Whichever side of an interview desk you’ve been on, you will know that there are good questions and bad questions, but when it comes to finding the candidate that would thrive within your organization – the right questions are the right answer. Here are 5 (out of 25) questions:
You want a candidate to be able to showcase their strengths. It’s why “What’s your greatest strength?” is an interview question staple. But by asking a candidate to focus on their ‘USP’ – the thing that makes them stand out from others – you’re likely to get a more candid, informative (and, in all likelihood, more interesting) response. And of course, there’s the argument that a candidate who can’t say why they’re what you need probably isn’t what you need. Just a word of caution though: remember that some people are more comfortable with self-promotion than others, and try to avoid questions that ask candidates directly to make impossible comparisons with other applicants that they’ve never met.
This is a scenario that candidates - even those straight out of high school – will likely have faced, and can tell you a lot about how they would respond to unexpected and stressful circumstances. At its simplest, it will help show if and how they prioritize tasks. But it’s also a chance for a candidate to demonstrate adaptability, creativity, resilience and an appreciation of the importance of communication and collaboration in high-pressure circumstances. Cristian Rennella, CEO of comparison site oMelhorTrato.com, has a nice take on this question. He asks candidates to imagine they have 72 hours to deliver a project that normally takes a month, and then to choose the three people they’d ask to help them get it done. Who the candidate chooses, he says, can shine a light on their awareness of the skills they have (and don’t have) and the sorts of teams in which they would be likely to thrive.
Asking a candidate how others perceive them is a well-tested means of gaining insight into their level of self-awareness, and their ability to ‘put themselves in the shoes’ of others. And again, small changes in how the question is worded can make a big difference. Note the use of “When I…”, in effect envisioning a specific conversation that would verify any response a candidate gives. Even if the candidate knows (or thinks they know) that you won’t actually speak to their current colleagues, phrasing the question this way can often sub-consciously elicit a truly honest, self-reflective answer rather than one that’s just what the candidate thinks you want to hear.
This question provides a sense as to your candidate’s values, but it puts them in a very present context. By asking about their current role, you can see a real-world example of how and when the candidate is likely to be ‘at their best’ – and what they’ll be looking for if you hire them. You’ll know what would be involved in their new role better than them. Based on what inspires them in their current role, is your position going to motivate them to deliver for you?
No-one benefits from ‘trick’ questions that try to catch a candidate out. They can put candidates on edge and are as likely to led to a carefully-couched response as they are an honest, considered answer. But this question isn’t one of those. Rather, it can be an effective means to find a candidate who is unhierarchical and willing to ‘muck in’, but also aware of where their true value lies. And of course, if they answer with various roles that fall squarely within the list of responsibilities they’d be taking on, this probably isn’t the job for them…
Want more creative questions to ask in your next interview? You can access our full report on the 25 Questions you don't (yet) ask but really should... here!
About the Author
Eliav Rodman is an entrepreneur, marketeer, and startup advisor with international experience in community building, marketing, and management. His passion for bringing people together across continents and cultures is what led him to focus on matching people and companies as CMO at myInterview, a fast-growing startup based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Eliav loves going to work knowing he’s making technology that improves people's lives.
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