1. How did you hear about the role?
While seemingly innocuous, this question serves an important purpose. Your company is probably spending significant budget every year on employer branding, advertising and candidate attraction. It’s important to understand what is working!
You need to know whether the messaging your company is investing in is resonating with the right candidates. Make a note of the answers to see whether specific trends emerge. For example, maybe high quality candidates all come across your brand on Twitter, suggesting you should invest more in that medium.
It’s true that you can rely on analytics, providing you have them in place, to tell you where traffic is coming from, and that many applications have a ‘how did you hear about us’ section. However, hearing the answer directly from candidates, and spotting correlations between promotional channel and candidate quality, will give you deeper, more useful insights.
2. What do you know about the company?
In an ideal world, you just want to hire candidates that are genuinely excited about a job at your company, not just a job in general. Don’t dwell too long on answers to this question.
3. Why did you apply?
We all need to pay our bills, but it’s important to check that this is not the sole motivation for a candidate. They’re likely to be a more productive and happy employee if they identify with your company in some way.
It might be the projects you’re working on or the direction you’re heading in. It could be the fact that you’re a 2-person startup and they’re interested in increased responsibility. Maybe it’s the fact that you’ve just signed some big customers. Hopefully the answer aligns with the type and level of the role you are filling.
4. What are your key professional strengths?
It’s important to know the things that the candidate does well so you can understand how they might fit into your team. Arrogance is never attractive, but candidates who are confident in their abilities and how they might be able to impact your organization are exactly the kind of people that you want to hire.
5. Why should we hire you?
What’s in it for the organization? If a candidate isn’t going to add value (or can’t explain what value they might add), you shouldn’t bring them on board. This might be a slightly intimidating question for candidates, so be careful about how you use it – it’s best used towards the end of an interview when you can tell a candidate is more comfortable.
When deployed correctly, however, it can be a great one to separate the best from the rest. Good answers will cover three key bases: Candidates should articulate that they can not only do the work required, but can deliver great results, and also fit in with the team and culture. Can they stand out from other candidates?
6. Do you have any questions for us?
The classic way to finish an interview, this question is important for a number of reasons. It gives the candidate a chance to follow up on any talking points from the interview, it lets them dig into issues that you haven’t covered in enough detail (no interviewer can explain everything), and it shows you how much research a candidate has done about your company.
Remember: Hiring is a two-way process. Today, candidates may have plenty of options on the table. They are using this opportunity to assess YOU as well, and you should be prepared to represent the brand well when answering their queries.
After you’ve got a few “basic” questions out of the way, it’s important to try and challenge candidates and make them think. Here are a few thought-provoking interview questions that force more agile thinking.
7. What’s your definition of hard work?
8. Why are you leaving your current job?
The goal here isn’t to find out if candidates have any major skeletons in their closet when it comes to their last role – reference checking is a more efficient way to find this out. You can tell a lot by how people speak about their previous employer.
It’s a great way to spot “the victim”. For these candidates, everything is someone else’s fault. Their previous boss hated them. Their old company was out to get them. They were ignored for promotions. The list goes on…
Whatever your company size (and no matter how mundane the work) there are opportunities to learn and improve. If you find yourself faced with a candidate that does nothing but complain, ask yourself how happy they’d be at your company and how much they’d have to ‘learn’.
9. In five minutes, could you explain something to me that is complicated but you know well?
The “something” in question doesn’t have to be anything to do with work; in fact, often the answer is better if it isn’t. The key thing to focus on is the way that the candidate breaks down a complex idea and the way that they articulate it to someone who doesn’t understand it.
The best candidates manage to make difficult concepts simple. Depending on the role you are hiring for, it may be useful to rate how well they “present” the story. (Remember: not everyone needs to be able to present, and you could lose out on great talent if you expect them all to be salespeople!)
10. Tell me about a time you messed up
This one pops up in many of the most popular interview playbooks and guides, and it’s a great test of humility and self awareness. No one is perfect; everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is what happens next.
Does the candidate learn a valuable lesson and use it as a motivation for self improvement? Or do they point the finger and blame colleagues? Could they see what went wrong? Did they try again?
11. If you woke up and had 2,000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer?
We’ve all been faced with the seemingly unconquerable inbox, but even for high flyers 2,000 unread emails is significant. Despite the subject matter, though, this question isn’t about email.
The point of this question is to see how candidates approach work and how they prioritize tasks. You want to understand their process for attacking a project that, on the face of it, seems difficult to deal with.
How would they divide the task up into smaller, more manageable sub-tasks? How would they prioritize which emails to answer first? How would they decide which ones to ignore entirely? What is important is their reasoning and thought process, not what they say.
12. Who is the smartest person you know? Why?
This is a great way to see what a candidate values and aspires to. By forcing them to think of someone that they know personally, you avoid a stream of people praising Steve Jobs and telling you how much they aspire to be like him.
There are no perfect answers here, but the best should focus on a specific characteristic. Candidates might praise a friend’s thirst for knowledge or their networking ability. It would be useful here to see which candidates reference attributes that align with your organization’s values and desired behaviors.
13. What’s the biggest decision you’ve made over the past year? Why was it such a big deal?
Instead, interview questions like this show you how the candidate approaches the decision-making process. Do they make choices impulsively, or do they conduct painstaking research? Did they make a plan, or did they talk it through with friends?
10. Who Should Be Held Responsible for Business Ethics?
Business ethics is everyone’s responsibility. However, for business ethics to be practical, it needs to start from the top management and stakeholders in an organization then flow down to the rest. By walking to the top, they serve as role models and influence the rest of the organization.
For an ethics code to be effective, it must be inclusive. This means that every member of the organization should be involved, from the senior management to employees at the lowest level in the organization. The ethics code must also be valid for it to be effective. To be valid, it should be consistent with the standard acceptable ethical principles. Finally, the ethics code should also be authenticated by ensuring that the policies are enforced by word and action.