Meaningful interview questions, like a gourmet birthday cake, are layered with flavorful sub-questions and ingredients that combine to provide a richer outcome. In other words, delving into the candidate’s mindset, energy level, achievements history, etc. and then connecting the dots as to how the candidate specifically will help solve the company’s problems is imperative for a satisfying outcome, for both the recruiter and the candidate.
Additionally, while it is natural to focus on questions that the recruiter will ask the candidate, meaningful interviews start well before the candidate even enters the conversation.
As such, Dina Harding, Executive + Technical Recruiter and Search Firm Owner at Maven Quest® begins the interview process by asking the hiring manager one critical question:
1. What does the person hired need to do in terms of targeted objectives and desired results in order to be considered successful and receive a top-rated performance evaluation?
By asking this, Harding uncovers detailed and crucial information that “directs the path towards efficiency in obtaining desired [interview] results.”
This precise, measurable method of unearthing what the hiring manager wants guides Harding’s development of “relevant and customized interviewing questions” which she then asks the job candidate.
In addition to the tailored questions emanating from the above exchange, Harding explains that “there are other more generalized questions which will help in unearthing more basic, but important, information about a candidate and their individual approach to how they perform their work, and how they work with others.”
Some of those questions, asked directly of the candidate, follow.
2. Briefly share what you have done that is most comparable to what we’ve told you about the position.
This question reveals the thought-work the candidate has undergone to connect the dots between their past experience and achievements and how they align with solving the hiring company’s needs.
“Additionally,” says Harding, “it can reveal the nature of a person’s resourcefulness and their ability to react quickly under pressure as they work with only the job overview that they were just briefly given, but are required to bring forth immediate matching comparisons.”
3. Why are you looking to make a change at this time?
Explains Harding, “I recommend [this question be asked] after enabling the candidate to warm up to talking openly with the interviewer versus jumping right into it as the very first question (which can lead to more defensive, less fluid candidate responses).”
“The interviewer first sharing the position overview breaks the early interview tension, promoting a more open-sharing interview style from the beginning,” adds Harding.
4. Tell me about your relevant prior experience.
The gist of this exploration is to “thoroughly cover and probe further into each position held” versus walking chronologically through the experience history, asserts Harding. “In fact,” she continues, moving through positions out of order can best draw out and highlight any exaggerations or false claims on a resume since lying is often planned, rehearsed and remembered in sequential order. The truth, however, can be more easily explained since it is remembered just as it happened.”
Moreover, this exploration of relevant prior experiences helps the recruiter assess and “almost chart a pattern” that would indicate a potential continuation of such growth, as well as performance under similar future circumstances.
“In other words, past performance is a good indicator of future performance,” says Harding. “In this questioning, it is also important to ask for explanations for any gaps in work history, or work changes which do not demonstrate a steady progression of growth.”
5. Choose three adjectives that best describe your work ethic, and provide a detailed example of your prior work results to match each adjective based on either employer recognition, a performance review or feedback you received.
This straightforward question gives insight into a candidate’s self-perception.
"It allows for validation of the work achievement examples provided with the references later on and if their adjective choices match the candidate’s; it sets the expectations in the candidate’s mind for how the interview will be conducted (i.e.; with multi-level, performance-based questions requiring examples); and it provides the first indications [of whether] the candidate listens well to multi-step instructions,” says Harding.
6. On a scale of 1-10, rate your overall energy towards your work, and elaborate on how your energy changes throughout the day and when transitioning through multiple projects, and how you believe it affects your overall work performance.
“Research shows higher self-reported energy levels are associated with better work performance. Since there aren’t really any mainstream employment tests to measure our energy at present, the best way to gauge one’s energy is to have a candidate rate themselves,” Harding explains.
This energy self-rating traverses several aspects: mental, physical and emotional.
“High-performance research studies show that the lower people rate themselves in their own energy, the lower their overall performance is, as well,” reports Harding. “In fact, people’s lower energy self-ratings directly correlate with important on-the-job factors, such as having a lower degree of influence on others, lower enthusiasm for taking on challenges and lower confidence in facing adversity.”
Moreover, Harding says that candidates self-reporting lower energy also rate higher in experiencing sluggishness, mental fog, negativity and more. Conversely, those who self-rate as high-energy describe a more positive mindset and cheerful attitude, increased focus and mental clarity.
Creativity, assertiveness and higher-education achievements also are linked to higher energy.
The seemingly simple self-rating question, combined with secondary layering questions (with examples), delivers “significant insights on how a candidate’s energy could affect their work performance,” concludes Harding.