For July’s “Must-Ask Interview Questions,” I sought out Jennifer Spencer, Owner/Recruiter at The Spencer Group, Inc., in Kansas City, MO. Her favorite questions traversed a variety of topics and ferreted out crucial insights related to candidates’ passions and strengths; culture fit, abilities to align with management style; and much more.
Read on to discover six questions that Spencer said yield the best results as well as her explanations of why these questions are valuable to HR and recruiting professionals.
1. What about this job interests you most, and why?
Cultivating trust helps candidates relax and open up, so Spencer begins the interview with positive questions that build a conversation foundation. She shows how upbeat questioning can deliver serious results, including unearthing potential problem areas.
Why It Works: “Great question to find out what the candidate is passionate about and most likely what their strengths are,” explains Spencer. “Then, you can learn what will motivate them in this particular position. It also allows you to dig into possible problem areas that need to be talked through,” she concludes.
2. What has been your favorite job so far and why?
This question helps root out culture fit via a candidate’s personality and motivators, as well as shines a spotlight on candidate strengths, Spencer says.
Why It Works: “Another great question,” explains Spencer, “to gain insight into more about their personality, what motivates them as an employee and what they excel at. You will gain more insight into whether this job/company will be a good fit from a skills and cultural standpoint.”
3. Tell me about your favorite boss/supervisor, and why did you like him/her so much?
Most candidates have worked for at least a couple of bosses and can articulate their favorite boss’s personality and leadership attributes. As such, Spencer suggests this question.
Why It Works: “This is a great question that will tell you about the kind of management style they thrive under.” For example, queries Spencer, “Can they handle a hands-off management approach, or do they need more processes and procedures? Are they more entrepreneurial but the manager on this job tends to lean more towards a micro-management style?”
Extracting this information will speed up the fit/no-fit determination, so as “not to waste anyone’s time,” says Spencer.
4. What has been your least favorite part of your last 2-3 jobs and why?
“Most candidates know not to talk ill of their current employer, but everyone knows if a candidate is interviewing, something isn’t keeping them happy and fulfilled,” Spencer contends. The following personality-revealing question can identify patterns around the ‘why’ behind a candidate’s departures and pinpoint potentially chronic issues.
Why it works: In addition to learning why the candidate may be looking, this question may reveal a “candidate that is never happy, and when the going gets tough they take off, thinking the problem is with the company or management or fellow employees when maybe the problem is with the candidate... No one wants to hire or work with a Debbie Downer or Negative Nellie,” concludes Spencer.
5. Tell me about a time(s) when you encountered a problem at work, such as a difficult situation or client. How did you overcome it, and what was the outcome?
Drilling down with a multi-layered behavioral interview question, Spencer compels the candidate to shine a light on difficulties they have faced and to walk through the process of resolution.
Why It Works: “I would ask specifically about a client problem if the job deals with clients. Ask about a few different scenarios that were hard for them. This is a great way to learn about their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills,” shares Spencer. “You want to hire a problem solver who thinks about how to best solve the issue before running to their manager every time they have a problem in hopes they don’t have to deal with it. That’s just being lazy, and no one wants to work with lazy people... It will also give you more insight into how they think, how they work with others. Can they collaborate with coworkers to solve an issue? How do they handle stress?”
6. If I was to grab a coffee with your current boss, what would they say about you? What would your fellow peers say about you? Your best friend?
This question sparks the thought engine on multiple different cylinders. Listening for recurring responses or simply noting unique answers can reveal “top character traits,” Spencer says.
Why It Works: “No one asks what their best friend would say about them,” says Spencer. “Did they say the same qualities from multiple sources? Now you know what makes them unique! This will throw them a little, and you will learn a ton about them. After all, you are hiring a unique individual, not just an employee.”