When it comes to interviews, what are the best questions to ask job applicants? Entire books have been written on this topic, and the questions you choose to ask job seekers may depend on your industry, organizational culture, the role itself, and the personalities of the people involved in the hiring decision.
Interviews provide an opportunity to validate a candidate’s previous experience, gain insight into his or her motivations and future aspirations, and assess whether his or her values are a fit for your organization’s culture. Menlo Partners took an informal survey of San Francisco Bay Area professionals, and the best answers appear below.
The Icebreaker Question
A former Silicon Valley recruiter always started interviews with, “Please take a moment and tell me a little bit about yourself.” She found that answers to this question included not only professional “elevator pitches” but also gave context to the candidate’s current situation and revealed aspects of his or her personality. She noted that individuals who did not have a lot of interviewing experience sometimes stumbled in their answers. In the event that a person began to ramble, she would say, “I am interrupting you because I want to ask you something else.” An alternative to this question could be, “Why are you looking for another job?”
The Typical Day Question
Some resumes present a long list of tasks and duties but don’t address quantity and frequency. How often were these duties performed? Were they few, or many? What were the candidate’s primary responsibilities? When drilling down into a specific past position, a helpful question is, “What was a typical day like for you?”
The Interest and Desire Question
“What about this role or organization specifically interests you?” This is an excellent question to determine if a person has a strong motivation to work for your team, as opposed to simply needing “a job.”
The Differentiation Question
Presumably, the candidates you have selected for interview all appear to be qualified for the job. To determine how this candidate stands out from the crowd, you can ask, “What is unique about you that would help you to excel in this role?” Alternatively, you can ask, “Why do you love what you do?”
The Follow Up Question
Great candidates have practiced their answers to many of the common questions interviewers ask. A great way to elicit a more candid response is to ask a follow up question. Pick something they have just mentioned – a specific skill or accomplishment, and ask, “Can you tell me more about that?” The resulting answer is likely to be unrehearsed and may give you additional insight.
The Storytelling Question
Behavioral interviewing is the most widely practiced form of interviewing today in Silicon Valley. This is simply a method of asking questions that describe behavior on the job that offer insight into the person’s actions and thought processes. Rather than present a hypothetical situation and ask them what they would do, ask them to describe a past situation by saying, “Tell me about a time that…” You may select a time they satisfied an upset customer, an instance in which they had to make a key decision on their own, without guidance, or any other situation that is relevant to your role. In our past blog we offer some advice on conducting a behavioral interview.
The Reference Question
“How would your former coworkers and managers describe you?” This is a valuable question to ask in preparation for reference checking. When you speak to the person’s references, do their answers match the candidate’s?
Menlo Partners has the answers to your questions
Do you need assistance in sourcing, screening, or interviewing candidates for your open positions in accounting/finance, administration, marketing or human resources? The talented recruiting staff at Menlo Partners Staffing is available to assist you with short-term and long-term hiring needs anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact our office today, an employment and recruiting agency with expert AIRS certified Recruiters!