How Do I Safely Get to Know My Candidates During the Interview Process?

Have you ever interviewed someone and thought, “That was a great interview, but it sounded just like all of the other candidates that I’ve interviewed.”


That’s what we thought after most of the interviews that we conducted to hire internally. It’s great that there are innumerable tools made available to job-seekers so they can become polished for their interview process--everything from templated resumes, to researching answers to commonly asked interview questions. (Let’s face it, how many times, in response to the “What is your weakness?” question, do we hear, “Well, my weakness is actually a strength…”


Let me preface this by saying I still ask pretty general questions in preliminary phone interviews. You know, questions like “Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?” and “Why are you interested in working for this company?” The goal in a phone interview is to gauge if the person is qualified for the position. But in a second and third interview, the hiring manager’s goal is to confirm the qualifications of the candidate, and make sure they’ll be a fit within the organization.


So how do you get to the heart of the candidate--to learn what they are really like, and if they’ll truly be the best person for the position? Ask creative, investigative questions.


Here are some examples.


  • If you’re trying to explore the reason a candidate left their last job and is giving vague, roundabout answers, try asking, “What advice would you give to your former boss?”

  • We love “Tell me about a time” questions to expose more from those untelling, generalized responses. “Tell me about a time that you had to resolve an issue with an angry customer.” “Tell me about a time that you above and beyond, even when you weren’t asked.”

  • Want to know who or what motivates someone? Ask “Who are the 3 people, dead or alive, that you look up to?”

  • Trying to figure out if someone tends to become stressed easily in fast-paced environments? “Do you like to make plans or are you spontaneous?” “Tell me about your best day at work.”

  • If you want to know what a candidate is looking for in their next position, ask “What is something you'd be happy doing every day for the rest of your career?”


Sometimes employers are uneasy about asking out-of-the-box questions because they’re trying to avoid accidental, uneasy conversations, or possibly because they want to “stick to the script” to avoid liability. If that’s you, reach out to Express HR at Eden Resources, and our team of HR experts will give you the thumbs or thumbs down on your interview questions, or we can help to rewrite your questions to avoid liability.


But hiring new employees is always a risk, so it’s better to investigate early in the interview process to protect yourself and your team later on.


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