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Must-Ask Interview Questions to Evaluate Top Talent

Finding top talent is critical to an organization’s growth and success. Once you’ve sourced your candidates and reviewed submitted resumes, it’s time to interview. Of course you are going to ask about work history, experience and skills. But what else are must-ask interview questions? We asked several of our seasoned client-facing Directors and Vice Presidents what they advise their hiring organizations to ask.

Sara McKinney | Finance, Human Resources & Administrative

Question: Tell me about your greatest achievement at work.

This is a great question to learn about the candidate, their strengths, and also interestingly, what they deem a success. Maybe to one candidate their success was hitting a specific goal, whereas with another candidate their success was employee engagement related. I think you will quickly see what the candidate is passionate about and also learn what they are good at.

Jane Redden | Human Resources

Question: Why are you interested in this position?

Interviews are just as much about the candidate liking the company as they are about the company liking the candidate. This question offers the opportunity to figure out if it’s a fit on both ends. It also allows the interviewer more insight into the candidate’s personality and helps to get a better understanding of what they are passionate about. It could be the day-to-day responsibilities of the role, the company culture, the size of the team, opportunities for growth or something unexpected.

How the candidate answers also allows the client to see how serious he or she is about the role. Did the candidate do their research on both the company and position? If they struggle to answer this question, chances are this might just be one of multiple positions they have applied for, and they might be more interested in being employed than in your specific opportunity.

Melanie Kilsey Merner | Finance & Administrative

Question: What is your favorite food?

When interviewing, it is obviously important to ask questions about a candidate’s past experience and why they want the job. I also love the idea of a random question that has nothing to do with the job. A question that is personal, however, does not cross the line of too personal. “What is your favorite food?” With the follow up questions of “Why?” and “What Kind?” It always throws candidates off a little and brings their professional guard down just enough to reveal a little more about who they really are.

I like the idea of some casual conversation to put the candidate in a more relaxed state for the more relevant job questions. I find this type of question enables you to have a better conversation and learn more about the candidate. Not to mention, I love talking about food!

Rory Gavin | Finance & Administrative

Question: Tell me about a time you had to solve a problem, and steps you took to solve it?

I am all about the analytical questioning to get a better understanding of a candidate’s critical thinking skills. My favorite question to ask: “Tell me about a time you had to solve a problem, and steps you took to solve it?” It’s a great question to give insight into how a candidate thinks, how they prioritize information, their communication skills, and if they are a potential culture fit (do their ideologies align with your mission?).

It’s also important to adjust your analytical questions with the leveling of the position and keep an open mind on the candidate’s response. Are there red flags? Is there a new perspective? Are they using buzzwords and industry or functional terms I want to hear? The follow-up questions are boundless and puts you in a great spot to further understand your candidate.

Rachel Laufersweiler | Finance, Human Resources & Administrative

Question: Anything that is open-ended and prompts elaboration

To me, the way the question is delivered trumps the question itself. It is important to ask potential employees open-ended and concise questions that will allow the interviewee to elaborate. Asking “Why do you think you’re a good fit for this position?” opposed to “Do you think you’re a good fit for this position?” Or “What excites you about this position?” instead of “Are you excited about the role?” This will push the potential employee to give his or her own detailed responses, opposed to giving short yes or no answers.

During interviews there is also a tendency for interviewers to give a long-winded, detailed backstory, and then tagging on a question at the end. Keeping the question concise gives more time for the interviewee to elaborate on where they can help; leave the lengthy explanations for when the interviewee asks questions – which should always happen!

By incorporating these questions, and pieces of advice, into your interview process, you’re bound to get answers that both identify the right candidate for your role, as well as prompt an open and enjoyable conversation.

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