
  • Can you tell me more about this particular piece of experience?
  • Tell me about your degree. What was your favourite course/module and why?
  • What are your longer-term career ambitions?

Questions about personal traits

These questions assess the candidate’s suitability for your role based on their character and personality. They aim to clarify the candidate’s level of personal organisation, curiosity and engagement, and interpersonal skills.

Possible questions could include:

  • Tell me about a major piece of work you completed. What were its challenges? What was your process for getting it completed on time and to a good standard?
  • How do you balance multiple commitments? Tell me about a time you had to prioritise tasks, and how you went about it.
  • Tell me about one of your strengths and how you think it comes out in your work.
  • What does a great day at work look like for you?
  • If you could improve one of your skills, which would you choose and why?
  • What motivates you?
  • What does good communication look like? How do you achieve it?
  • Tell me about one of your hobbies. Why does it interest you and how do you do it?
  • Tell me about a time you experienced really poor teamwork. What was the problem and what did you do to address it?
  • Tell me about a time you had to learn fast - how did you approach it?

Questions related to the company/role/operations specifically

The aim is to see whether the candidate has a clear interest in and understanding of what is involved in operations, in this specific role and in this particular company.

Possible questions could include:

  • Why this role?
  • Tell us what you think we do/what’s your understanding of how we work? (If necessary, gently correct/add)
  • What do you find most exciting about working for this company?
  • What do you think the goal of operations is? How do you think this is best achieved?
  • What could you bring to this role? What operations-relevant skills do you have?
  • Which companies do you admire and why?
  • Tell us about an example of really good customer/client service you have seen. What made it so good?
  • Tell us about an example of really poor customer/client service. What would you do differently?
  • What do you hope to learn in this role?

Scenarios

When interviewing for an operations role, you should present the candidate with a hypothetical problem to solve, to assess their quick thinking and problem-solving skills. It’s best to do this in a face-to-face interview.

Your imagined scenario should be company-specific and involve a conflict or dilemma. Here’s an example from TalentPool:

‘An employer is running their third campaign with you. Their first campaign went well, they hired a candidate through the platform easily and had lots of applications. The second went less well, with fewer applications and the process taking much longer. They want to launch a third campaign but they want a discount - and you are in charge of handling the situation. This is actually a colleague’s client, but the colleague in question is on holiday. What do you do?’.

Your candidate’s response to your scenario should be well-thought out, even if not necessarily correct; it should demonstrate an understanding of how your company operates; and ideally, the candidate should propose doing something similar to what you would do.

Practical and closing questions

These are brief, straightforward questions to close the interview and to give the candidate a chance to ask questions.

Possible questions could include:

  • Can I confirm that you are legally allowed to work in the UK? Note that we have a guide to working visas here.
  • Do you have any questions for me?
  • When would you be available to start?

What to do next

Once you’ve found your new operations employee, it’s time to make them an offer. Check out our guide on How to Make a Job Offer for some handy tips.

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