The perfect candidate can be tough to find. Not only does this person need to have the right personality and business acumen, but they also need to suit your company and the position that’s available. The interview is an important step in finding this ideal candidate because it gives you the opportunity to gain insights into your candidate’s traits that you couldn’t uncover through a resume alone.
Hires are also expensive investments. If you find the perfect resume but don’t use the right interview criteria to match the candidate with your team, you might lose your perfect hire to churn several months after they join the team. Ultimately, that will lead to a costly and distracting replacement process.
There’s no foolproof interview question that will keep bad hires from happening, but we can suggest some fundamental questions that are essential to completing a holistic evaluation of any given candidate. These questions will help you determine your candidate’s attitude, motivation, cultural fit, interest fit, and competency.
1. Evaluating Attitude: ‘Tell Me About a Time You Faced a Difficult Situation’
Variations of this question are important in the hiring processes of every organization from the smallest nonprofits to the CIA. The inquiry should be posed as an open-ended question that doesn’t tell the applicant what kind of answer you’re looking for. This will ensure that the candidate demonstrates their true attitude, not simply the attitude they think you want to see from them.
A successful candidate will respond to this question with a situation that’s appropriate to your workplace and an explanation of how they resolved the matter.
2. Evaluating Motivation: ‘What Is Your Greatest Achievement in Life?’
This question allows the candidate to tell a story that will indirectly reveal their motivations and how those motivations might benefit your company. A professional answer about bringing a team together under new leadership will show a candidate’s ability to work within a team, and a personal answer about an experience speaking at a political rally might do the same. The motives the candidate reveals in answering this question will tell you a lot about their priorities.
3. Evaluating Cultural Fit: ‘What Kind of Company Culture Are You Happiest In?’
Hiring a new employee is like starting a new relationship, and it must be treated as such. Both you and your candidate are trying to figure out whether this role will be a good fit. Offer your candidates the chance to describe the company cultures they prefer (small or big; self-driven or leadership-driven), and take the opportunity to describe your workplace culture so that your candidates have detailed information about the company they might join. The right cultural fit will ensure a higher retention rate for your organization.
4. Evaluating Interest Fit: ‘How Do You Stay Current in the Field?’
It’s never been easier to stay up to date on your interests than it is today. This question will reveal which candidates are generally seeking employment and which are seeking this job in particular. The ideal candidate will be active online, reading blogs, following people who inspire them on Twitter, attending meetings and conferences, and involved in other industry-relevant pursuits.
5. Evaluating Competency: ‘Can You Tell Me About a Time You [Fill in the Blank With a Competency You'd Like to Evaluate]?’
Go into your interviews with a list of key competencies that your potential employee needs to have, and use these competencies to guide your questioning. For example, if you’re looking for a candidate who has both conflict-resolution and leadership skills, you could ask a question like, “Can you tell me about the biggest conflict you’ve had to deal with when you were in a leadership position?” The candidate’s answer should reflect the skill set you’ve deemed vital for the position.
Start a Relationship
An interview isn’t a test, nor should it feel like one. Asking open-ended questions that encourage unscripted, revealing responses will create conversations with your candidates. If your open-ended questions target the five key elements named above, you will give candidates the opportunity to express themselves in more meaningful ways than they ever could on their resumes. That, in turn, will help you ensure you choose the right people for the right jobs.
Ngan Pham is the cofounder and COO of Rakuna.