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Interview Questions to Ask

If you have children, you probably spend a lot of time answering questions and wondering if anyone actually ever hears a word you say. In life and in hiring, it sometimes feels like you are talking to a wall.

There is a time to talk and a time to listen and great hiring managers and recruiters have this art down! I am sure you have heard the saying, “There’s a reason you have two ears and one mouth. You should be listening twice as much as you’re talking.” It definitely holds true in interviews.

You have to know exactly what to talk about and really, really listen to the candidate's answers. So, just asking questions isn't enough, they have to be the right kind of questions to be the most effective. Direct hire recruiting depends on “candidate control.” Basically, are you able to understand their motivations and use their “hot points” to position a role in the most appealing way for them?

Before We Jump In

I want to start by saying this isn't about tricking a candidate into accepting a role they don't really want. And it isn't about lying or exaggerating. High performing candidates may also be passive job seekers, so you might need to go above and beyond your normal routine to attract them.

You must ask questions that get to the heart of their concerns and listen closely to their replies. When you can use their answers to position the role in a way the candidate gets excited about, you'll know you have it right.

My Favorite Questions

I have two favorite questions that give me a lot to go on. The key is not accepting a fluff answer and to keep drilling down until you get to the real meat of it all.

What are you looking for in the next step of your career?

A deceptively simple question, but my favorite. You usually get such a fluid and thoughtful response. The language the candidate uses and their answer are what you use to put your role in its' best light. Use their language in other questions and when you talk about the company & opportunity and when you make the offer.

Alternatively, the answer they give tells you they aren't a fit. I also love using this when I am sure a candidate is grossly over or under-qualified. Once they say what they want, they usually can see the role isn't going to be a match.

Why did you leave Company XYZ?

Sure, this is a basic interviewing 101 question, but most people don't really pay enough attention to the answer. You'll learn a lot by a person's motivations to move from role to role. Some people give a simple answer: “looking for more growth opportunities” or some will only focus on negative aspects of past roles. Other people will show signs they are frustrated being asked about their past.

No matter what the response, it is telling me something about the candidate. Maybe it is that I need to dig deeper, maybe it is that they are a pretty negative person. Maybe it is that if my client can't offer them opportunities to grow and expand every few years, they'll be gone. Every answer matters and every answer gives me insight.

Other Examples

Here are a few other questions I love because they get into what makes the candidate tick:

  • Tell me about your favorite manager.
  • What kind of manager do you work least well with?
  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with an issue with your manager and how you handled it.
  • Tell me about a time you had to talk with an employee about performance issues. How did it go and how did you approach it?
  • Tell me about a time you had a disagreement with a co-worker. How did you handle it and how did it get resolved?
  • What kind of roles do you succeed best in?
  • What kind of responsibilities do you struggle with?

Obviously, just asking questions isn't enough. You need to listen to their motivations and be part detective, part psychologist. If you can get to the heart of their desires, you'll be able to position your company in the best possible light.

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