The most underrated interview questions

Why you should ask them, and what the answers will tell you 

Before you start an interview with someone, it is powerful to know which questions are the most important and most valuable to ask a candidate. Questions such as “Could you tell something more about yourself” and “Where do you see yourself in the future?” are not valuable. You want to find out whether the person in front of you is the right person for your company. The questions you are looking for are the questions that will trigger answers from the candidate. 

In the beginning of the interview it is very powerful to discuss the dynamics of the company. A good candidate will immediately stand out because this person will indicate how he can contribute to these dynamics within the company. 

Questions that are powerful but often forgotten

There are a number of unique questions that can help you discover someone’s skills. These questions can be broken down into; motivation, competences, work-style, ambition and personality. The questions from these categories are clarifying, important, and very powerful to find skills and qualities of the candidate without asking the general questions from the first paragraph. 

  • Can you tell something about our company?
  • What appeals to you in our company?
  • If you were working within our company, what would you like to achieve? 

These questions will help you find out what motivates the candidate to apply and identify whether a person shows enough interest (studied) in your company.

  • Can you describe a successful project to which you contributed and could you explain your role in it?
  • What was your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it? 
  • Can you tell something about a time you had to give someone difficult feedback? How did you handle it? 

As an employer, you would like to know what someone’s role has been in a certain project and what the person’s contribution has been in it. Perhaps mistakes have been made and what has this person learned from them. For example, how does the candidate deal with setbacks, and is the person able to ask for/give feedback?

Work Style 
  • How do you want to be managed/what do you need to be able to excel in your work?
  • How long will it take to make a significant contribution? 
  • If you have to choose one, would you consider yourself a big-picture person or a detail-oriented person? 

It is very important to find out whether someone’s skills and qualifications match the working method in the organization. If there is a match, it is interesting to hire the person. If not, it might be better to consider another candidate who fits the culture better.

  • What are your expectations of our organization in regards to your development? 
  • How would you like to develop yourself in the first year?
  • What are you looking for in terms of career development? 

Is the candidate ambitious? Would he like to develop and/ or grow into another role or just perform and move on? Has the candidate thought about his further career path? These questions are really powerful to know before you start working with someone.

  • What is the most important factor in your success and why? 
  • Can you describe yourself in 5 words?
  • Can you name some of your best qualities and how they contributed to your success. 

In the end, someone’s personality must match your company or position. Is the candidate friendly, enthusiastic and is he able to take risks and make decisions? Asking questions about things outside work will help you understand how the candidate is likely to behave at work.

Don’t forget the follow-up questions!

You might miss powerful information from the candidate if you don’t keep asking for answers. Follow-up questions that are important are questions such as: 

  • How did you do that?
  • What result have you achieved with it?
  • Why did you make that choice?
  • What would you do differently next time? 

A useful tool for follow-up questions is STAR-method. STAR stands for: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. For example, as an employer, you ask about someone’s competencies, and for a situation that shows this. Then ask about specific tasks, concrete actions the person carried out, and the results achieved. Using this method you get the best results out of someone’s answers. 

After the interview

After the conversation, try to write down everything that comes to mind to prevent forgetting your insights later. Make sure to collect and weigh up candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. If other people were involved in the application process, don’t forget to contact them to merge all notes.

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