By: Paul Falcone
Conducting an interview has turned into a strategic chess game of tricky questions and insightful answers. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Knowing what interview questions to ask in a way that benefits your company and the candidate can actually be a lot more engaging, selfless, and comfortable.
After all, as an interviewer and company representative, you have a gift to give someone who’s currently in transition or otherwise looking to assume broader responsibilities in their career. Your recruiting knowledge, wisdom, and insights can go a long way to evaluate a candidate’s potential fit within your organization – and to inspire individuals to grow and develop in their careers.
As soon as you begin to see the “gift” that the interview process holds for both you and the candidate, you’ll realize that it poses an opportunity not only to assess but to give back -- and that’s the true “ah-ha” moment of conducting an interview.
Interview Questions to Ask that Reveal More
The first important insight into getting to know the real person behind the interview façade lies in engaging candidates’ hearts as well as their minds. You’ll know you’ll have gotten there once applicants begin making statements like, “Well, I normally wouldn’t say this during an interview, but . . .”
At that point, you can rest assured that you’re communicating with the real person, not just the façade hiding behind the interview hype. And getting there quickly isn’t as difficult as you might think, even when meeting someone for the first time. It’s just a matter of valuing their needs as much as your own.
Open your interview with a broad-based question like: “Walk me through your progression in your career, leading me up to your most recent position at XYZ Company.”
Next, focus on the individual’s reason for leaving XYZ Company. Be sure to distinguish between involuntary moves (e.g., layoffs and terminations) and voluntary moves (where candidates leave on their own volition to explore broader opportunities).
Segue this “reason for leaving” question into an open-ended career development query like this: “At this point in your career, what criteria are you using in selecting your next role or the next company where you want to work?”
With that initial response in hand, you can then ask the “Big 4” job change and career progression questions as follows:
“Janet, tell me the top two priorities you’re focusing on at this point in your career. Are you hoping more for:
(a) greater responsibilities and growth
(b) lateral exposure to specific areas in your field
(c) more work-life balance, or
(d) compensation and benefits.
All four are important, but which one or two are more critical for you at this point in your career?”
This will generally get candidates talking about their own personal career values. No interview prep book in the world generally covers spontaneous interview questions like these! That’s where you want to be in every interview -- on fresh turf getting to know the real person.
Interview Questions to Ask that Prompt Discussion
Continue this open-ended discussion by asking: “If you were to accept this position with us today, how would you explain that to a prospective employer five years from now? How would this job provide a link in your future career progression?”
Notice the selfless nature of this query. It requires that the individual fit together the pieces of their career development puzzle, right there in front of you.
A logical counterpoint and segue might be for you to address out loud how you see the individual’s selection criteria and career values applying to your company. Here’s an example: “Janet, I really like your technical background. However, I’m a bit concerned that as an overqualified candidate, you would accept a lateral title and supervise a smaller team than at your current/last company, so help me understand that . . .”
This line of questioning will open the door to the bonding relationship you’re looking to develop. Candidates will walk away thinking, “Wow, I’ve never interviewed with a company that took such a strong interest in me and my own needs before.”
Straightforward, simple, and selfless -- it’s so much easier to conduct an interview when you’re sharing ideas and focusing on the needs of both company and candidate.
In essence, you’ll have shifted the “employee development” paradigm to the pre-employment stage.
Rather than a mere game of wits, strategies, your revamped interview strategy will garner appreciation and loyalty. It will also help nurture your staff and generate lots of good will in your own career.