One hour: that’s the average time a hiring manager spends during a single job interview with a candidate– and every one of those 60 minutes needs to count.
Unfortunately, the standard job interview process that most companies use is notoriously prone to error. In fact, research finds that 81% of new hires fail, thanks in part to a disconnect between candidate and company expectations. A candidate that looks great on paper can still be the wrong fit for company culture or lack the emotional IQ to be successful in the new role. Asking the right interview questions can help you reduce the risk for these costly hiring mistakes.
As a hiring manager, your mission is to make the most of the limited time you have with candidates, gaining real insights into their core values and motivators, how they react to challenging situations, and how quickly they can think on their feet. These are five essential interview questions that will guide you to the right candidate:
1.“What is your understanding of the skills necessary to perform this job?”
Why ask this question: One of the most common reasons for leaving a job is a feeling that the reality of the work did not match the job description for the role. This question gets to the heart of this potential disconnect, forcing the candidate to verbalize what she believes it will take to succeed in the role.
How to evaluate responses: A great candidate will provide real insight into the role beyond the initial job description. How does the candidate see her skill set mapping out against the job requirements? Can she speak to how her day-to-day role will drive the business forward? Is she realistic about what it will take to succeed? Do her expectations align with yours?
2.“If you had to write a personal mission statement, how would it sound?”
Why ask this question: This question digs into the fundamental motivators that drive the candidate. The candidate also gets a chance to tell you something about themselves that might not appear on their resume. It’s not a standard interview question, so it’s also an effective way to catch candidates off guard and evaluate how well they can think on their feet.
How to evaluate responses: First, is the candidate about to handle an unexpected question with poise, or does she freeze up and get flustered? Grace under pressure is a particularly important quality in customer-facing areas like sales and account management. Second, is the candidate able to articulate a clear vision for what she wants to achieve in life? What does the answer tell you about her core values? A good response to this question requires a healthy dose of self-awareness and maturity, which are essential traits in your new hire.
3.“What motivates you to come into work every day?”
Why ask this question: This question drills down into the particulars of how a personal mission statement applies to a candidate’s workplace attitudes and behaviors. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer, but you’ll want to look for a candidate whose motivations match your company’s culture and purpose, in addition to aligning with your company’s financial incentive structure and promotion pathway.
How to evaluate responses: How does the candidate’s response align with your company’s values, incentive structure and promotional pathway? For example, candidates who care deeply about company culture come to work each day because their office is a home away from home, a place they look to for a sense of belonging and identity. Mission-driven candidates want to be part of something bigger and they want their contributions to matter; they come to work because they deeply believe in what they’re doing each day. Career-driven candidates are motivated by professional development; they come to work each day to learn new skills, grow as leaders and earn that promotion. Consider whether your company can satisfy these needs or if the candidate would be happier elsewhere.
4.“If I were your supervisor and asked you to do something that you disagreed with, what would you do?”
Why ask this question: This question can be uncomfortable to answer and requires candidates to broach a delicate topic with tact and diplomacy. The answer to this question will give you a sense of the candidate’s ability to navigate office politics, voice their opinion and manage upwards.
How to evaluate responses: First, consider whether the candidate uses this as an opportunity to disparage a former boss with whom she may have had frequent disagreements. That’s a red flag. Secondly, consider how the candidate addresses potential workplace conflict. Based on her answer, will she be a collaborative team player who can constructively voice an opinion or a lightning rod for tension and conflict? Most people instinctively blame others when a conflict arises; few possess the self-awareness and maturity to reflect on their own behavior and take ownership of past mistakes.
5.“What is your office superpower?”
Why ask this question: I ask this question at the end of the interview to end things on a positive, light-hearted note and give the candidate a chance to let her personality shine through. This question also gives you a better sense of whether the candidate will be a good cultural fit with your team.
How to evaluate responses: This is an informal question that invites an informal response. A candidate who merely repeats the qualifications listed on his resume might not be a strong creative thinker. A strong answer will reveal a sense of humor and give you a glimpse of who the candidate is outside of the office. For example, a candidate might answer, “I’m a whiz at proofreading, never miss a grammatical error, and would have the entire office addicted to my homemade guacamole.”
When you only have an hour to decide whether someone should move on to the next stage of the process, these five questions will make every minute count during the interview.
What are your go-to questions to ask during job interviews?