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Published on December 13, 2018

The Very Best Interview Questions Employers Must Ask to Hire the Elites

The Very Best Interview Questions Employers Must Ask to Hire the Elites

When I worked in Campus Housing – now more than five years ago, wow – I was often part of an annual interviewing experience known as Placement. The University of Wisconsin-Osh Kosh runs an amazing event every year (as do other professional associations). They turn the entire conference center into an interviewing cattle call. And I just want to say that I mean that in the very best way.

Colleges and Universities descend upon the campus with their interview teams and they spend about three days meeting every possible candidate they can for whatever positions are available. By the time the final social event rolls around and the placement teams get back in the mini-van or Uber to the airport, there are always about 20 candidates who have risen to the top. The candidates whom everyone wants to hire.

At one of my previous employers, we would have a debrief meeting before leaving the conference site. Each interview team would make a list of our list of top candidates. And since our Director did not believe in wasting time, he would vet those candidates at the conference site so our Assistant Director could make on campus interview invitations the following Monday.

I’m sure that corporate America has a similar type of placement event, especially large organizations who hire entry level staff right out of college. The top talent have been identified and now “everyone” will do what they can to attract those candidates.

This is probably similar to colleges pursuing high school athletes to play for them.

However you, the employer, are going about hiring good talent, there are specific interview questions that can be asked. According to Forbes Human Resources Council,

“The secret to attracting high-quality applicants is differentiating yourself from other industry players, and showing top talent how joining your company can help them reach their career goals.”

How to Hire the Elites by Asking the Best Interview Questions

Craft interview questions that will convey your message: your company is unique, cutting edge, and values their contributions.

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Melissa Nelsen of Johnson Service Group shares specific things about what candidates are seeking in their next position. These include:[1]

  • Stability
  • Security
  • Opportunity for Growth
  • Vision
  • Culture
  • Benefits
  • Innovation

With this in mind, here are some possible questions that employers can ask to attract top talent.

Stability

If we define job stability as the duration one perceives to keep his/her current job without external factors, then ask a question about your industry. Require your candidate to forecast something within the company or industry.

“Please describe five ways you expect this position to change over the next five years, taking into consideration company growth, industry advancement, and technology changes.”

Security

Job Security exists when Human Resources cannot just replace “me” with another person. “I” provide unique skills and talents that won’t necessarily be found in a new candidate.

It’s different from stability, where the job you have is stable in the company and industry, and you don’t worry about not having a paycheck. Ask something that will require the candidate to share those unique talents.

“There are many other candidates applying for this position who possess the same skills as you. With that in mind, what three unique factors do you bring to our organization?”

Opportunity for Growth

Will there be room for promotion within your company for this candidate? He might be looking for a place where he can contribute and be promoted several times over.

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While in my experience, this is hard to do these days, it does not mean your top candidates will not aspire to do this.

“Where do you see yourself and/or your career five years from now?”

Or try this: “What are your long-term career goals?”

Vision

Candidates want to know that their company shares values and has a view of the future. Get to their ideas of this by asking what they are seeking in an employer. You’ll know if the top talent want to be with you if their answer aligns with your company vision and mission.

“What values are most important for you at your place of business?”

Or try this: “How does our vision and mission align with your personal values?”

Culture

Finally! That question of “fit.” Candidates want to know that their new place of business will feel right, they will belong and enjoy coming to work because they just love being there.

As an aside here, this is an area of my career that took me a very long time to appreciate and understand. There were days when all I cared about was salary, job title or a cool city. It took a couple very poor fit situations before I figured out myself how to ask the questions I needed in order to make a decision, should I be offered a job. Even then it didn’t always work.

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So we, as the employer, can make this a bit easier on that Top Talent by asking a few of these questions ourselves.

“What three things are you seeking in your day to day job environment?

Or try: “How can we insure that we are providing a work environment that is comfortable and meets your needs?”

I loved this question explanation from tint.com:[2]

“We know that you have choices, so if we make you an offer, we obviously want it to meet your needs. And that requires knowing what factors that you will use (i.e. pay, job duties, fit with your manager, levels of responsibility, etc.) to determine if ‘our job’ is the right job for you. So if you had a choice between two offers for your next job, please list the top five factors that you would use to evaluate and accept the superior job opportunity. Please list them in their descending order of importance to you.”

This question set doesn’t beat around the bush. Seriously. I wish I’d thought of this one myself.

Benefits

I’m not offering an interview question here, as I personally do not believe that benefits should be discussed during the initial interview.

Much of this can be found by the candidate on the company website. And if the candidate has done her research, she will ask anything that has piqued her interest.

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Innovation

Candidates want to know that they are going to work for a company or organization that is on the cutting edge of new and innovative practices and technology. They want to know that their employer is going places; and obviously the company wants this from their candidates.

We are only as good as our worst employee, right? Try these questions to sense how your candidate can utilize innovative practices.

“Tell me about a time when you lacked the skill or experience to complete a project or assignment? How did you get through it?”

Or try:Select one of our products (or services) and share with me three ways you might be able to make it better.”

The Bottom Line

By putting emphasis on these areas of value for today’s job seekers, employers can seek and sign the top talent for your industry and make your Senior Management proud. And don’t shy away from asking candidates to further explain their answers.

These are fairly “non-traditional” interview questions that could trip up your candidate. So give them room to think and encourage them through non-verbal cues. Here’s to hiring the best possible talent for your team!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

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Last Updated on July 22, 2019

10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

A cover letter is an introduction to what will be found in the resume. In a cover letter, the applicant is able to use a conversational tone, to explain why the attached resume is worth reviewing, why the applicant is qualified, and to express that it’s the best application the reader will see for the open position.

Employers do read your cover letter, so consider the cover letter an elevator pitch. The cover letter is the overview of your professional experience. The information in the body presents the key qualifications, the things that matter. The cover letter is the “here is what will be found in my presentation”, which is the resume in this case.

Something really important to point out- a cover letter should be written from scratch each time. Great cover letters are the ones that express why the applicant is the best for the specific job being applied to. Using a general cover letter will not lead to great results.

This doesn’t mean that your cover letter should repeat your most valuable qualifications, it just means that you don’t want to recycle a templated, general letter, not specific to the position being applied to.

Here’re 10 cover letter tips to nail every interview.

1. Take a few minutes to learn about the company so that you use an appropriate tone

Like people, every company has its own culture and tone. Doing a bit of research to learn what that is will be extremely beneficial. For instance, a technology start-up has a different culture and tone than a law firm. Using the same tone for both would be a mistake.

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2. Don’t use generic cover letter terms — be specific to each company and position

Hiring managers and recruiters can easily identify generic cover letters. They read cover letters and resumes almost every day. Using words and terms like: “your company” instead of naming the actual company, and “your website” instead of “in your about us section on www.abc123.com”, are mistakes. Be as specific as possible, it’s worth the additional few minutes.

3. Address the reader directly if you can

It is an outdated practice to use “To Whom it May Concern” if you know the person that will be reviewing your documents. You may wonder how you’ll know this information; this is where attention to detail and/or a bit of research comes into play.

For example, if you are applying for a job using LinkedIn, many times, the job poster is listed within the job post. This is the person reading your documents when you “apply now”. Addressing that person directly will be much more effective than using a generic term.

4. Don’t repeat the information found in the resume

A resume is an action-based document. When presenting information in a resume, the tone isn’t conversational but leading with action instead, for example: “Analyze sales levels and trends, and initiate action as necessary to ensure attainment of sales objectives”.

In a cover letter, you have the opportunity to deliver your elevator pitch: “I have positively impacted business development and growth initiatives, having combined two regions into one and achieving 17% in compound growth over the following three-year period”.

Never use your resume qualifications summary as a paragraph in your resume. This would be repeating information. Keep in mind that your cover letter is the introduction to your resume- the elevator pitch- this is your opportunity to show more personality.

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5. Tell the company what you can do for them

As mentioned above, this is your chance to explain to the company why you are the best person for the open position. This is where you tell the company what you can do for them: “If hired as the next (job title) with (company name), I will cultivate important partnerships that will enhance operations while boosting revenue.”

Many times, we want to take the reader through the journey of our life. It is important to remember that the reader needs to know why you are the best person for the job. Lead with that.

6. Showcase the skills and qualifications specific to the position

A lot of people are Jack’s and Jill’s of all trades. This can be a great big picture, but not great to showcase in a cover letter or resume.

Going back to what was mentioned before, cover letters and resumes are scanned through ATS. Being as specific as possible to the position being applied to is important.

If you are applying for a coding position, it may not be important to mention your job in high school as a dog walker. Sticking to the exact job being applied to is the most effective way to write your cover letter.

7. Numbers are important — show proof

It always helps to show proof when stating facts: “I have a reputation for delivering top-level performance and supporting growth so that businesses can thrive; established industry relationships that generated double digit increase in branch revenues”.

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8. Use testimonials and letters of recommendations

A cover letter is a great place to add testimonials and information from your letter of recommendations. Mirroring the example above, here is a good way to use that information:

I have a history of consistently meeting and exceeding metrics: “(Name) rose through the company and became a Subject Matter Expert, steadily providing exceptional quality of work.”- Team Manager.

9. Find the balance between highlighting your achievements and bragging

There is fine line between telling someone about your achievements and bragging. My advice is to always use facts first, and support that with an achievement related to the fact, as shown in the examples above.

You don’t want to have a cover letter with nothing but bullet points of what you have achieved. I can’t stress this enough — cover letters are your elevator pitch, the introduction to your resume.

10. Check your length — you want to provide no more than an introduction

The general rule for most positions is one page in length. Positions such as professors and doctors will require more in length (and they actually use CV’s); however, for most positions, one page is sufficient. Remember, the cover letter is an introduction and elevator pitch. Follow the logic below to get you started:

Start with: “I am ready to deliver impeccable results as (name of company) next (Position Title).

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What you know and like about the company, what initiatives, missions, goals resonate with you: “I read/listened to an interview that your Chief of Staff did on www.abc123.com. His/her statement regarding important up and coming employee engagement initiatives really resonated with me”.

Overview of your qualifications and experience: “I have a strong background in developing, monitoring, and controlling annual processes and operational plans related to community relations and social initiatives”.

Highlight/ Back up your facts with achievements: “I’m a vision-driven leader, with a proven history of innovation and mentorship; I led an initiative that reduced homelessness in four counties and received recognition from the local Homeless Network and the County Commissioner”.

Close with what will you do for the company: “As your next (job title), I am focused on hitting the ground running as a transformational leader who is driven by challenge, undeterred by obstacles, and committed to the growth of (name of company).

Bonus Advice

When applying for a job online or in person, a resume and a cover letter are standard submissions. At least 98% of the time, both your resume and cover letter and scanned via ATS (applicant tracking systems). You can learn more about that process here.

The information provided in a cover letter should be written and organized to be compatible with these scans, so that it can make to a human; from there, you want to make sure that you capture the recruiter and/or hiring managers attention.

More About Nailing Your Dream Job

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