11 Must-Ask Interview Questions This Month

 For this edition of ‘Must-Ask Interview Questions’, I sought out three experienced, global recruiters and talent strategists who work with a diversity of candidates. Their favourite questions traversed a variety of topics and ferreted out crucial insights such as the candidate’s culture fit with the role and company; leadership and team building abilities; earnestness; values and vision, and more.

Read on to discover 11 questions that these recruiters said yield the best results, as well as their explanations of why these questions are valuable to HR and recruiting professionals.

Insights Into Motivations

Nanette Foster, President and Power Generation Recruiter, Foster Conner Recruiting, unearths candidate motivations, and thus, the candidate’s likelihood to be a long-term hire, with the following question:

Question 1: “Let’s say this interview goes great; you receive a job offer and accept. You are given the salary, holiday and benefits plan that you have asked for. One year later you are at your desk and a recruiter calls you with an opportunity. What type of offer would they have to give you to make you consider a change?”

  • Why It Works: Explains Foster, “I have found this question tells me if they are only money motivated. If they are, more than likely, this will not be a long-term hire and they will exit the role for the next company to offer them more money.”

In a similar vein, Harry Urschel, Talent Acquisition and Recruiting Leadership Consultant, seeks to unearth fit, and I would assume, staying power in the candidate’s next role with the following question:

Question 2: “What’s important to you in your next job?”

  • Why It Works: “Simply looking for alignment between what they are seeking and what the role entails.”

Insights Into Career Progression

Most candidates come to the interview table with experience. In addition to vetting specific achievements and talents acquired over the years, Urschel addresses career progression in order to get a sense of a candidate’s ambition. He asks:

Question 3: “How has your role changed from when you started your last job until now (or, the end)?”

  • Why It Works: Urschel said he asks this question “to better gauge progression in their career. They may, or may not have had promotions. However, even if they didn’t, they should be able to describe how their job has expanded, or gained in level of responsibility. If they simply did the same thing the entire time they were there, they will not likely take initiative to grow in their new job, either.”

Insights Into Values, Vision and Goals

The following success-based question, according to Dorothy Dalton, International Talent Management Strategist and CEO, 3Plus International, is “the main header to create additional dialogue around spin-off points. If candidates are relaxed, you learn more about them.”

Question 4: “What does success mean to you, and how do you measure it?”

  • Why it works: “[This question] gives candidates the opportunity to express their values and vision. I can find out how they perceive professional and personal accomplishments and if they separate them. Frequently, candidates might ask if I want to hear about professional or personal success, which starts a whole other discussion about that separation. It also illustrates if their thinking is linear or more nuanced. It’s one of those questions that seems light, but gives an interviewee the chance to outline their goals and ambitions.”

Insights Into Role Alignment

Urschel digs deep with a single, powerful question to uncover multiple insights that help determine, among other things, how a candidate’s achievements align with the role as well as enterprise-wide value of their contributions. He asks:

Question 5: “What are you most proud of in your career?”

  • Why It Works: This question, explains Urschel, “can give quite a bit of insight: Are they adept enough to describe something that’s relevant to the job they are pursuing, or is it something that would have no bearing on this job? Do they focus on a tangible result they accomplished? Do they focus on something less tangible like relationships? Can they relate it to how the organisation, team, employee, co-worker, client benefited, or is it only their own pride?”

Insights Into Team Building + Overall Leadership Style

Foster probes for insights on a management candidate’s style, including how they regard their team, with the following question:

Question 6: “What was your most successful professional accomplishment?”

  • Why It Works: Foster explains, “If they use the word ‘I’ a lot and the management job involves a team, it is revealing about their management style and how they regard the work of the team.”

Dalton also zeroes in on candidates’ relationship with teams, focusing in on team-building skills with the following question:

Question 7: “What skills and qualities do you look for when you build a team?”

  • Why It Works: “It’s quite interesting to find out if candidates are willing to embrace diversity of thought,” says Dalton. “I can find out if they are open to being challenged and ready to deal with some kind of disruption either personally or within the team. That can be more creative and innovative but can also increase the pressure on the leader.”

Diving into overall leadership style and culture fit, Dalton asks:

Question 8: “How do you characterise your leadership philosophy and style? Who are your role models?”

  • Why it works: “Their response indicates a degree of self-awareness,” Dalton says, adding that she is “looking to see if they are a command and control type of leader, or influence and empowerment, or something else entirely. I observe how they talk about delegation, feedback and handling conflict. It reflects their communication style and preferences as well as offers the candidate an opportunity to sell their soft skills, especially if they can throw in illustrations of specific examples. It’s a good way to identify any misalignment of culture and to find out if they have a wider knowledge on leadership than their immediate field.”

Insights Into a Candidate’s Past and the Validity of Their CV

Sometimes, discerning a candidate’s past is helpful not only to qualify their candidacy but also to ferret out whether their CV has been exaggerated, according to Foster. One of her favourite questions to ask, therefore, follows:

Question 9: “What is your greatest professional failure?”

  • Why It Works: “I believe this gives great insight into their past and if the CV might be fluffed up.”

Foster continues, “I added this question that I ask hiring managers before taking a job. I have found it to be invaluable over the years.”

Question 10: “When you look back over the last 12 months at your new hire, what have they accomplished that would make you say it was a successful hire?”

  • Why It Works: “This question will get the BEST answers about what the job is really about versus the generic job spec that they send. It gets to the meat of the position’s responsibility,” asserts Foster.

Insights Into Special Skills

Dalton ascertains a plethora of insights such as candidate’s skills in persuasion as well as their tenacity, and more with the following question:

Question 11: “Have you ever held the lone view in the room on an issue that was important to you? How did you handle it?”

  • Why It Works: “It’s good to see if they will make a case for their point of view how they go about it,” explains Dalton. “Or, will they defer to group think immediately? I ascertain if they pick the idea up again at a later date, or let it go completely. [Asking this question] can illustrate [candidate] tenacity, persuasion, influence or simply knowing which fights to pick and what not to lose sleep over. There are no right or wrong answers, and it can tell a lot about a candidate and how willing they are to compromise, where they draw the line and what issues are important.”

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