Best Interview Questions for Finding New Talent
The interview process can be a difficult one for candidates, but it is also a genuine skillset for hiring managers and interviewers as well. In the same way, that job candidates do better with preparation and practice throughout the interview process, so too can HR professionals, hiring managers, and team members benefit from learning about the best interview questions and tactics that help inform hiring decisions.
While there’s no right answer or perfect hiring process, we consulted with several of our contributors, partners, and hiring experts here at UpCity to get their thoughts on the best interview questions that they recommend making a part of your hiring process. From evaluating candidates’ culture fit and comfort with various work environments to learning more about their career goals and problem-solving skills, check out what our panelists had to say about great interview questions, red flags, and key advice for anyone tasked with hiring decisions.
Finding Top Talent with the Right Fit
One of the most important factors for you to consider is company fit, and our experts had several suggestions related to asking the right questions to help you better gauge who the best new hires might be. Our group of experts was also very quick to steer everyone away from those generic job interview questions such as “why do you want to work here?” Not to mention questions that provide you with the kind of information you can quickly get from a resume or a LinkedIn profile, or the kinds of questions that don’t provide you with any valuable information about a prospective employee. Instead, many of our UpCity partners focused on the value of behavioral questions in terms of really learning about the person and not just the “worker.”
“There are no blanket behavioral questions! Interviewers must evaluate candidates about the company’s culture and mission statement. If you don’t have a mission statement and haven’t defined your company culture, you must do this immediately! Especially since the corporate goals and job expectations should align with the behavioral questions asked. And regardless of industry, any skill questions you ask must be open-ended so the candidates will talk about their experience.” – Chris Murdock, Co-Founder and Chief Sourcing Officer at IQTalent
The question of whether someone is a good culture fit does not have to be posed to every candidate, of course. Many of our expert contributors mentioned that the “fit and culture” questions are very useful to further the candidate review process, specifically in the later stages of interviewing.
“At the mid to late stage of the interview, you are looking for culture fit and where the candidate can add value. As the old saying goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. The same is true for job candidates. Just because someone has the perfect resume and great interviewing skills doesn’t mean they’ll be the perfect fit for your company. That’s why it’s important to ask behavioral questions during an interview. One of my favorite behavioral questions is: ‘Tell me about an opinion that you have that most people would disagree with.’” – Travis Lindemoen, Managing Director at nexus IT group
Character is a big part of helping you determine how a new hire may fit within an existing team. And character is important if you’re just starting to build out a new team, too, as that can help you determine the types of personalities, skills, and approaches that you want to have represented within the business unit.
“I look for character over skills. Of course, I want them to have skills related to the position, but if they are teachable I am willing to help train candidates in those areas. I believe character such as honesty, integrity, and responsiveness is very important. I would ask what is most important to them in a work environment (as this brings out some of those behavioral thoughts), if they work well independently, and how they would handle a situation if a problem arose with a client. What is step one, then step two, etc.?” – Tammy Durden, Founder and CEO of Fearless Business Boss
Given how nervous some candidates can feel during the interview process, it can also be nice to throw in a sort of icebreaker question; something fun, funny, or just interesting, to help everyone in the room (yourself included) loosen up and feel comfortable with the conversation. Then you can follow up with questions that are more specific to the job description, previous employers, and so on.
“Ask an unexpected question. I like to ask, ‘What is your favorite breakfast cereal?’ because it’s fun and unexpected! Asking an unexpected question allows you to see what a candidate is like when they are surprised or caught off guard. And a question like this tends to relax a candidate and also allow you to begin building rapport. From there, I would ask behavioral questions such as ‘Tell me about a time when your boss gave you feedback or criticism about your performance. What did you say when receiving the feedback or criticism, and what did you do with the feedback or criticism?’” – Glenn W. Richardson II, Founder and Chief Talent Advisor at Rhodium Talent Advisors
Finding the Best Candidates with the Right Questions
When it comes to interviewing someone for a new role, there are of course some very real needs that your company has. This is especially true if you are backfilling an existing role, but is also true if you’re creating a new job position or expanding an in-house department. To really determine who your top candidates are, and even help with your retention of new employees long after the onboarding process, our experts also had more specific advice on the types of questions that should be part of your interview process.
“I encourage our clients to focus on looking for evidence of hard skills in the first round. For example, if the role is technical then having candidates work through problems with a peer is a great way to start. Just as importantly, you need to ensure that you create a positive experience, and build enough excitement for the organization and the role that they will want to come back for the next round. During the mid-late stages of the process, your focus should shift to behavioral assessments, and working through any issues or concerns that the candidate may have.” – David Bradshaw, SVP Client Services at NorthstarPMO Inc.
Some panelists also pointed out that, just as with the behavioral and culture questions above, a long list of software knowledge or skills on a resume won’t provide you with much information to go on. You’ll have any number of candidates who have experience with the specific tools, software, and even processes that you use in your company, but the key is to find someone who has skills like decision-making and problem-solving that will contribute in more and different ways.
“The best team member is not always the one with the best resume, skillset, or experience. The best is the problem-solver. When interviewing a potential candidate, ask them about a real-life issue you have personally had to solve. Don’t use a generic or basic interview question; be specific about a problem that they could face in their near future! When setting up this question, engage with them and ask questions to understand their process fully. Are they coming up with multiple options to resolve the issue? Are they shutting down, unable to use logic or available info? This will show you the type of work-ethic and problem-solving skills they have, which is one of the most useful skills in any industry.” – Anna Ritchie, Co-founder of Jo Leigh Marketing, LLC
In addition to identifying problem-solving or critical-thinking skills, you’ll also want to craft questions that help you discover industry-specific information about your candidates. Not because you need them to already know the industry inside and out, but because their answers may help you understand their interest, their ability to learn more about new industries, and their base level of knowledge.
“Mid to late stage interviews allow the company to pose more industry-specific problems and gauge the candidate’s ability to solve them. Provide examples of common scenarios they would face in their position with the company and allow them to share how they might handle them. ‘Specific’ is the key word here. Asking for a summary of the candidate’s resume may help gauge how they convey information, but asking more specific questions that relate to the position and company are a better use of the interview time.” – Asad Kausar, CEO of Dabaran Inc.
Finally, getting to the late stages of the interview process is an accomplishment for anyone. It should mean a great deal to both the applicant and the stakeholders in your organization, too. Once the initial information gathering is out of the way and you’re starting to get a better sense of the person behind the job search, these interviews are a great opportunity to learn more about their goals, their work style, and the way they match up with the job opportunity you’re offering.
“If you’re lucky enough to have several qualified candidates, this interview should be about finding the right person moving forward. Dig more into their long-term goals, and find out if they fit with your company’s mission. I always like to ask about a time they failed to communicate, what were the results of that failure, and how did they learn from it. I like to press that failure is okay, it’s just how we react and respond to it that is important. I feel like that is what sets bad, good, and great candidates apart from one another.” – Zack Flanagan, CEO of Hive Marketing
“Don’t be afraid to ask deeper or harder questions. You won’t scare them away, but you want to make sure you have enough information to choose the right fit for your position. I am particularly fond of asking, ‘tell me about a time that you made a decision that later turned out to be the wrong decision; what did you learn from that?’ This really makes the candidates stop and think, instead of steamrolling through the basic questions everyone asks. This is the opposite of ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ which many candidates see as a ‘gotcha’ question with no good answer. And quite frankly, most responses don’t generate any useful data for hiring anyway.” – Eknauth Persaud, CEO of Ayoka
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Getting the Best Results for Every Job Opportunity
No matter what industry you’re in, or what type of department and opening you are hiring for, there are bound to be tons of great questions you can ask and even more good answers. The key is to take and build on the advice our experts have provided to find the right candidate (and to make sure your company is a part of their job search, too).
And for even more assistance in your staffing needs, be sure to reach out to our recruiting experts at UpCity, because the insights provided here are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of expertise and knowledge available.