Finding the right candidate for your business can feel impossible.
Although challenging, you can significantly increase your likelihood of hiring great employees by optimizing your interview process, and one absolutely critical part of this starts with asking effective interview questions.
In this article, you’ll learn about nine proven interview questions that will help you find exceptional employees who align with your organization’s goals.
Why You Need Both Standard and Creative Talent Acquisition Interview Questions
When interviewing potential candidates, it’s important to ask standard questions that have to do with professional skills and qualifications, but you should also consider incorporating questions that are more creative and unconventional.
Conventional professional questions will help gauge whether the candidate is qualified, but more creative questions will demonstrate whether the candidate excels in quick critical thinking. Candidates can easily Google standard interview questions and prepare for them accordingly, and although you should still ask these types of questions, throwing your candidates curveball questions can help you better understand them.
In order to respond to unconventional questions, candidates will need to be quick on their feet, and they’ll also likely reveal insights about themselves — whether good or bad — that you wouldn’t be able to infer from standard interview questions.
For example, if you ask, “What is your greatest weakness?” the candidate has likely prepared for that question, and they’ll attempt to answer it in a way that makes them sound all the more impressive and qualified for your position. Instead, you can ask unexpected questions such as, “How would your acquaintances describe you?” or “If you were an animal, what kind would you be?” Your candidate’s answers may reveal how well they respond under pressure and their communication skills.
Creative questions enable you to see the candidate in a different light as they answer in ways they couldn’t have prepared for beforehand, allowing you to learn more about them and whether they’re a good fit for your company.
Of course, in addition to your own creative questions, you should also ask more standard questions that reveal the candidate’s professional qualifications and ability to work with your team. Here are some valuable questions you should ask in your next interview.
#1. Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
Seeing what the candidate says about their last place of employment says a lot about their professional motivations and character. If the candidate has not yet left their current employment, you can instead ask, “Why are you leaving your current job?”
Having the candidate answer this question allows you to gain insights into their professional goals. They may feel like they’re not growing in their current company. They may also be unhappy with their current work because of their responsibilities or the overall work environment. This information can reveal whether or not they’ll be a good match for your company.
If you feel the candidate is qualified and a good match, you can then discuss your company and its benefits and work environment. Remember, interviews are NOT one-sided — the candidate also determines whether your company is right for them.
Hearing why they’re leaving their current place of employment can also help you uncover potential red flags. They may have unrealistic expectations about their professional development in regard to your open position, and they may expect benefits that your company doesn’t offer at this point in time.
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#2. Why Do You Want to Work Here?
This question reveals several things about the candidate. Their response will likely also answer the common interview question, “What do you know about our company?”
If the candidate doesn’t say anything specific about your business in their answer, they likely didn’t research your company beforehand, which is a big red flag. Candidates should care about more than just money and work experience when applying for your open position — they should genuinely want to work at your specific company. Not knowing much about your company reveals that the candidate isn’t actually that serious or interested in working for your specific business.
Additionally, this question reveals why the candidate wants to work in the particular role that your business has to offer. They may express interest in particular aspects of the open position, indicating that their interests and professional goals align well with your company’s needs. For example, if the position has to do with hospitality and the candidate is especially interested in gaining work experience in customer-facing services, they may be an excellent fit for your team.
#3. How Would People Describe You?
This question strays from the typical line of questioning because it extends beyond the candidate’s professional life and can help you better understand how they view themselves.
How a candidate interacts with others and the overall impression they leave can be a good indicator of their ability to collaborate with your team. It also displays their soft skills such as communication and listening.
If they only describe positive aspects about themselves, this could indicate an overall lack of self-awareness, and failing to be self-aware can be detrimental to one’s professional and personal growth.
Of course, you could also learn some of the candidate’s strengths from this question, but you should always check their references to ensure they’re truthful and accurate. They may be oblivious to how others perceive them and their overall communication skills.
#4. What Are Your Most Impressive and Favorite Professional Accomplishments?
Asking the candidate about their favorite and most notable accomplishments allows you to learn more about them and gives them a chance to express enthusiasm about their work. If they light up and discuss some of the work they’ve enjoyed and are proud of, you’ll see they’re passionate, indicating they care about their work and will likely be a good fit for your organization.
You’ll also learn a lot about them based on what accomplishments they choose to discuss. You’ll gain insights into their interests and strengths as well as aspects of their previous work they especially enjoyed. If their favorite and most impressive achievements align with the open position’s responsibilities, they’ll likely find the position enjoyable or professionally rewarding, and they’re more likely to stay at your company long-term.
This question also has the added benefit of allowing the candidate to loosen up and be their authentic self.. When people discuss their accomplishments, they gain more confidence, giving them a chance to overcome any hesitancy or awkwardness during the interview.
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#5. What’s a Skill You Have That You Didn’t List on Your Resume or LinkedIn?
Asking the candidate this question may reveal some of their interests and strengths, and you may gain insights into their underlying motivations based on what they do outside of work.
For example, if they’re an accomplished oil painter, you’ll see that some of their strengths and motivations lie in creativity, a valuable skill for a variety of occupations.
You’ll also learn more about their personality and interests outside of work. One important aspect of the hiring process that often goes overlooked is you’re hiring a whole person rather than just a machine to accomplish tasks. When you learn more about the candidate outside of work, you’ll gain a much richer understanding of who they are, what makes them unique, and whether they’ll be a good fit for your team.
#6. Why Are You the Best Person for This Job?
Although asking questions unrelated to work in the conventional sense is a great strategy for getting to know candidates, you should also ask this more conventional question to ensure the candidate has the skills to accomplish their responsibilities.
This question allows the candidate to express what they can bring to your team that others can’t. It also requires the interviewee to think critically about how their past work experiences and skill sets distinguish them from other candidates.
It’s important that the candidate genuinely thinks they can bring something unique to the table and are the most qualified. If they have difficulty answering the question, they may have applied without believing they would make a substantial contribution to your company. Do they actually think they’re going to be an essential player for your team, or are they just looking for a job?
This question will also show whether the candidate has a good enough understanding of the open position’s responsibilities. They may have many skills and previous work experience, but if they don’t express how their experiences will help them accomplish the job’s tasks, they may not be the right fit for your team.
#7. What’s a Mistake You Made At Your Previous Job, and How Did You Overcome It?
The candidate needs to have the self-awareness and humility to admit their professional errors and take ownership of their mistakes. It speaks volumes about their character if they give an answer that places the blame on someone else.
When answering the question, an ideal candidate will walk you through the mistake, admit their fault, discuss how they resolved the mistake, and share what they learned from the experience.
How they fixed the mistake will highlight their ability to think critically and problem-solve. When the candidate discusses what they learned from the experience, they show they’re willing to grow and evolve, which is an essential part of professional excellence.
If the candidate struggles to come up with an answer, they may be unwilling to acknowledge their mistakes or lack the humility to admit to themselves when something is their fault.
#8. What Do You Consider to Be the Most Optimal Work Environment?
The answer to this question will be subjective and will reveal a lot about how the candidate works. Do they prefer more collaborative environments, or do they prefer to work alone?
Neither is better than the other necessarily, but you need to make sure the interviewee’s work style is in alignment with your organization. A candidate may be overwhelmingly qualified for the vacant position, but if their work style doesn’t fit with your company culture, they may not be the best person for the job.
It’s best to find a candidate who aligns with your business and team and will also enjoy your work environment. Remember, employee satisfaction is critical for retention
#9. Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
Finally, we have the classic interview question you’ve probably heard countless times. There’s a reason why this question is so common — it reveals whether a candidate’s professional goals align with the trajectory of your company.
The candidate’s professional goals should align with your company because you’re far more likely to retain an employee long-term when they see your company as a means to achieving their professional goals.
The question also allows you to see the interviewee’s professional motivations and whether they have career goals in mind. If they don’t provide a clear and satisfying answer, it may indicate the candidate lacks professional direction or drive. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the candidate still figuring out their professional goals, but depending on the position, their uncertainty may not be the best fit for your company’s needs.
This question can also reveal what unique qualities a candidate can bring to your organization. You’ll gain insights into what makes the interviewee distinct and valuable based on their professional goals.
Learn Other Strategic Questions to Ask Candidates
We hope this article gets you started with formulating an optimal interview strategy for your organization. You can learn more interview questions and strategies from helpful websites including The Muse, Obsidian HR, and The New York Times.
Your company deserves the best candidates available to help your business succeed. Use these questions to build an exceptional team!
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