Conducting an interview can be just as nerve-racking and challenging for employers as much as it is for a job seeker. Asking the right questions during an interview can uncover different work ethics, skills, and behavioral habits that a candidate obtains. Particular questions and the answers given from a candidate, an employer has the opportunity to determine if that candidate is a good fit for the company and shows the overall potential for performing the responsibilities of the position.
Anyone can easily do a Google search for the best interview questions to ask a candidate, and you will get tons of board questions that might not be ideal for your interviews. Nevertheless, you might get results of questions but no content of why you should use the questions.
We have reached out to some fantastic hiring experts to get a more in-depth insight into their favorite interview and why they ask them.
Our first hiring expert to give his favorite interview questions is the founder of The Product Analyst, Willie Greer. Willie was the head of HR when The Product Analyst was starting out and before that has had years of experience as an HR Manager. Here are two of Willie’s favorite interview questions and why he finds them to be effective.
#1 What do you think is our biggest weakness as a company?
“It’s best to know if an employee is honest, and asking a tricky question will do the job of knowing whether all answers will be overly promotional or authentic. You, as the business owner or a part of the C-executives, know well what weaknesses your company has.”
#2 What will make you quit?
“When you ask your employee the million-dollar Quitter or Loser? it’s likely that they already have a template, so it’s best to think of one question that will boggle them.”
“It’s impossible when you say there’s nothing that can make you quit because we all have our rock bottoms and endgames, but asking this question will give you an idea of how they will handle a negative and impossible situation.”
The founder of Pet Me Twice, Mollie Newton, not only her own business but also handles her company’s hires. Mollie had had four years of experience as a senior hiring manager before she founded Pet Me Twice. Mollie believes that managing her business’s hiring is essential for her and Pet Me Twice to ensure they have the right people in the business. With her expertise, she has shared her favorite interview questions and why she finds them useful.
#3 Tell me about a time you didn’t do well in your job?
“I always value honesty, and this is what I gauge from interviewees in this question. This question and the answer tell the interviewer that the candidate has no problem admitting their mistake and taking failures as a learning opportunity.
#4 What’s the biggest decision you had to make in the past year? How did you go about it?
“This question tells the interviewer a lot about a candidate’s decision-making skills. Are they decisive, impulsive, or do they overthink their plans? Do they spend a lot of time thinking about it alone, or do they consult others before deciding? Knowing how a candidate makes decisions will tell the interviewer how they weigh pros and cons, and how they can make potential decisions for your company.”
You might use the standard questions in your interview but may not understand what answers to listen for from a candidate. Jay Scott, the Proprietor at Pugsquest, a company that focuses on Pugs and their care, has provided his favorite interview questions with an insight of the answers he wants to hear from candidates.
#5 What do you have to offer aside from your academic and professional accomplishments?
I hope to understand whether the job candidate has useful skills or traits that are more innate than taught by asking this question. Examples of said traits include patience, critical thinking, stellar people skills, empathy, etc.
#6 How would you best handle a challenging and perhaps abusive customer?
This question helps me gauge the temperament of the candidate. I understand that clients can get very aggressive at times. In such cases, I want to know whether the candidate has the tenacity and wisdom to serve the customer while maintaining their cool and respect.
#7 Why do you believe you are suited for this position?
I like hearing directly from the candidate why they applied for the job apart from wanting to escape unemployment. I like to know whether the job is ideal for them out of convenience or out of passion. That way, I get to estimate their potential dedication to the job position.
This one question is not necessarily a question; more of a request has an interesting approach that deserves your undivided attention. This interview question or request approach provides by the founder and CEO of Netbooknews, Kenny Trinh, and his reason for his favorite query is even more impressive.
#8 Tell me the story starting from your birth up until today. You’ve got 30 minutes. Go.
“This is a deceivingly simple question that shows sincere interest in someone, but it can uncover a lot about a person in reality.”
“It’s also easy for the person to talk about this topic because it’s about them— it feels less like an interview. You get to see how they paint a story. You can see how they communicate. You can get an indicator of how humble they are.”
Kenny also mentioned, “By asking this question, interviewers get to find out about candidate childhood, how they grew up, what kind of people they were surrounded by, hints at their work ethic, and so many other things that would never come up if you just looked at their resume. After all, our personalities, frame of mind, and work ethic develop while we are young.”
In keeping with the idea of requesting candidates to tell interviewers a story about certain aspects of their life that reflect specific soft skills and behavioral attributes, we have another expert in hiring who finds this technique very insightful for an interview process.
Dr. Laurence J. Stybel is a Harvard-trained licensed psychologist and co-founder of Stybel Peabody Associates, Inc., a retained search firm with a focus on Boards, CEOs, and CFOs explains his reasoning for asking candidates to tell stories in an interview and why the technique is his favorite to use.
“In evaluating personality, most of my clients want to hire people who are conscientious and open to new ideas.”
“I use the Flanagan Critical Incident Technique. It has been around since the 1950’s. I ask the person to begin thinking about high school and ask the person to;
#9 Tell me a story that illustrates something you did that you were proud of and why were you proud of what you did.
“I keep asking for a story, after story, after story—usually, seven to ten stories. And I am looking for stories with themes of I didn’t give up. At the same time, I also am looking for stories where the person changed her mind in light of the evidence.”
Evaluating a candidate’s ability to be quick on their feet or determining their creativity level may be found by asking some interesting or awkward questions in an interview. Our next hiring expert has implemented a particular question in his interview style process that allows him to review the candidate’s thinking processes.
#10 If you were an animal, what would you be?
Albert Lee, the founder of Home Living Lab, finds this question compelling and explains how it has worked for him in hiring new employees.
“This question may seem irrelevant, but it does give the interviewee a chance to demonstrate their ability to think on their feet. The interviewee may also use this opportunity to turn it around and showcase what his assets are and what he can offer our company. Last, of all, we do get quite a good chuckle out of it sometimes. We had one candidate who identified himself as a cockroach! He got the job.”
In addition to evaluating a candidate’s ability to adapt quickly and think strategically in any situation, CEO of Robben Media, Brain Robben shares his favorite interview questions to read a candidate’s fast thinking capabilities.
#11 What are you an expert in?
And then I’d follow up with,
#12 How did you become an expert? And if you had to break down the topic for me in two minutes, how would you do it?
“This gives me a unique insight into how they see themselves. It also makes candidates think on the spot. Their communication skills are then put to the test to describe a complex topic into a few short statements. Their answer translates well to how they’d handle themselves, problem-solving, and communication if hired.”
Adding a new candidate to a company with the right experience and knowledge for the open position tends to be a high priority. Another critical aspect to keep in mind during the interview process with a candidate is determining if they will be an excellent fit in the company’s environment.
A great question to ask candidates to determine whether they would fit into a company’s environment comes from the CEO of My Corporation, Deborah Sweeney, and her explanation of why she asks her candidates this particular question.
#13 If we were to ask your prior colleagues about you, what would they say?’
“I find that it is something the candidate often has to think about. The candidate will think in the context of what other people think of them rather than conveying facts or details about themselves. Usually, it elicits great conversations that go far beyond their thoughts. “
“Those interviewees that are well-liked love to share details about their relationships with former colleagues. Interviewees often appreciate the fact that we care about how they fit into our work environment.”
Finding a candidate with motivation and purpose is another crucial behavioral attribute to seek in a great hire. Finding the right approach or questions to determine those wanted skillsets can often be tricky. Marie Buharin, the Founder of Modernesse and Hiring Manager in Medical Device Industry, has shared her favorite interview question that has helped her find the right hire for her team.
One of my favorite questions to ask when interviewing candidates is the
most simple on- why?
When a candidate tells me about their accomplishment and the projects they have successfully driven to completion, I like to ask them why they undertook a particular project or why they decided to do that work.
The intent of the question is simple.
Does the candidate understand why specific projects and tasks are essential to the customer or the business? Are they motivated by why they are doing something?
Candidates need to see the big strategic picture. It should drive them. It should inspire them to do more. To find more customers needs to address and to find more solutions.
Otherwise, they are just following directions. And that is not the candidate I want on my team.
Asking your candidates questions that help determine how they handle complex issues, how they manage themselves, how they work well with others is vital to include in any interview process. Paul French, a recruiter and the founding director of Intrinsic Search, has given us his favorite questions that have helped him find these qualities in a candidate.
#15 Tell me about a time when you had to decide with a lot of ambiguity.
“This question tests the candidate’s ability to adapt, especially when faced with difficult situations.”
#16 Give me an example of how you set goals and go ahead to achieve them.
“This tests time-management skills, the candidate’s ability to self-manage, and their capacity to juggle multiple responsibilities.”
#17 What is the most interesting thing about you that you haven’t included in your resume?
“This assesses whether a candidate is a good cultural fit. Employees who are a good cultural fit are more likely to stay with the company and experience greater job satisfaction.”
#18 Tell me about your favorite experience working in a team?
“This question evaluates the candidate’s capacity for collaboration and teamwork.”
It can be hard to detect how a person is because the interview atmosphere can be overwhelming for the candidate. Andrew Taylor, the Founder of Net Lawman, has shared some of his favorite questions that he uses from time to time to receive tremendous and original responses that give him some indication of who the candidate is as a person.
#19 What is your definition of hard work? Why?
I seek original answers here, and when you get one, you’re impressed.
#20 What are your strengths/how do you know this? Why?
Generic but essential. This question also leads me to talk about something I do with my employees to see what their real skills are (as often we don’t know)
#21 Why should I hire you? Why?
This question relating skills to the role is essential to grasp whether you’re right for the position.
Sometimes in an interview, you develop your unique methods to gauge a candidate’s skills and handle the pressure. One unique technique and questions that Dave Morley, general manager at Rockstar Recruiting, and has over 13 years of experience in recruiting shares his favorite questions and approaches to finding the perfect candidate.
“Over the years, I have tried 100’s of interview questions; I would often get teased by my colleagues for trying some off the wall strategies, including using riddles to assess problem-solving skills. Two of my favorite questions that I have been using for a long time are:
#22 Do you consider yourself lucky?
“This one is great for determining if you are working with an optimist or pessimist. The optimist will usually smile and reflect on some of the breaks they have had in life and acknowledge that any success comes with a bit of luck, the best answers are those that say they believe in luck, and the harder they work, the luckier they get. A pessimist will usually complain that they have always had it hard, and there has never been anyone to give them a hand.”
#23 Think of a topic that you assume I don’t know about, and you have 5 minutes to explain it to me.
I typically use the second one for sales roles, and it is a bit of a longer process. I will save it for the middle of the interview when the candidate is already comfortable and has built a rapport. I will excuse myself stating that I need to grab a coffee or water or something (always offer them one as well), and before I leave, I will say that I want them to think about a topic, it can be anything at all, and when I get back, I want them to in 5 minutes tell me the basics of it assuming that I know nothing about it and at the end of 5 minutes I should have a decent grasp of the subject. This question shows you how fast they can think on their feet, gives you an idea of how well they can organize their thoughts and how well they can speak about a subject that they know. Candidates that do well in this exercise usually do very well in sales roles. As a bonus, it makes the interview way more interesting. One time I had a candidate talk to me about the Lizard Brain and it was fascinating.
Another question to add to reviewing a candidates’ creativity and how fast they are with ideas and response comes from Damian Birkel, the Founder & Executive Director of Professionals In Transition. Damian has a great question that is fun, interesting, and provides a fantastic opportunity for candidates to define themselves.
#24 You’ve fallen into a salad bowl…how do you get out?
“This is my favorite interview question because it forces a person to think on their feet, be creative, and figure out a way on the spot to get out of the salad bowl.”
“There are 50 common interview questions that I prepare candidates for at my nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the unemployed and the underemployed find work for the past 28 years. That’s the easy part.”
“Asking ‘off the wall’ questions like falling into a salad bowl or ‘How many lightbulbs fit into a 747?’ are the ones that can be difficult to anticipate and give authentic responses.”
“There are no right or wrong answers to these crazy questions. Candidates only need to be able to explain how they arrived at their answers. These questions reveal to an interviewer how candidates think on the spot, with unexpected problems, under pressure effectively. That’s why the salad bowl question is my favorite.”
Interviewing today in the year 2020 has changed a lot of the typical interview questions and process due to COVID-19. Many companies are conducting some of their operations from home, and that includes interviewing and hiring. As the common office place now becomes employees’ homes, hiring managers are rethinking interviewing questions to align with candidates working remotely from home. Quincy Smith the Co-Founder of Test Prep Nerds has experience interviewing for his company during COVID-19 and has shared his favorite interview question he asks candidates who will be working from home.
#25 What is your routine when working from home?
As a small online company, we are fine letting our employees work remotely from home when needed and even offered flex scheduling pre-COVID. However, now that we’re hiring people that we’ve never worked with in person, we need a way to vet the experience and confidence levels of applicants when it comes to (1) working outside the office and (2) on their own.
What we’re hoping to hear from this question is an established routine + dedicated workspace. Our employees will often be working without any external stimulus from your neighbor, coworker, etc. – we need to see that you are prepared to motivate yourself and have a process in place that helps you stay focused and reset when needed.
These favorite interview questions that these outstanding hiring experts have given creates a foundation for conducting well-comprehensive interviews. These favorite interview questions not only make the interview process a more interesting approach, but they provide an innovative twist on the standard interview-style questions.