8 Interview Questions to Ask Candidates & Answer on the Fly

Over the years I’ve seen a wide variety of interview questions claiming to unlock the truth of whether a candidate is right for the job and company culture. Before you dive deeply into behavioral based interviewing, consider these 8 basic interview questions as a prelude. If you get good answers to these then progress on to your more complex line-up. If you’re the one being interviewed then equip yourself with answers to these prior to your first round interview.

1) What’s your motivation for change? Any decent Recruiter is going to ask this  question of their candidate from the first phone call, and within the first few interview questions. Even if a Recruiter has provided the interviewer with a candidate summary including motivation for change, you should still ask it. Many answers are straight forward and make sense, while others leave an interviewer surprised, confused, and even scratching their head. If the answer is vague then clarify. If they truly have no motivation for change then you may want to chalk it up to a networking meeting, and also re-evaluate your future time investment.

2) What do you know about our company? It’s very awkward when a candidate looks scatter brained in response to this interview question. Sometimes they spurt out an answer but it’s totally wrong, they give a one line sentence that’s on the right track but is super generic, or they simply admit that they do not know. The interviewer will wonder why the candidate even came to the interview in the first place. If a candidate’s heart is in finding the right company then they will know something about that company’s product or service offerings, details on any acquisitions if applicable, company history, as well as the latest on revenue and press releases. If the candidate doesn’t know a bit about this scope then it leaves the interviewer to wonder. Why is this candidate here, and what is their true motivation for change?

3) Within your work history, what’s your proudest accomplishment? Proudest accomplishments showcase two things to the interviewer. First, a candidate should show their audience a scenario where they had to stretch themselves,  under certain conditions, within a timeline, and with a positive result.  Secondly, the candidate should have given an experience that is at least semi-relevant to the job they’re considering. If the candidate hasn’t prepared an answer then they’re likely flipping through their mental Rolodex of experiences for a minute or two. Typically they’ll arrive at an example that stands out in their mind, or they may wish to list out their top two. A candidate should relay an instance where the interviewer can envision them doing that same great accomplishment for them, or optimally, bettering that scenario.

4) What would people on your current or past team say about you? Some people gasp and falter a bit on this one while others breeze through without a blink. It’s a good way to get a genuine reaction out of a candidate, and consequently a genuine answer. Candidates should highlight positives, but if it’s all roses then it could be a canned answer, or they’re conveniently leaving out their areas for improvement. By the way, we all have areas for improvement. Otherwise, you may be interviewing the best candidate on the planet. It’s even better when a candidate’s references echo what they say in the interview.

5) If you could pick one thing that you’d never have to do again on the job, what would that be? Look, we all have at least one thing at work that if given the chance we’d never do again and probably shout it from the rooftops. This interview question isn’t meant to completely disqualify someone from the running. However, if what the candidate notes does happen to be the core of their potential job function then you’ve just saved everyone a load of unhappiness. If it’s something non-essential then perhaps as an employer you can take that one thing off their list. Not having to do that one thing may make that person’s employee experience so much better.

6) Upon starting, what would you do to ramp up? Clearly this is a challenging question when a person doesn’t know what they don’t know. However, depending on the job, good answers can range from connecting as soon as possible with team members and management, interviewing others once on board to ask what has made them successful, sourcing for materials whether resources from within or outside company, and joining internal or external groups for knowledge share. The key is to not expect a paved path. Even when training is well-founded it’s up to the new hire to jump in head first.

7) Why do you want to work here? This is an easier interview question to ask an active or passive candidate alike that already thinks highly of your company. It still has its place. This one is especially good when the candidate is seeking a position in recruiting, sales, marketing, or the like. If they can’t somewhat sell you on why they want the job then I wonder if they’ll be able to sell to their customers upon joining. This question also ties back to the candidate doing their homework on the company, verification that they understand and truly want the role, and to further validate their motivation for change.

8) What do you look like under stress? Everyone looks different when you know what hits the fan. Some people freeze up, some have to get up and take a walk, some express outwardly in a number of ways, and others you simply just can’t tell. There’s really not a right answer to this interview question, but it’s nice to get a preview so you know what to expect. You’ll never fully know until they’re in the throes of battle, but at least it possibly gives you a sneak peek.

There’s a limitless amount of interview questions that you can tap into to pick your candidate’s brain. However, you can glean a lot of insight from asking these 8 basic interview questions. Final thing. Did the candidate at the conclusion of the interview thank the interviewer for their time, and express interest in moving forward? A candidate shouldn’t go overboard on this, but they should indicate interest if they want the job. As it goes in life, if you don’t ask for it, you might not get it.


©2012, Jennifer Davis All Rights Reserved



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