Questions a recruiter should ask when interviewing candidates

Everyone knows that it's a good idea to prepare for a job interview in order to get the job. But smart employers know they need to prepare if they want to hire the best candidate. By asking the right questions, applicants can provide the information recruiter needs to make a decision.

The tension is triggered by a familiar and safe question

Q: Tell us about yourself?

Broad enough to allow the applicant to respond in the way he or she wants ➔ Help the applicant to relax. Usually ends with information on qualifications, experience, skills, achievements, and future plans. Presenting these in chronological order as a story will give you, as an interviewer, a better understanding of the applicant. You will also gain an understanding of how prepared the candidate is. Some will give more generic answers, while others will focus on the exact position sought in their answer. The answer will reveal motivation, career goals and why the job would be the next step for the applicant.

All companies want to hire the best candidate as soon as possible. But it's good to remember that your candidates (and you) are all human. When you want to provide a strong and positive candidate experience and hire great talent, remember to make the interview an interesting conversation, not an interrogation. When you start with a broad opening question, you do just that, as it often acts as a social tension breaker, and because the candidates are also prepared for this question, it also provides important information for the interviewer. 

When you want to know what candidates understand about the job

Q: What are your 3 strongest strengths in the role?

This response shows that the candidate understands the skills required for the job. The question allows the candidate to explain why he or she enjoys the tasks of the job vacancy. It also shows the candidate understands the role, and gives you invaluable information about what the candidate can bring to the job. Candidates who understand your needs are qualified, business-oriented and willing to help the company. When this question is used, you are looking for candidates who combine professional skills that are relevant to the job with soft skills. It is a good idea to try to focus on finding a diverse mix of skills.

Q: If you were hired, what would you focus on in the first three months?

A great question that focuses on action. It puts the applicant in a hypothetical scenario and the interviewer gets an idea of how they work. It can also assess the candidate's perception of the role and the organization.

Determining competence for the job

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

The question allows the candidate to freely choose the achievements to talk about. Typically, relevant and important achievements are selected, where the key competences required for the job can be found. The answer can also be used to assess how well the candidate understands the employer's needs. Employers are looking for qualified employees with the skills to deliver the required results. It is useful to phrase the question in such a way that it focuses on achievements that are relevant to the job vacancy. This will also allow candidates to provide relevant details.

Q: Tell me about a time when you were *a key skill or behavior*?

Ask specific questions. Qualification or behavioural questions related to the job are a great source of information. For example, if you're hiring a software engineer, you may need strong Java skills. Or if you're looking for someone for a technical role in the gas industry, you'll probably need someone who is safety-oriented. Pay attention to those whose answers demonstrate in-depth expertise in the skill you're looking for. Also keep an eye out for candidates who go into detail about their thought process, actions and results. Candidates who have applied the skills and behavioural patterns required for the job in similar situations and roles may be the most suitable for the role.

To identify motivation, two different approaches can be used

Skills are not all that is required to produce results and do a good job. Assessing motivation is essential. Motivation can be approached with a direct or indirect question.

Q: why are you interested in this opportunity? (direct)

An opportunity for the candidate to talk about everything that interests him/her about the job vacancy, the team and the business. This is to distinguish those who apply for every job from those who have done their own screening and have chosen your job over others. When asking this question, the focus is on applicants who give a wide range of answers. In this sense, candidates who explain how the job matches their strengths and interests should be strongly considered. Candidates who focus on your industry more broadly should also be noted. A good example of this is a candidate who thinks and acts in line with your values and practices.

Q: What is your future career plan? (indirect)

Do not try to find someone who can predict the future. For example, the ideal candidate's short-term goals will match the scope of the job. Also keep an eye out for multi-level commitment. Those who demonstrate a long-term commitment to the job and the industry, combined with a desire for growth, may be your best bet and a long-term investment.

How to find out how candidates would adapt to the workplace

Savvy recruiters know that cultural fit is the secret ingredient that makes a good employee great. The reason? Even the most skilled employee would struggle in the wrong environment.

Q: How would you describe your ideal work environment?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. However, there are essential and non-essential answers. If you find a candidate whose ideal work environment is close to the way your organization operates, it will maximize your chances of a successful hire. If your company has a dynamic structure and is focused on collaboration, you should focus on candidates who feel comfortable influencing others without direct authority, like to work socially and are ambiguous. If your company is hierarchical and top-down, your best candidates may enjoy a structured environment, clearly defined responsibilities and the concept of authority.

Q: What is your management style?

HR managers can make or break workplace culture. Taking responsibility for an organization is not an easy task, which is why finding talented and suitable leaders should be a key objective of the interview process. When assessing potential leaders, it is worth assessing both their leadership skills and their style. It is also good to keep in mind the working culture. For example, if the company culture is informal, direct and flexible, look for someone whose response reflects these qualities. Candidates who have already had the opportunity to practice leadership in a similar culture may be the safest bet.