Ask the Right Questions, Get the Right Answers

By Jolene Risch One of my clients recently said, “I can tell in the first 15 minutes if a person is right for the job.” I completely disagree. Not connecting with a candidate in the first few minutes doesn’t mean he or she isn’t right for the job. It could simply mean that the executive recruiter, hiring manager, or HR professional didn’t ask the right questions. While first impressions are important, they are not the end-all-be-all for recruiting. Candidates need to answer questions beyond the surface-level information. If they don’t get a chance to contribute past that level, you may miss out on a great candidate.

In the Career Builder e-book, “The Hiring Manager’s Complete Interviewing Guide,” you’ll find a host of tips and resources. The e-book lists seven questions to ask candidates, and they are represented below.  In addition, I listed three more questions, based on my experience as an executive recruiter.  As such, here are the top 10 questions to ask prospective employees.

  1. What does the company owe our employees? This question helps the candidate outline his or her expectations in terms of career growth and the big picture. It may also help with retention.
  2. What trends affect our business? Think beyond the job description to get the candidate’s view of the business, industry, and future. This also helps to understand how savvy the candidate is about the company and the market.
  3. Assuming you’re hired for this role, what would make you want to leave your position? The answer here will help you understand what’s important to the candidate, such as advancement, increasing responsibility, growth, etc.
  4. What risks did you take in your last position? This question demonstrates innovative and out-of-the-box thinking.
  5. When was the last time you had to deliver a negative message to customers, and how did you handle it? The answer here demonstrates the ability to navigate difficult situations. It also shows how the candidate communicates messages to customers on behalf of the company.
  6. Give me an example of how you used humor to diffuse a tough situation. This answer gives a glimpse into the candidate’s personality, and is a good way to examine of he or she could be a fit with the company culture.
  7. What was the most useful criticism you received? This helps to identify areas of weakness without asking the candidate directly. It also demonstrates his or her ability to handle criticism and tough love.
  8. Tell me something about your previous job that you really liked. This questions helps you understand what’s important to the candidate, and it may spark ideas for company culture or team building.
  9. Give me an example of a situation in which you used one of your talents on the job. Cultivating natural talent or individual strengths can make the company stronger and more proficient. Understanding who your employees are is the first step.
  10. What community causes do you participate in, or have participated in? This question can shed light on how the candidate feels about cause-related support to determine if his or her values line up with the company values. This can be a good indicator for cultural fit.

These questions don’t represent an exhaustive list, nor is it necessary to ask all of them with every candidate. I would also suggest using the behavioral style of interviewing by asking follow-up questions that include examples and how the candidate resolved a situation. Of course, be on the lookout for red flags like negative comments about past employers or resume claims that the candidate can’t substantiate. Taking time to understand who employees are beyond the first few minutes can go a long way, particularly when it comes to building a productive long-term team.

Risch Results is one of Dallas’ top executive search firms for executive management, manufacturing, and financial services talent. Learn more about how Risch Results can help with your talent needs at RischResults.com or 972.839.9447.


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