The importance of asking great questions cannot be overstated. Great questions help you discover new things, diagnose existing problems, and explore how well solutions are working in your life or business. Whether you work with consultants, executives, or entry-level employees, you cannot skip questions.
Now imagine running a company where sustainability and profitability depends on your ability to determine the brightest minds and skills in the industry in a single conversation:
How do you know they’re the perfect fit for you? How do you assess their communication skills? How do you know they won’t cost your team in the long run?
You know it already; ask great questions!
The concept of asking questions isn’t new but there is a great chance that you’re not taking full advantage of it. A Harvard Business Review article refers to questioning as a powerful tool that unlocks value, fuels innovation and performance improvement. As a hiring manager or recruiter, how to you get this information when you’re meeting a candidate for the first time?
Ask great questions, of course.
Without further ado, here are 21 interview questions to ask employees during an interview:
1. “What are your career goals?”
Another version of this question is “What types of problems do you see yourself solving in the future?”
This question is almost never asked and when it is asked, most questions are geared towards knowing how long the employees intends to stay in the company.
Instead of asking leading questions that would steer employees into declaring undying loyalty for the organization, ask what types of problems they hope to solve in the future.
This does two things:
- It reveals the skills and interest in your employees.
- It lets you know what types of candidates you are attracting in the first place.
With this, you’re able to trend this data to improve how you market your job opening. And if employee retention is pertinent to you, you can use this information to improve the job function so that future employees can see their future selves in this role.
2. “Why do you think you’re a great fit?”
It is important to go beneath the surface to ask questions that make the candidates speak about themselves in their own words. However, a surprising benefit of asking this question is that you’re able to determine how well-versed a candidate really is with the company’s challenges and goals, in addition to their personal attributes.
Instead of listing off accomplishments, an exceptional employee is able to help you see how these previous accomplishment can translate into helping your organization solve its current business problems.
3. “What do you hope to learn from this role?”
The answers to this question can reveal if there is a job-skill match and if a linear career progression is expected.
As you listen carefully and mind these answers from candidates, you begin to see trends in responses that help you refine how you develop roles, responsibilities, how employees see themselves, and what they want their career to look like.
4. “How do you deal with conflict between colleagues?”
Almost every breakdown in relationship is caused by miscommunication or lack of effective interpersonal skills. But a solid indicator of how well a person communicates is how they manage interpersonal conflict.
Conflict management skills is no longer something required only for corporations who wish to settle million-dollar lawsuits. It’s an essential skill that every worker ought to possess and can make or break an organization.
Tip: Ask for a time when they didn’t get along with a co-worker and how they resolved the conflict.
5. “How did you learn about this position?”
Asking how they learned about the position reveals how the brand is perceived by the outside world. This way, you know if your current employees is your biggest source of referrals for qualified applicants.
This also lets you know how effective your current staffing processes are and which channels are worth the effort.
6. “Why are you interested in this position?”
Again, another seemingly basic question. But when you field applications from candidates who are transferring their skills from a different department or industry, you want to know why the change was made.
What led to the aha moment? What was the internal struggle like for them? What stands out to them about this particular position? Very important.
7. “What excites you the MOST about this position?”
After establishing how passionate they are about this position, it’s not unusual that you would want to know what tasks and responsibilities excite them most. With this knowledge, not only are you aware of their sense of ownership, you help nurture these skills by encouraging and facilitating the discovery of hidden potential in your employees.
For example, a hospital nurse might detest inserting intravenous catheters in patients but jump at the task of motivating colleagues and initiating stress-reduction activities on hospital units. An office employee might cringe at the thought of public speaking but excel at creating world-class presentations.
While you can’t exempt your employee from every task in the role because they favor one thing over another, you are more aware of how rich your existing talent pool is in your organization and can utilize your talents effectively.
8. “What do you consider your weakness?”
Why should you ask a candidate what his or her weakness is when all you want is someone perfect?
Admitting a weakness shouldn’t automatically disqualify a candidate. Rather, it reveals to you how self-aware the candidate is.
Self-awareness is essential to personal and professional development, and this is sometimes a precursor to how self-directed a person is regarding their career goals.
There are arguments about the need to abolish the weakness question from interviews because it reduces candidates’ accomplishments. I disagree.
Asking employees about weaknesses lets you understand your employees better so you can not only create a work environment that is smart, you’re able to design professional development programs that can strengthen these weaknesses.
9. “What will you find challenging about this position?”
Maybe you don’t want to ask the ”weakness question.” Maybe you’re more concerned about the capacity to perform in the current job rather than their job history.
Still, you want to know if you have a creative problem solver and how they feel about potential problems when they arise. You also want to anticipate how your employees will adjust to their roles once they are successfully hired. Self-awareness about one’s ability and limits can be observed by asking this question during an interview.
Note: This question should never be asked with a malicious intent. Exceptional employees come with flaws and this should be expected. They key is knowing whether the successful candidate is willing to be a problem solver.
10. “What additional support will you need during your transition?”
This is a very important question during the interview question because not only is the labor market diverse, the response to this question can be used to develop the orientation process and additional training materials.
As a mentor to newer nurses, this is a question I repeat more than 50 percent of the time during the orientation period. The responses I get provide me with insights into what employees really consider as constraints so that I can make their transition as smooth as possible.
11. “What qualities do you desire in a leader or manager?”
Not everyone desires a manager who provides direction while giving you free rein to make your job your own. At the same time, some employees might prefer a manager who is detail-oriented and provides all the answers.
Knowing this before a candidate is hired can prevent conflict arising from differences in communication or management styles.
12. “What do you do if you don’t agree with your manager’s decisions?”
Conflict not only happens between employees. According to a study of conflict in the Canadian workforce, about 81 percent of people leave the organization as a result of conflict.
The purpose of this question is to determine how adaptable an employee is to different communication styles, what they consider deal breakers, and how they model desired behavior when conflict arises.
The responses to this question allows you to manage expectations and an indication for leaders to continuously work on their communication and conflict management skills.
13. “What would make this company an amazing place to work?”
Maybe you can’t provide free lunches or paid hours of free time at work like bigger companies. But answers to this question can reveal a lot about what employees think is crucial to well-being.
In a study of nearly 17,000 employees, it was noted that an increase in stress level is directly correlated to workplace injury. While this interview won’t eradicate organizational constraints or stressors, feedback from candidates and employees on what makes a company a great place to work is the perfect place to start.
14. “What other questions do you have for me?”
Although this is a conversation to determine the best fit for your team, company, or organization, the interview goes both ways. Yes, you are also being scrutinized by your interviewee.
The purpose of this question is to create space to answer the candidate’s questions about your organization. You also get to provide insight on processes, expectations, team culture, and information that isn’t readily available on the company website.
15. “Tell me about yourself”
If everything else seems too much, lead with this timeless question. You simply cannot go wrong here.
Sometimes, the best answers come from open-ended queries. This is your best chance to know the candidate’s history, career accomplishments, and get a feel for their career goals all at the same time.
It is less intrusive and leading with this question makes it easier to approach other questions––depending on how sensitive the position is.
In addition to these scenario-based questions, you can try these questions to get details of a specific work experience:
16. “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.”
If we define job stability as the duration one perceives to keep his/her current job without external factors, then ask this question about your industry. Require your candidate to forecast something within the company or industry.
17. “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?”
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.
18. “Where do you see yourself and/or your career five years from now?” or “What are your long-term career goals?”
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.
While in my experience, this is hard to do these days, it does not mean your top candidates will not aspire to do this.
19. “What values are most important for you at your place of business?” or “How does our vision and mission align with your personal values?”
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.
20. “What three things are you seeking in your day to day job environment? or “How can we insure that we are providing a work environment that is comfortable and meets your needs?”
Culture — Finall, 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.
So we, as the employer, can make this a bit easier on that Top Talent by asking a few of these questions ourselves.
I loved this question explanation from tint.com:
“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.
21. “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 “Select one of our products (or services) and share with me three ways you might be able to make it better.”
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.
The Bottom Line
Conversation is a two-way street. Good questions can give you great insights into the value an employee can bring to your company. But there is an art and science to asking questions.
While you won’t become an expert right off the bat, these questions provide a good foundation to start from if you want to attract and retain top talent in your organization.
Featured photo credit: Drew Beamer via unsplash.com
|||^||Harvard Business Review: The Surprising Power of Questions|
|||^||Psychometrics Conflict Study: Warring Egos,Toxic Individuals, Feeble Leadership|
|||^||BMJ Journals: Health risk factors as predictors of workers’ compensation claim occurrence and cost|
|||^||TLNT: 12 Interview Questions That Will Reveal the Very Best Candidates|