The right questions for the right candidate: What to ask (and not to ask) to fill your role

When it comes to finding the right candidates for your role, nothing will compare to asking the right interview questions. You can use algorithms and tests, but until you ask the right questions, you won’t know if they’re the right cultural fit for your organisation.

Many hiring managers and others responsible for the hiring process understand this, but don’t pause to think about the question from the candidates’ point of view, and fail to consider the order in which these questions are asked – remember, the interview process isn’t just for you, it’s a two-way street.

So, what should you be asking, and what common mistakes do we see organisations make during the interview process?

Trying to Trick or Catch Candidates Unawares

This isn’t often done maliciously – but sometimes people will ask questions no candidate would expect to be a part of the interview process for the position they’re applying for. You can challenge your candidate in the interview to see how they would handle a difficult situation without having time to think about it, and you may want to if they’re going to be in a role where they have to think on their feet, but don’t try to throw them with off-topic questions.

Show Your Candidate Respect by Telling Them More Upfront

In your interview process, when do you tell your candidate more about the role and the company? When do you allow them to ask questions? Often, interviewers will ask all their questions before giving a candidate space to ask their own questions or find out more about the role. Remember that the candidate is thinking about making a big life decision in moving to a new position with you, so show them and their time respect by telling them more and allowing them to ask questions early in the interview process.

Ask Them About Their Ideal Work Environment

A great question that isn’t asked enough is what environment they thrive working in. If they’ve yet to see where they’re likely to be working, it will allow you to hear their honest answer, and you’ll learn if they’ll be a good cultural fit for your company.

Ask Them Why They’re Interested in Leaving Their Current Position

Asking why they’re leaving or interested in leaving their current position is a good way to gauge how and if they can diplomatically talk about their dissatisfaction or ambition. Some candidates may simply be looking for greener pastures, or there may be something they were unable to work with, so it’s worth finding out.

It also allows you to see if someone’s willing to openly bad mouth their current or last company. Criticism is one thing, but bad-mouthing is a big red flag. You can also ask them what they liked most and least about their last position, so you can gauge if that will be an issue in your role or not.

Ask Appropriate Questions on Future Goals

It’s always a good idea to ask about a candidate’s long-term vision, but it’s not often helpful to do so early on in the interview before they’ve had a chance to relax. While you can ask relatively personal questions in a job interview, try to remember that you’re often asking someone about their hopes and dreams, and most people aren’t comfortable opening up right away. Questions like “where do you see yourself in X years from now?” should be left later in the interview.

You should also alter the question for the role and experience level of the candidate you’re interviewing. For example, if you’re interviewing for an entry-level position, asking a 21-year-old just out of university where they see themselves in 10 years can be intimidating.

However, asking where they see themselves in 3 or 5 years is much more appropriate. For high-level roles, you may want to ask where they see themselves over a long period because you hope they have a vision they want to bring to the company.

Interviewing can feel like an art and a science – it’s often difficult to get the right process nailed down. You must think about how the questions flow naturally from one to the next, and look past the experience they’ve stated on paper to see what they’re like as a person, employee, team member, manager, and cultural fit. Recruiting the right team member should never be taken lightly, so if you feel you need more guidance in finding the right talent for your role, Execruit may be the solution for you.


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