Whether you’re a recruiting guru or you’re hiring someone for the first time, a well constructed interview is a recipe that will naturally result in better hires. And the secret sauce? Asking great questions with well thought out objectives.
Starting by identifying objectives for your questions provides a solid framework to help you find your creme de la creme of candidates. For example, how will you extract key skills you’re looking for through the questions you ask? Which questions will determine whether they’ll mesh well with your office culture?
Once you decide what you’re trying to get out of the interview, you can plan accordingly as to what specifically you’re going to ask.
We caught up with HR pros, CEOs and line managers with years of hiring experience under their belts and asked them what their top interview questions are when hiring a new team member. We’ve put together the top 9 questions which came up the most and have resulted in finding candidates worth holding on to. Bare in mind the questions may vary slightly dependant on the industry or role you’re recruiting for, but as a rule of thumb these nine questions provide excellent insights into the mind of the interviewee.
1. Could you tell me a little about yourself?
“There is no substitute for asking a candidate ‘tell me about yourself’. What comes out of their mouth first, second, third? What is their emphasis and how well can they organise and speak their thoughts? This question is like opening a window into a candidate’s personality and seeing what blows in. There may be more clever questions to ask but ‘tell me about yourself’ remains a timeless staple across any job role or industry.”
2. Can you describe to me your greatest accomplishment that you are most proud of?
“The answer to this question will give you insights into whether the candidate is collaborative, if they take personal responsibility for the quality of their work, how they solve problems, and what happens when they face obstacles. Answers to the standard question, ‘what are your strengths?’ won’t allow you to differentiate between candidates.”
3. What is the one thing that you believe to be true, but nobody else agrees with you?
“This question is fascinating as it identifies innovators. Most innovators have contrarian viewpoints. The answer also demonstrates courage from the candidate. It can be embarrassing to state a contrary or potentially far-fetched point of view with a stranger, the interviewer. Doing so demonstrates the candidate’s comfort with themselves and above all it exemplifies persuasion. It’s not enough for one to say they believe that the sky is purple. To claim that belief requires evidence, facts and logic.”
4. What interests you in working for us?
“This is a great way to see if they have researched your company and the position offered. It’s a warning sign if the candidate cannot be bothered to research your company before their interview. It leads to question marks regarding their attention to detail and general interest in the role.”
5. What will you be doing in five years time?
“This is a case where we want to find out how being part of our company can enhance someone else’s life – and not merely because they will have a job and earn a salary. It’s important that hires really resonate with the company’s mission . For example, startups are not stable and the employees who will remain through the tough times are there because the startup enhances their ability to achieve a larger goal.”
6. Could you describe to me your dream job?
“This question can help me find out what a candidate is passionate about (even if it is outside of their main career path). It’s a good way to learn about their motivation and interests.”
Additionally, “this question gives insight into what is important for the candidate in their employment search, their preferred work style, how they work with others, and what their passion is! It is a great question to determine fit within our organisation.”
7. What are your top five personal values?
“Values really define a business, and it’s important that we hire people who are a good cultural fit with our company. This keeps the turnover low and the vibes positive! This question is quite a revealing one – I find that whichever values people identify as being most important to them, are the ones that they are most likely to exhibit themselves. If a potential hire lists values like growth, compassion and honesty, I can trust that they will always put the client first and will represent Buzinga under our motto ‘your success is our success’.”
8. How would you approach management with a new idea that challenges a “sacred cow” in the company?
“This question aims to reflect on the candidate’s ingenuity and engagement. It’s an excellent way to see if the candidate is forward thinking. Asking them to put forth new ideas can be great assessor of their presentation skills and analytical thinking.”
9. Do you have any questions for me?
“This is the most important question an interviewer asks. Average candidates will opt for the same set of questions. Great candidates will ask questions that reveal a lot about their ability to have a short and long-term impact. Their questions will help them understand how they can use their role to help the company, what the role’s challenges are, and what sort of opportunities exist in the long run. Questions that stem directly from their past experiences are particularly telling, as it showcases their knowledge of the position and requirements.”
10. You’re stuck in a cage with a hungry lion… how do you get out?
“There is no right answer to this question, it is an exercise to discover how creative the person being interviewed is. There is little description for them to go on, like what the cage is made of, if there is a key close by, if the cage is indoors or not, etc. This question is designed to see how good of a storyteller the interviewee is and to assess their ability to think outside of the box. This serves us in two ways, great storytellers are fantastic ambassadors of the company and out of the box thinkers will come up with unexpected solutions to problems.”
Top Takeaways When Hiring
As we started asking around for the best interviewing questions, we noticed several themes and pointers cropping up. We’ve compiled these as a more general list of do’s and don’ts for easy referencing when you start your hiring process. Listen to the questions they ask too (especially at the beginning stages of the interview process).
“Questions about the company’s mission, strategy and longevity tend to signal a deeper interest in finding a professional home.”
Cultural fit is just as important as candidate aptitude. Look for someone who aligns with your company core values. When asking questions, take note of the first few things that come out of their mouth and don’t forget to check out their body language too, it can be very telling! Ask questions that encourage examples so you’re able to assess the key competencies for the role. Tailor the questions to the role and requirements.
“The more powerful and predictive questions are variations around their experiences, skills and aspirations.”
If they’re seeking a new employer, “ask them what they adore about their current role, and what they’d like to let go of.”
Ask questions around creating improvements (whether it be professional or personal).
“A candidate’s reflection on this can indicate whether they value growth or are a more stagnant character.”
Look for consistency – great candidates exhibit similar behaviours regardless of the situation. Don’t stick to textbook questions that candidates may have rehearsed. Asking questions that take them by surprise can help in filtering out the wishy-washy ‘b.s’! Take the time to write a well thought out job description and use this as a guide to formulate the right kind of questions.
Bonus tip: Make sure you’re engaged, curious and positive when you’re speaking with the candidate. Your attitude will set the tone and can dictate how comfortable the candidate feels or how much they open up. Positive energy can make all the difference in finding your diamond candidate!
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