Resumes and cover letters only give you a taste of whether a candidate is the right choice for your open position. The real insight truly comes from a great interview! With that said, if you aren’t asking the right questions, you may not get a true sense of the candidate’s technical skills and whether they are a good cultural fit for your company.
That is why I asked nine business leaders to share an interesting interview question that actually reveals more about a candidate. If you want your interview to help you gain more than a surface level understanding of the candidate, consider adding the following to your standard interview questions.
What is the most common assumption people make about you that is not true?
I love asking this interview question because it reveals a couple of key pieces of insight about the candidate. First, it helps highlight whether or not the candidate has a high or low degree of self-awareness, which is a difficult skill to develop, but one that is necessary for continual personal growth. Two, the answer provided will uncover a potential character element that hasn't yet come through during the audition, oops, I meant the interview process.
- Brian Mohr, anythm
If we were to hire you a high-level assistant to complement your skills, what characteristics would this person have?
This question lets that candidate discuss the areas they think they need some help in. Without asking, the answer to this question reveals the applicant’s major weaknesses as well as their significant strengths.
- Craig Rosen, InterviewFocus
What is your greatest individual achievement in your career thus far?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question, of course, and the answer will reveal the true motivators of the candidate. Follow-up questions will allow you to unpack what type of challenges and scenarios they come alive in, providing valuable insight into whether the position is right for the person.
- Philip Botha, Culture Advantage
Do you identify with our mission statement? If so, why?
I love asking candidates this question for two main reasons. First, it tests to see if they have done their homework on our company and know our mission statement. Second, it tells me if they are a good cultural fit for our company. In order to be a great cultural fit, I think it is important that employees understand and see value in why we do the work we do. It is about more than just a paycheck, it is about working for a company that you have synergy with and are proud to be a member of.
- Nikitha Lokareddy, Markitors
What were you like in college and how have you changed?
I like to ask candidates what they were like in college and in what ways have they changed since college. This really makes them reflect and think and shows a great deal about their character and how they adapt to changing situations and challenges. It also shows how flexible they are and what their career progression may look like within your company or firm.
- Ronald Kubitz, Forms+Services
What are some of the areas in your personal and professional life where you want to grow?
I find this question helpful because it’s important to work with someone who is willing to learn, adapt and grow. It also shows how self-aware and self-reflective a person is. You’ll learn about whether they have any potential for taking up greater responsibility or moving to a different area in your business. It's a single question that actually reveals a great deal and can instantly tell you if the candidate will be a good fit.
- Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
Describe a decision you’ve made in the past that you would do differently if given the chance.
It works much like the “what is your biggest weakness” but instead of the trite “I work too hard” or something like that, you should get an answer that shows growth and the ability to learn from past lessons. Or, if they can’t come up with any (or give you a poor example) you learn that they aren’t very introspective.
- Matthew Lee, Learning and Development Leader
What keeps you awake at night?
The answer can reveal what stresses the individual finds challenging. The answer may also reveal what is important to the individual as it relates to values, ethics and integrity. Another question I like: What is the most courageous thing you have done in your career?
- Rachel Schaming, Executive Coach
Describe the major themes that define your career and life story
I believe it's critical to 'hire for purpose' - especially at a startup. I ask candidates to describe the major themes that define their career and life story - and then walk me through their resume from the perspective of each decision they've made and how it affected their themes and story. This is an excellent approach to gain insights into what motivates a person and where they find meaning and purpose in their work and life.
- Dr. Jeb Hurley, TrustMetryx