When I entered the job market after college, I ran the circuit of interviews at various Chicago companies. One horrible interview stands out in my memory. A major food and beverage company was hiring a temporary accountant. I arrived at their downtown 17-story building anxiously awaiting the interview.
The interviewer acted completely indifferent. He didn’t look me in the eyes, not once. He glanced at my resume, clearly seeing it for the first time. He ran through the catalog of cliche questions: what are your greatest strengths, what are your greatest weaknesses, where do you see yourself in five years, etc. After sending me on my way with a limp handshake, I never heard from him again which was fine because I certainly didn’t want a call back anyway. Good riddance!
Have seats to fill? Focus on accomplishments.
The way a candidate talks about their accomplishments will show their capacity for success but also their ability to work as a team. Do they reference other people as part of their success? It’s common to boast in interviews, but how a candidate describes their accomplishments may tell you if it’s someone you wish to work with.
Tell me about a time you had to learn a new skill. How did you learn it? What was your process? What was the end result?
Tell me a success story related to this new skill.
Tell me about a satisfying career accomplishment.
Tell me about a time you saw that change was needed. How did you identify it? What did you do to make the change? What was the end result?
These questions will give you a sense of the candidate. Who they are, what they like, how they could fit into your current working environment. Their answers may show if they would be an easy person to work with. If they trash talk their former boss or say they have terrible relationships with coworkers, that may be a red flag.
What is something that others would be surprised to learn about you?
Describe your ideal working environment and working style.
What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Why are you leaving your current company?
Tell me about a time you had to overcome a challenging work relationship. How did you navigate it?
If a candidate comes in without a full understanding of your company, they didn’t do their homework. Make sure they seem invested and excited about the job. Otherwise they are just wasting your time.
What interests you most about this position?
What are the three most important skills you would bring to this position?
Do you have any questions for me?
There are many questions that are illegal to ask related to financial status, marital status, race, ethnicity, color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, birthplace, disability, religion, age, citizenship, pregnancy, and more.
Stay clear of casual questions during the interview as you may ask an illegal question without realizing it. Let workplace eligibility questions be asked on paper. Have someone look over your interview questions and hiring paperwork ahead of time to ensure you avoid legal issues.
If the job has a specific requirement like a car, an age over 21, or the ability to lift 50 pounds, research the best way to legally ask these questions.
As you think about the ideal questions to ask a candidate in an interview, focus on what you’re looking for. Ask questions that might help you see if this candidate is a good fit for your company. And make sure you prepare for the interview. You’ll be much more comfortable and ready to engage in meaningful interactions, leading to a successful hiring process.
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