If you search online for interview questions to ask a candidate, you’ll find no shortage of lists of questions and justifications for why those are the best questions to ask. There are plenty of default questions people feel like they should ask, but not many people truly know how to interpret a candidate’s answer to those questions.
The most important thing in an interview is to create a conversation. It’s not just a matter of asking one question, getting an answer, and moving on to the next question. You want to ask questions that lead to follow-up questions to open up the conversation.
Here are three questions you should ask any candidate to create conversation in the interview.
1. Why are you here?
There’s no wrong answer to this question. You’re asking because you ant to know something about that person’s story and why they’re interviewing for the position. When they answer the question, ask some follow-up questions to identify what really brought them to your interview. Ask open-ended questions that give them the opportunity to be honest. Why is that? Could you expand on that? What do you mean by that?
Interviewing is not only about identifying if someone is qualified for the job, but also about disqualifying them for the job. You want to know if this person will be successful in the work environment your company offers. If they say they’re looking for a new position because they can’t work for their current supervisor, and yet that supervisor sounds exactly like the person who will be their supervisor in your company, that’s a problem.
Asking someone why they’re at your interview and then asking some follow-up questions—and allowing time for them to answer—can give you a lot of insight into their past and whether or not they’ll be a good fit for your company.
2. Describe how you envision a typical workday.
In most cases, an employee interviewing for a job will have seen a job description with some basic expectations for hours and duties. At the most basic level, asking them to describe how they envision a typical workday shows whether they really read the job description in preparation for the interview. But it goes much deeper than that and can lead to many other topics of discussion.
An answer to this question may indicate that a candidate gets restless if they sit at the same desk for the entire day, or perhaps it brings up the fact that they’re taking college classes and need flexibility one day a week to attend class. Or perhaps they need to come in and leave early two days a week to pick up their kids from school.
Those are things that many companies can accommodate, but some can’t. I’ve seen it happen many times where an employee said in an interview they could work the specified hours of the job but then required some degree of flexible scheduling once hired. An open-ended question about the typical workday can sometimes shed light on those things in advance.
This question can also speak to a person’s work ethic. If they expect to do their work for the day and leave whenever they’re finished, that creates challenges if you need someone present to answer the phone until 5 p.m. That’s a disconnect between the job requirements and that person’s expectations, and it leads to high turnover.
I’ve also seen candidates say they haven’t really thought about the typical workday. Don’t let those candidates off the hook! Most people rely on past experience to answer this question, but a new graduate coming straight out of college may not actually know what to expect for their first full-time job. If they don’t know what’s expected, be sure to set the expectations for them in the interview to ensure it’s a good fit.
3. Where else and what other positions have you applied for?
This question tells the interviewer if the candidate is on the hunt for a job, and it also shows what types of positions they’re applying for. It’s especially important in fields with multiple disciplines, like IT, HR and accounting where job titles can fit a broad category of duties.
This question can help identify if the candidate’s expectations for employment align with your position or not. If you have an IT professional who is applying for network engineer positions but you’re hiring for a help desk role, it’s probably not going to be a great fit. That presents an opportunity for you to clarify the duties of the position and probe whether the candidate is truly interested in such a position. If you’re interviewing an accounting specialist who says they love working with chart of accounts but you’re hiring for a collections role, it may be a disconnect.
All three of these questions are about finding alignment between the candidate and the company. Do they know what they’re getting into? What are they expecting from your company in terms of work environment? What positions are they most interested in, and does that match the position you’re offering?
If you need help developing an effective interview process to find the right candidates, contact Why HR today for more information about our services.