Productive interview questions can be vital to the success of your interview. If you are recruiting for a mission-critical job that requires an exceptional hire, you simply cannot afford to bore top candidates with standard interview questions.

Remember that during the interview process, candidates are deciding whether they want to work for you just as much as you are trying to decide whether to hire them. You have only about an hour to make a good impression on the candidate.

One way to save time during applicant interviews and improve the quality of your hiring decisions is to ask applicants the right questions. You can improve the value of what you learn in interviews by taking time to prepare productive questions. Don’t ask questions just for the sake of asking and to have pleasant social conversations.

Productive Interview Questions - Points to Consider

1. Make inquiries designed to relax applicants.

When applicants are comfortable with interviewers, they may be more open, off-guard, and likely to reveal more.

Example: “What’s the most exciting or most enjoyable work you’ve done? What about it did you enjoy most?” Answers to these two questions may also give you clues to an applicant’s behavior/performance style.

2. Ask questions that cause some stress for applicants

This is especially important if the job requires dealing with stress. Have two or three questions that surprise applicants, and possibly create a little discomfort, to see how well they deal with unexpected stress.

Example: If an applicant’s response to the two questions above (about the most exciting or most enjoyable work) reveal a type of work different from the position the applicant is interviewing for, ask this follow-up question: “Why don’t you pursue this type of work instead of applying for this position?” Another example: “What will your most recent supervisors tell us about your job-related weaknesses and problems?”

3. Ask questions that give you facts that you can verify in background checks.

Ask questions which will verify facts you already know about applicants and questions which will give you facts you can verify in background checks. Ask questions to verify and clarify information and statements given on the application form or in the applicant’s resume.

4. Inquire about performance style.

Ask questions which give you clues about an applicant’s behavior/performance style. Know in advance the kind of style the job needs, such as a stable, steady worker, not a talker, and not a socializer.

Example: “What about you, your work and life experiences would help us believe you will perform this position well?” More examples: “What’s the most boring job you’ve ever had? How long did you have it? What made this job boring for you? What did you do to keep reporting to work for this boring job?” Another example: “What do you do to have fun? What kind of volunteer activities have you done or are you currently involved in? Tell us about why you participated in these activities.”

5. Ask questions designed to give clues to an applicant’s attitude. 

Questions that give you clues to an applicant’s attitude toward work, work ethic, reliability and willingness to do the job can also be verified by previous employers.

Example: “Think about your three most recent jobs. Where do you see you could have improved in your work-related performance and skills?” The response may also give you information you can verify with previous supervisors. Another example: “What would your last two employers or supervisors tell us about your job attendance and your punctuality? Approximately how many days of work did you miss in your last two jobs, not counting your approved vacation and sick leave?” This response also may give you information you can verify with previous supervisors.

6. Inquire about applicant’s attitude toward past co-workers and supervisors.

Ask questions designed to give you clues to the applicant’s attitude toward co-workers and supervisors, as well as the applicant’s likelihood of getting along with others on the job.

Example: “Tell me about the strengths and weaknesses of your previous supervisors.” Listen for criticisms of previous supervisors and managers, and for criticisms of previous workplaces. A pattern of past unhappy relationships can be a prediction of continued unhappy relationships in new jobs.

7. Ask questions dealing with the essential job functions and job qualifications given in the job description.

Example: “A job duty in this position is to efficiently assemble boxes for shipping a three-ring binder. Tell us what you have done in the past which especially qualifies you to do this.” Then, give the applicant an opportunity to demonstrate this ability.

8. Consider asking key questions to help you decide if the applicant really fits the job.

Example: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not at all and 10 being excellent, how would you rate this position?” Then, ask a follow-up question: “What type of work would you give a rating of 10?” The answers to these two questions can help indicate whether or not the applicant’s interests really fit the job. If the applicant gives your job a 6, but gives another kind of work a 10, he or she may not be satisfied in the job you have open. Another example: “If we don’t hire you, where will you most likely end up working? What type of work will you be doing?” If the answer describes work vastly different from the position you have open, the applicant may not be a good fit for your job.

Potential Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Are you asking candidates the right interview questions?

This list of questions will help you in the process. Finding that perfect fit is instrumental. If you are looking for more information than the questions below, just give us a call.

  • What did you like most/least in your last job?
  • Give me an example(s) of how you worked under pressure to meet a deadline.
  • What is your management philosophy/style?
  • What is your current base salary and what is your bonus potential?
  • How long would it take you to become productive in this position?
  • What are your career goals and expectations?
  • What position do you expect to have in five years?
  • What new goals have you established recently?
  • Did you meet any of these goals?
  • What did you think of your last company?
  • What does success mean to you?
  • How do you feel you can benefit our company in the position I have described to you?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths?
  • Can you name some weaknesses?
  • Define success/failure.
  • Have you ever had any failures?
  • What did you learn from them?
  • Have you ever spoken before a group of people? How large?
  • What can you offer us?
  • Give an example of a situation in which you provided a solution to an employer.
  • Give an example of a time in which you worked under deadline pressure.
  • How do you think a former supervisor would describe your work?
  • What did you enjoy most about your last employment? Least?
  • What type of management style do you thrive under?
  • What other types of positions are you considering?
  • How do you feel about working in a structured environment?
  • Are you able to work on several assignments at once?
  • How do you feel about working overtime/travel/relocation?
  • Give an example of working with a team on a project or an on-going basis.
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What business references can you provide?

Additional questions for those early in their career:

  • Why did you choose to attend your college/university?
  • Why did you choose your major?
  • In what extracurricular activities did you participate?
  • Did your grades accurately reflect your ability? Why/Why not?
  • Did you work while going to school? In what positions?

3 Tips to Secure the Best Candidate

In today’s competitive hiring environment, many of you have probably faced the following scenario while trying to secure the best candidate: You have interviewed a sharp candidate that is perfect for the job, has the right skill set and fits with the company’s culture. You are ready to make an offer, but you find out the candidate has two other offers. Now the pressure is on.

Today’s market is more employee-driven than employer-driven. This type of market requires employers to “sell” their opportunity and company while interviewing candidates. The candidate you want might be taken by someone who knows today’s competitive market. Don’t let that happen. Be prepared to make an appealing offer by following these steps:

1. Have a good understanding of the market you’re in

Candidates are expecting a competitive salary. To be able to offer this, employers need to know what this means. There are different ways to get to know your market. The most accessible option is desk research. The Internet has information about everything, but be careful, not everything is accurate. Another way to get to know the market you are in is by customized resources such as customer research or salary surveys. A more efficient and effective way would be through a local recruiter. At LBMC Strategic Staffing we know current trends for each market we serve and can educate and strategize with our clients so their offers can be appealing and competitive. You can also download our current salary guides.

2. Show off time: Emphasize why your company is a great place to work

This is the time in the interview where you address all the advantages of the opportunity you’re offering, as well as the company’s strengths. The candidate is probably thinking: “Why would I want to come work here?” To answer this question, explain what makes your company stand out. Personal gratification will always overcome salary compensation in the long run. Yes, people need to pay the mortgage, expenses and multiple other things; however, one of the things that attract employees the most is knowing they will be able to grow within the company. People want to feel challenged and that they can make a difference. Your company’s growth pattern is an asset. Use it.

3. Express your interest in a timely manner

The hiring process time frame has shortened in the last years. Therefore, after talking to a top candidate do everything in your power to show your interest as soon as possible. As we say at LBMC, “Time kills all deals.” The more time that passes, the excitement decreases, and the risk of losing your candidate of choice increases. The era of a one-way interview is long over. During the interview, keep in mind the candidate sitting in front of you is also trying to evaluate if this is where they want to come to work. Next time you meet a top candidate, apply these three steps to increase your chances of securing the best candidate for that job.