Thoughtful interview questions connect the interviewer with the job candidate in a way that surface-level questions cannot. They also extract candidate insights that otherwise may lie dormant until after a hiring decision has been made. This can cause disruptions in the workplace, and possibly a failed hiring decision, later on.
As such, determining a candidate’s ‘why;’ their career goals and ambitions; and the opportunities they have spurned, all can provide insights relevant to a successful win-win interview and job offer scenario.
Jerry Albright, Recruiter/Owner, Professional Search Group, Inc., covers these areas in his top-four must-ask interview questions, as follows:
1. What has happened in your world recently that made you decide it's time for a change?
Most careerists don’t suddenly one day, out of the blue, decide to seek out their next position. Instead, something usually spurs them on to the rigorous process of job search. If that something cannot be articulated, or if, in fact, there appears to be no real reason why the candidate is engaging in this interview conversation, then a red flag pops up for the interviewer.
Why It Works: “For me,” asserts Albright, “this is quite possibly the most important question of all. This lets me know the ‘why’ behind their move. The last thing we as recruiters want to do is spend our time with candidates who really are not interested in a change. I've found that unless there is a specific reason to move (looked over for promotion, new boss, pay cuts, outsourcing, projects being shelved, etc.) then the chance for success is less than promising.”
2. Are you where you thought you would be in your career at the moment?
A candidate’s ability to relax and just ‘go with it’ can have its advantages in the workplace, including showing adaptability in an ever-changing economy. However, being too accepting of ‘what is’ and not carving out a more specific vision of their future career goals may work against them in the interview process.
Why It Works: Says, Albright, “This question lets me know if they're career-oriented, or just going with the flow. Nothing wrong with not having a burning desire for each next move up the ladder, but it's more difficult to know when you've found the right move for your candidate. Those with specific career goals are more likely to be receptive when a role comes along offering detailed responsibilities, growth, etc.”
3. Tell me about the last offer you turned down.
While behavioral interview questions are meaningful in that they show specific challenge and results stories form a candidate’s past work situations, delving beyond the bottom line can offer unique intel on a candidate’s motivations. “Autopsying” a candidate’s recent interview turn-down can quickly crystallize their needs and wants, and (particularly if the hiring decision maker is determined to make an offer), it can unearth what would make the difference between a candidate saying, ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
Why It Works: “Now we have a chance to look into a real live situation. Theoretical ‘what ifs’ can only go so far,” explains Albright. “When a candidate has recently turned an offer down we can do a deep dive into what was missing, what influenced the turndown, what would have made a difference. Being able to do an ‘autopsy’ on a recent offer gives me some of the best insight possible.”
4. What would a position need to look like in order for you to consider a lateral salary move?
Fulfilling a candidate’s needs often extends beyond compensation increases and voluminous benefits packages and delves into other professional desires. Albright gets to the heart of a candidate’s professional goals in this question.
Why It Works: “Insight here helps you find a position your candidate DESIRES, vs. what they ‘will do for a big raise,’ etc. Not that our goal is to limit salary growth,” clarifies Albrights, “as we always hope to move them ahead financially as well.”
“Yes, many states/laws are now making specific salary discussions a thing of the past. I'm not suggesting you need to know what they are paid today. Just suggesting that once you're talking about the role the candidate would take—in lieu of a salary increase—you're most likely heading in the right direction,” Albright concludes.