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Business Tips

Two Revealing Questions to Ask All Interview Candidates When Hiring

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The interview process can be challenging because you want to learn as much as possible about a potential new hire before on-boarding and training them to avoid problems, yet getting too personal with questions can also scare quality candidates into accepting opportunities elsewhere. You also want to engage a candidate in a conversational way that doesn’t involve simply reading their resume together. So, how do you strike a balance and get the information you need? The trick is to ask questions that naturally lend themselves to informative conclusions regarding the interview subject’s compatibility with your business culture and the role itself. The following are two question prompts in particular that allow an excellent assessment without feeling too invasive and what to look for in their answers.

The first question is: Can you tell me, of all the jobs you’ve had, what characteristics of those jobs did you like that you hope to also find in your next job? 

This question allows the candidate to provide you with details on what they value in a job. What they focus on in their valuation reveals the type of worker they are. Do they value co-workers working as a team? Do they value the flexibility they had to change their work schedule? Do they value the health benefits? Did they feel competent in their job, which made it seem easy? Did they like challenges or variety of tasks? Did they enjoy working with customers or not having to work with customers directly?

Listen closely for the response to discover what might be a match for the position you are offering and for the overall working environment. Ask more specific follow-up questions to get additional details if they are too general. For example, if they they enjoyed working with friendly people, find out what kind of interactions that involved, such as customer facing interactions, co-workers in office or out of office, or management interactions.

If their desired job characteristics are not a match, you will know early on to eliminate the candidate and you may even have language to use if the candidate follows up later to see why they weren’t offered the position.

Answers to this question also reveal what matching attributes you can play up to them about the position or business should you find them to be a desirable candidate for hire.

The second question is: Can you describe for me, of all the jobs you’ve had, characteristics your disliked and hope are not present in your next job?

This questions allows you to anticipate how they might complain about their job to others. You can determine if their complaints wouldn’t apply to the position you are offering or would also be present. If the complaints might also be present, but you like the candidate for the role, this information shows you adjustments that would be needed to keep them satisfied in the job.

Follow-up questions can identify specific red-flags, such as whether the person may require too much management direction (complaints that managers didn’t provide enough detail or guidance) or may not be receptive to management feedback (complaints that managers were too picky or demanding). Asking them to provide a specific example of what they experienced will give you additional details on whether or not the complaint seems to reside with a prior bad manager or appears to come from a perspective of a less-than-desirable worker.

The framing of this answer also provides you with the level of maturity and self-consciousness the candidate has in describing negative experiences, such as taking a gossip and blame angle versus a balanced, insightful evaluation of conflict dynamics that include mature and fair assessments of conflict.

You will find that these questions enhance both the rapport-building process with prospective hires and give you crucial information to base your hiring decision on. They also show the candidate that the hiring process is respectfully based in a true mutual match of what they personally value to the position itself, which bodes well for the professional reputation of your company regardless of the whether or not the candidate is hired.

As a bonus, the feedback given on these questions from potential hires can also include information to improve the retention of your current staff.