- Michael Coulthard
15 Interview Questions that Ensure Candidate Quality
On the surface, interviewing a candidate for an available vacancy would appear to be relatively simple. With the job description in hand describing specific skills and experience, the Recruiter or Hiring Manager shoots off multiple questions et voila, they are equipped to make a hiring decision.
If only interviewing was that simple...
The nuance of interviewing candidates extends well beyond skills and abilities into areas of candidate maturity level, culture fit and self-awareness to assess overall candidate quality. You can mitigate some of these questions for fit if you're attracting informed candidates who have engaged with your employer brand through current recruitment activities.
Once you've attracted great fit candidates, you'll want to ask interview questions regarding industry and expertise, as well as broader-based questions to learn how they will ultimately mesh with your team.
The following questions are a constructive way in which to find out more about what's important to a candidate and how well they interact with others, etc. Ideally, the primary goal of 99.9% of interviews is to have a collaborative and communicative conversation - putting candidates at ease (after all, interviews, and job search, in general, can be stressful for job seekers) and creating an enjoyable and comfortable interaction (vs. an interrogation).
The following questions gradually establish the quality and suitability of the candidate:
1. Tell me something about yourself that others may be surprised to know about you.
Why Ask This Question? This question is THE opportunity to learn something very interesting and authentic about a candidate that might otherwise not come up in a standard interview.
2. If there were something in your past you were able to go back and do differently, what would that be?
Why Ask This Question? This question is another way to understand life lessons a person has learned and how these lessons may be of benefit when managing others or working in teams.
3. Tell me about a time you had a difficult working relationship with a colleague. What was the challenge?
Why Ask This Question? You should be looking to understand how a candidate resolves problems and how the experience and knowledge learned is applicable to possible future situations.
4. So, tell me one of your war stories about that challenge, something you were happy with and something you weren't happy with when dealing with it.
Why Ask This Question? I like this prompt because it helps me establish whether or not the candidate has really dealt with that situation and gives a good opportunity to evaluate communication ability.
5. Tell me your biggest success story related to this role.
Why Ask This Question? This prompt is one to use early in the conversation. It helps the candidate feel at ease and comfortable. Candidates lacking a good success story, particularly recently, raise a red flag. Plus, it often helps to fuel better follow-up questions afterward.
6. What is your ideal position and why?
Why Ask This Question? It offers the candidate an opportunity to share their best skills sets (technical skills) along with their transferable skills (soft skills) and understand what they consider to be the best-fit position. It gives the interviewer an opportunity to see how closely aligned the candidate is with the duties and responsibilities of the position. In my experience in conducting interviews, there have been numerous times when a candidate will describe their best-fit position, only to find that it does not align with the position they are interviewing for.
7. Tell me your biggest failure related to relevant experience to this role.
Why Ask This Question? The purpose of asking this question is to ensure that the candidate possesses self-awareness. But perhaps as importantly, much like the biggest weakness question, the key thing here is learning what the takeaway was to help avoid recurrence.
8. What is a development area that you're had to overcome to improve in your career?
Why Ask This Question? It offers a chance to learn how someone deals with self-realisation, actualisation and potentially how they overcome obstacles and adversity.
9. What are two of the most satisfying accomplishments in your career to date? Tell me about each of them.
Why Ask This Question? When people are invited to tell a story about what's been important to them in the arc of their careers, you get an insight into their values. Did they value the impact they had? Did they value the award or recognition? You have an opportunity to see their motivators and their success markers.
10. Describe (not name) your favourite Manager and your least favourite - and why.
Why Ask This Question? This allows rapid insight into how the candidate likes to be communicated with and managed, as well as some revelations into overall attitude and maturity.
11. Describe work you've accomplished that best compares to what needs to be done.
Why Ask This Question? A pattern soon emerges of where the candidate excels and what organizations best meet their needs.
12. How did you end up in your current role?
Why Ask This Question? You'll get a better sense of a candidate's career trajectory, as well as what motivates them.
Finally, these three questions can help vet out the quality of a candidate's preparation for the interview:
13. What challenges do you see impacting the industry?
14. What interests you most about this role?
15. Do you have any questions for me?
Why Ask These Questions? More substantive answers signal a higher level of preparation and initiative. Moreover, the candidate having jotted down a few questions to ask indicates interest surpassing an individual role and to their overall relationship within and among the enterprise.
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