Interviews are hard!
You only have so much time to find the candidate with the perfect fit. The best recruiters and leaders always have their toolbox of great questions to quickly get to know the candidate and their values.
Here we have collected 10 questions that allows you to quickly identify high value candidates in less than an hour.
What you will learn to identify:
Have they prepared?
One of the basic but key things to look out for is preparation. If candidates are prepared it is a great sign that they want the job but also that they generally show up prepared for work.
So a great opener after exchanging pleasantries is calmly and friendly to ask:
How did you prepare for today's interview?
Though this question might seem a bit direct it is a great way to see how much effort they have put in the process. This is not a trick question - you generally want to know this.
Asking this quickly gives you a idea of how much energy you should put in the interview yourself and can give you more time for candidates who really wants the position.
How do they make key decisions?
It is normal to go through candidates previous experience but it usually does not give much more than a general idea of their experience.
A key thing to know is how they make the big decisions in their life and career. Here the following questions gets you results:
What was your decision-making process to join/leave your last 3 roles?
This allow you to asses how they make decisions. Are they more rational or more emotional? Do they have clear values or non-negotiable you need to ensure aligns with your company and culture.
When used right this question can really prevent turnover among your new-hires.
Are they a good communicator?
This is not as much a question as it is a simple communication task.
Give them a whiteboard and 5 minutes to teach you about any subject they consider themselves to be an expert on.
You will learn a lot about communications skills, thought process, how much they listen vs talk, how they organize info and how quick they think on their feet.
In a knowledge-economy we need to hire great people with great minds. But a great mind is wasted if they can't clearly communicate their knowledge.
This simple tests allows you to check if they can pass on their knowledge and it is important that you learned something from this.
Can they self-improve?
In an ever changing world we all need to grow and learn. In fact many work conflicts arise directly from people not being able to see themselves from the outside and reflecting on their own behavior. This is a culture killer. The more people with high emotional intelligence you can hire the better your culture naturally becomes.
A great question to identify self-reflection and emotional intelligence is:
Imagine the you of today met the you of 3 years ago. What are the top three things you've learned that you'd want to teach the you of the past? How did you come to learn those things?
Look for genuine answers. Especially things that were painful to admit are a great sign of the ability to overcome ego and change one self.
Getting this right is the best thing you can do for your company culture. It is much easier to hire the right people than to change their personality afterwords.
How do they handle conflicts?
Conflicts always arise wherever humans are. Our ability to collaborate with each other is our big blessing but collaborations always come with some conflict and that is humanity's big curse.
But it takes two to pick a fight. You need people on your team that can handle these conflicts well.
Here is the questions:
Can you describe a time when you or your work was adversely affected by the behavior of a colleague? What was the situation? What did you do?
What you want to look for the the ability and initiative to resolve the conflict.
Conflicts are inevitable but good conflict resolution can prevent small issues when they arise and prevent real conflicts at work.
Would your past supervisor recommend them?
You have only known the candidate for perhaps less than an hour at this time but the previous employers have know them for years.
So what does a candidate say when you ask:
What will your past supervisors say when we call them for a reference check are your 3 biggest strengths and weaknesses?
This is the true test - does the candidates past actions hold up to your expectations?
This is a great question to look for self reflection but also behavioral patterns. Are their reflections consistent with real events? Does the candidate repeat the same mistake over and over again?
Also this allows you to ask for referrals later and verify the candidates answers here so take good notes for the meeting to remember.
What are their non-negotiables?
Ok, if things look good so far what are the mistakes you should avoid? You might like the candidate but they might not like your company or culture (which is fine - its about finding the right fit, not about being right).
A great question to avoid this is:
Let’s say we mutually decide this is a good fit and hire you. What would have to happen for you to leave in the next few months?
Here you really learn what they expect from you. Or rather things you need to ensure does not happen for them to get a great start.
If you asked for what they would want you to do you often get vague generic answers but asking for a clear list of things not to do allows the candidate to set clear expectations and boundaries.
Are your paths aligned?
Few people wants this position for the rest of their lives. Great people always gave greater goals.
This is not a bad thing. But you need to be sure that is the right stepping stone for them to do their best.
A great question here is:
Where do you see yourself in the next 2-4 years and how does this position help you get there?
You want to help them achieve their goals while keeping in mind the well being of the company and the best way is to make sure the position is a good fit for that.
A great sign here is that they need to succeed at this role in order to unlock the next step. But they also need to have something to learn and master before doing that else til will move on to fast.
Do they have expectations for you?
Great people want to be surrounded by like minded individuals. They will have high expectations of you company and also you.
So remember to ask:
What question am I not asking you that you want me to?
The best has a lot to show and there is no way that your questions have shined a light on all of their accomplishments.
This also shows you if they have thought about this interview before showing up. People where you are just one out of many jobs will often either not have anything or find some vague and simple questions because they feel they have to. Truly great hires will have many thing they have thought about that you have not yet asked.
Do they truly want this?
This is a nice little finisher - will they be happy to get the job:
How will you celebrate if you get the job?
This not only tells you about how much the job means but also identified candidates that likes to celebrate.
These people a key for a winning culture and people who celebrate big brings joy to others around them.
Bonus: Send out questions ahead of time
A key mistake is not allowing candidates to prepare for a meeting.
It gives you peoples reactions to your questions but you want their true reflection.
So don't be afraid of sending out all of your questions before time. It is not about testing if they are quick on their feet but rather to get the very best answers.
This also sets expectations for showing up prepared making it even easier to identify the great candidates.
So to sum it all up here are all the questions combined:
- How did you prepare for today's interview?
- What was your decision-making process to join/leave your last 3 roles?
- Please spend 5 minutes teaching me about a topic you consider yourself an expert on.
- Imagine the you of today met the you of 3 years ago. What are the top three things you've learned that you'd want to teach the you of the past? How did you come to learn those things?
- Can you describe a time when you or your work was adversely affected by the behavior of a colleague? What was the situation? What did you do?
- What will your past supervisors say when we call them for a reference check are your 3 biggest strengths and weaknesses?
- Let’s say we mutually decide this is a good fit and hire you. What would have to happen for you to leave in the next few months?
- Where do you see yourself in the next 2-4 years and how does this position help you get there?
- What question am I not asking you that you want me to?
- How will you celebrate if you get the job?
And don't forget to send questions ahead of time so no candidate can hide bad performance due to lack of preparation.