The best and worst interview questions to ask candidates

  • November 16, 2018
  • Andrew McLeod

Recruiters have a tough job. Not only are they gatekeepers of the screening process, but they also need to find the very best candidates for a particular role. The only real chance they get to do so is through a job interview. This is their opportunity to vet a candidate to see if they’re the right person for a specific job.

Becoming a great interviewer takes years to master. Some recruiters think they’re identifying the right traits and two weeks later — their new hire is a complete bust. They end up focusing on the wrong things and, worse yet, asking the wrong questions. This is why it’s critical that you create questions that'll give you the best possible look into your candidate as a person and employee.

That doesn’t mean having the perfect questions will equal the perfect candidate. But having the perfect questions is a way of doing your due diligence as a recruiter and starting a meaningful dialogue. You want to gain as much information and insight about your candidate as you can and asking the right questions is a great place to start.

In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at two questions you should always ask during a job interview and two you should avoid at all costs.

ASK: What project would you consider your greatest career accomplishment?

This a great question for two reasons. First, if the project pertains to your specific industry or field, you’re getting a taste of your candidate’s technical knowledge. For example, if you’re hiring a web developer, them describing how they built a particular website is something you’d want to know.

Secondly, you’re seeing how much passion they have. If they talk about the project and only harp on how much of a pain in the you-know-what it was, that could be a sign. On the flipside, they might be extremely proud of what they accomplished and are bursting at the seams to talk about it. That’s likely the kind of passion you’d want on your team.

DON’T ASK: Could you tell me about yourself?

Lazy is one way to describe this question. Another is what exactly are you trying to learn from your candidate here? Do you want them to describe their hobbies or how motivated they are at work? It’s a vague question that will probably result in a vague response that’s awkward for everyone.

Be specific with your questions and don’t waste your time or your candidate's with filler. If you want to ask about a role they had at another company, ask. If you want to learn about their university experience, ask. Keep your questions concise and to the point.

ASK: Can you pitch our company as if I were buying our product or service?

You might think this question is only appropriate for salespeople, but there’s more to it than the pitch itself. What you’re actually trying to identify is if the candidate did their homework and spent some time researching your product or service.

If they’re able to easily identify your product or service’s key features and describe them in a compelling way, you may be onto something with this candidate. However, if they’re stumbling to list very obvious features and talk about it in very open-ended ways, they’re probably there for the wrong reasons.

DON’T ASK: Why should I hire you?

Is your candidate a mind reader? Do they have a crystal ball that tells them what you’re thinking? If you ask why you should hire them, you might as well ask those questions as well.

The only person who knows why you should hire someone is you. It’s simple. Above that, even if a candidate gives a great answer to this question, that doesn’t mean they’re the right person for the job. All it means is they’re great at pitching you on themselves. A good quality, sure, but not the answer that should land them a job. You have to consider their qualifications, experience and references to get the bigger picture.

Let us take care of your screening needs, so your next interview runs smoothly. Book a demo today to find out how we can give you the tools to do just that.