It is difficult to get to know someone in the average 40 minutes it takes to conduct an interview. Sure, you may have spoken on the phone once or twice, but assessing a candidate’s worth to your company in the time it takes to conduct an interview is no small task.
As a hiring manager, you have to be creative on this front every day. You have to read between the lines of candidates’ answers to your questions to ascertain their potential. Most candidates will come prepared with stock answers to the most common questions, so you need to ask questions to engage them in real conversation. Here are a few suggestions:
1. What is one thing you would change about your last job?
There is much to learn about a candidate in this one simple question. Their answer will shed light on how they view management, how well they work as part of a team, and how much they invest in their company. It will also reveal some creative problem-solving skills. There are ways to improve any workplace, and employees who exhibit the ability to see a problem and come up with a constructive solution are a valuable asset.
This question also reveals potential leaders. Candidates who complain about an aspect of a past job they resented are likely going to do the same thing in your company. Those who come up with creative solutions, on the other hand, are likely to help your company grow. These are future managers and project leaders; people who can potentially make an incredible contribution.
2. What is one thing you are interested in doing that isn’t in this job description?
The answers to this question will demonstrate how closely a candidate has read the job description and the amount of time they have spent considering how well they will fit. It will reveal skills the candidate may not have included on their resume, and different directions their career could take in your company.
Multi-faceted employees thrive when they are not pigeon-holed into one set of tasks, and the interview is a perfect time to find out how they might be creatively utilized in the workplace.
3. Why do you think you fit within our company culture?
This is a great question to ask if you want to know how a candidate will fit into your company culture, which is as important for you as it is for them. A good company culture is the second highest priority for most job seekers, second only to salary.
A candidate may be surprised when you ask this question, but a valid answer shows they’ve done their research, and further that they are interested in your company for more than just a paycheck. They’re interested in the lifestyle and culture of your workplace.
4. What did you learn from your greatest professional failure?
Most interviewers ask candidates to expound upon their greatest professional accomplishment. It is just as crucial to know how a prospective employee deals with failure. Some may hedge around the question, or give an example of a minor slip-up. This is indicative of a person who is ashamed of of failure and fearful of recounting examples to a prospective employer.
An honest candidate will not be afraid to tell you exactly what went wrong and the valuable lesson they took from it. Everyone makes mistakes, but those who learn from those mistakes experience professional and personal growth at an exponentially faster rate. You want to hire someone who will grow with your company, not someone who will shrink away from possible failures.
5. Are there any members of the current management you are interested in working with?
If you want to know how well the candidate has done their homework on the company, this is the question to ask. The candidates most dedicated to getting your job will know the management team and their backgrounds.
Further, this gives you an opportunity to suggest further training or mentorship if you hire the candidate. If you invest creatively in the professional growth of your hires, you will see your efforts rewarded in the form of a dedicated, loyal team member.
The interview process is your singular opportunity to asses the potential of a candidate, and making the wrong choice will result in the dissatisfaction of both the new hire and your management team. To avoid this, ask questions to engage the candidate in dynamic conversation. This will give you the information you need to find the perfect person for the job.
What do you think? What are your favorite questions to ask candidates during a job interview?
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and#ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.