March 16, 2018

10 Interview Questions to Help Find the Best Hires

Whether it is for a business that I help manage or for training clients of CareerLight, a company that provides customized career training for international students to help prepare them for a successful career, I regularly seek advice and resources on how to identify the right individuals to join the corporate team. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) published an article, "10 Classic Interview Questions and the Best Responses," on Nov. 27, 2017 that helps employers and hiring managers find the best hires. This article is also helpful for job candidates to gain a better understanding on what employers are looking for during the interview process.

The article explains that "a proven approach to uncovering how people have performed in the past and what they really think about the available opportunity is to make three assessments during interviews":
  • Recognize candidates who are great interviewees but not much more.
  • Gauge which person will be the best fit based on experience and temperament.
  • Identify which individual really wants the job and can excel in it.
Tony Lee, vice president of editorial for SHRM, interviewed Wendy Enelow, an executive resume writer and author in Coleman Falls, Va., for the article. Ms. Enelow correctly says, "One of the typical mistakes made by smart job candidates is to think they can just 'wing it' because they're smart, and they'll get away with it if interviewers let them. The truth is that nothing beats preparation. Truly committed candidates will rehearse answering tricky career-related questions so that they can respond to them confidently, but it usually takes a series of good questions over time to separate people who interview well from those who will fill the position best."

I cannot overemphasize the notion that "nothing beats preparation." When I interview a job candidate, I equate their level of preparation with their seriousness of wanting to join the company. Those candidates who are not well-prepared for the interview are not truly interested in joining my team.

To help interviewers, the article provides ten questions, which are segmented in five subjects, that should be posed "to each job candidate, regardless of the position they're trying to fill, as well as tips on how to interpret the answers and follow up effectively."

Personal/Work History 

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?
"Many interviewers start this way not only to gather information but also as a way of assessing each candidate's poise, delivery style and communication ability."

​2. Why did you leave your previous employer (or why do you want to leave your present job)?
"Look for honesty and transparency in the answer. Many talented employees lose their jobs in layoffs, so suppress any desire to stigmatize those who were part of a downsizing."


3. What are your greatest strengths?
"This is an interviewing stalwart (along with the next question) that every applicant should be ready to hit out of the park. ... Look for answers that briefly summarize work experiences and the strongest qualities and achievements that are directly related to the duties of the open job. Make a note of candidates who cite skills such as self-motivation, initiative and the ability to work in a team."

4. What are your weaknesses?
"Of course, few applicants are so honest and self-aware that they’ll share an accurate overview of their deficits. Smart interviewees try to turn the question around and present a personal weakness as a professional strength. For instance, micromanaging workaholics who drive their colleagues crazy may present themselves as meticulous, dedicated workers. Ask for detailed, specific examples of their workplace interactions with colleagues to get a sense of whether they’re hiding a difficult personality."


5. What can you tell me about our company and industry?
"Nothing should eliminate a person from consideration faster than a lack of research into the employer's business lines, locations, customer base and company culture."

6. What do/did you like most and least about your present/most recent position?
"Look for answers that are specific and relevant to the open position. Job seekers who say 'it was an easy commute' or 'the benefits were great' will likely be job hunting again soon. Instead, identify people who value the same workplace qualities that your company has, such as those who are seeking opportunities on the cutting edge of technology or those who can create teams with strong camaraderie."

​7. What isn't on your resume?
"Applicants who prepare well for interviews and are smooth enough not to sound too rehearsed can be thrown by this inquiry since it requires them to talk about something other than work experiences."


8. Aren't you underqualified/overqualified for this position (depending on their past experience)?
"Smart interviewees who might technically be underqualified focus on the experiences and skill sets they'll bring to the position and the value they’ll deliver. However, this is a question that often leads to lengthy explanations that can offer real insights into a person’s true motivations, good and bad, for seeking the job, Enelow says.

"Conversely, as highly qualified Baby Boomers age, it’s not uncommon for them to seek a position with lesser responsibilities where they can be a strong team player and a mentor to younger employees. So, depending on the position, don’t automatically count overqualification against a candidate."

9. Do you have any questions? Can you think of anything else you'd like to add?
"Beware of candidates who say 'no' or that everything has been thoroughly discussed, Enelow says. Now is the time for them to re-emphasize why they're the most logical choice for the opening by asking key questions they've prepared and haven't had a chance to voice. Those who want to learn more about the company’s professional development opportunities or ask what you personally like best about working there are looking for insights to help them decide whether to accept an offer if it's extended."


10. Has your perception of this opportunity changed based on our interview?
"Too many recruiters have been lured into thinking that a candidate who fared well in an interview is ready to take the job. And even worse, they’ve been burned by people who accepted an offer but later changed their minds or even failed to show up on day one. This question is designed to help weed out those who weren't serious to begin with or who heard something during the interview that didn’t sit well with them."

What question do your ask to help determine whether or not the candidate will be the best hire?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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