September 8, 2015

5 Questions You Need to Ask to Determine Candidate Potential

KeyFor recruiters, the search for top talent is never-ending. While many recruiters try to evaluate candidates based on the depth and breadth of their knowledge, skills, and experience, these metrics don’t necessarily guarantee future success.

So, what metric does? Potential.

A candidate’s potential is determined by their ability and desire to grow and develop within a company. Unlike skills, knowledge, and experience, potential isn’t something that can be learned — it has to be found.

The job interview provides a perfect opportunity to get to know candidates and their career aspirations. Use that time to ask the following types of questions and unlock their hidden potential:

1. Strategic Questions

If you really want to find out how a candidate thinks, ask them a few strategy-based questions. Use past workplace scenarios — or make up your own — and find out how the candidate would handle them.

Not only does this require candidates to think on their feet, preventing overly scripted answers, but it also gives you an idea of how the candidate would react to and handle common situations or crises at work.

What to ask:

  • If hired, what would your first order of business be?
  • [Describe specific workplace situation.] How would you handle this situation differently?
  • If you had two months and a $50,000 budget to commit to any project, what would it be?

2. Goal-Oriented Questions

A job candidate’s potential is highly related to their career aspirations, which is why asking goal-oriented questions during the interview is so important. Questions focused on individual professional goals can help you understand a candidate’s desire (or lack thereof) for growth within a company.

What to ask:

  • Where do you see yourself — professionally — in five years?
  • What is one goal you’d like to achieve with this company?
  • What direction are you looking to take with your career?

3. Past Experience Questions

TreeThese types of questions focus on a candidate’s past experiences as they relate to work. Questions about personal experiences can provide valuable insight into a candidate’s potential by giving recruiters real-world evidence of that potential becoming action.

What to ask:

  • Can you describe a time when you took the lead on a project? What was the outcome?
  • Was there a time when you disagreed with a colleague or superior, and were you able to persuade them?
  • Can you describe a workplace conflict and how you resolved (or would have resolved) it?

4. Work Preference Questions

How someone prefers to work can say a lot about their leadership potential. For instance, candidates who work best independently may not be as likely to excel within a team-based setting and, thus, may not be cut out for a leadership role in the future.

A candidate’s answers to work-related questions can also reveal what kind of leader they would be, based on their leadership preferences.

What to ask:

  • What type of work environment do you prefer?
  • Do you work best independently or as part of a team?
  • What type of leadership structure do you work best under?

5. Industry-Related Questions

One of the biggest differentiators between high-performing talent and high-potential talent is knowing the industry vs. knowing the job.

While being familiar with the job is important, being familiar with the industry and the company’s role within that industry is what sets high-potential talent apart from its less driven counterpart. Having an interest in the industry as a whole is what inspires high-potential talent to go above and beyond the job description and aim for leadership roles.

What to ask:

  • What inspired you to pursue a career within this particular industry?
  • How do you stay up-to-date with the latest industry-related news?
  • What would you suggest doing to further set the company apart within the industry?

What are some other questions you use or have used to assess a candidate’s potential? Share in the comments!

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Josh Tolan is the founder and CEO of Spark Hire. Spark Hire helps thousands of organizations make better, more collaborative, and quicker hiring decisions. More than 6,000 organizations have interviewed millions of candidates across 100+ countries on Spark Hire. With the easiest-to-use product, unmatched customer service, and fair and transparent pricing, Spark Hire has become the most popular and No. 1 rated video interview platform on the market. Learn more on and get started today with no contracts or setup fees.