When your company is growing and growing fast, you don’t always get as much time as you’d like to find and vet prospective hires. Instead of a warm and unhurried half-hour conversation, sometimes you’ll need to find out if a candidate’s a good fit with five interview questions or less.
Does that mean that when you’re hiring hundreds you’re stuck with the first 150 candidates who apply and show up on time? Absolutely not. It just means you need to be as strategic as possible with the questions you ask.
Here are five interview questions that will help you sort and file candidates in a short amount of time.
Interview Question #1: What’s your availability for this job?
Why It Works: Whether you’re hiring part-time retail associates or full-time marketing managers, this mundane yet practical question should be the first on your list — because if the answer doesn’t align with your needs, the conversation can end there! When you’re hiring hundreds, asking this question first will allow you to devote more of your time to candidates who are the most likely to move forward in the process.
What to Look For: The candidate’s expectations for hours, location and availability should be in line with what your company is offering. Guide the conversation to the candidate’s preferences for onsite versus remote work, expected hours per day and yearly vacation and benefits to get a sense of what is negotiable and what is not. If your expectations aren’t aligned, wish them well and move on to the next interview.
[Related: How to Interview and Identify Top Candidates]
Interview Question #2: What attracts you most about this position?
Why It Works: You want to hear why the candidate wants the job in their own words so that you can assess how well they understand the role and how well they align with the position. Asking a candidate to tell you what attracts them to the job will allow you to compare their expectations to reality and see if there’s a match.
What to Look For: What attracts the candidate to the job should be in line with your vision for the job. If not, it’s likely the prospective hire will get frustrated or bored with the position and decide to move on in the future. For example, if you’re building a large writing team, you’d want each candidate to focus on a love of brainstorming, researching and writing content. If a candidate instead focuses on the single line in the job description about big-picture editorial planning, you might not have found the best fit for a writing position.
Interview Question #3: What was the best thing about your last job?
Why It Works: Answering this question requires candidates to assign value to an experience they had in their last job. What they choose can tell you a lot about who they are as a person and what kind of new job is going to make them happy. It will also allow you to assess whether or not this job is likely to have any of those attributes in common.
What to Look For: You’re not looking for candidates who loved their last job only because of the gym discount or unlimited beer on tap. You are looking for candidates who loved something about their last job that they can also love about the new job — similar tasks and goals, overlapping client or industry base, a comparable team dynamic, etc.
Interview Question #4: What was the worst thing about your former job?
Why It Works: While a version of this question is common in most interview settings, it’s especially important to ask when you’re hiring at scale because it gives you an opportunity to assess each candidate’s communication skills and level of self-awareness. Candidates will have the chance to trash their former employers or take the high road, and which option they choose will reveal a lot about how they will approach their work at your company.
What to Look For: Even if a candidate is coming from the worst job in the world, a prospective hire with poise and a positive attitude will be able to answer this question in a productive way and highlight either their understanding of complex problems within the industry or their ability to overcome challenges. Candidates without those skills will take the opportunity to throw their employer, coworkers or customers under the bus, and you’re better off knowing that before you hire them.
[Related: How to Ensure Hires Are Values-Compatible]
Interview Question #5: How would you solve this problem?
Why It Works: It’s not always realistic to thoroughly test a candidate’s technical skills or arrange for a paid trial project. But what you can do is use the last few minutes of an interview to see how a candidate approaches a common problem they might experience on the job. Whether they answer the question correctly or not, you’ll still gain insight into how they communicate and solve problems.
What to Look For: Whether you’re asking a highly technical engineer to solve a math equation or a healthcare administrative assistant to troubleshoot a complicated scheduling issue, you’re looking for a logical thought process, a positive attitude and, in some cases, a willingness to admit defeat or failure. Except in circumstances where absolute accuracy is important, the most critical thing you’ll learn from the candidate’s answer to this question is how they approach problems.
Listing a single open position can bring in a flock of candidates, and that formula is compounded when you have hundreds of openings at once. When you need to quickly and easily weed out undesirable candidates and identify quality candidates, you can count on these five sure-fire questions.
Are you experienced with hiring many different candidates at once? What would you add to this list?