4 Nitty-Gritty Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

This month, Sandra B. McCartt, President-Executive Recruiter, Professional Search, Inc., International, guides us through her nitty-gritty interview questions.

Getting to know what makes a candidate tick on a daily basis, according to McCartt, underpins the value of these queries. Additionally, through this deeper probing, a recruiter can clarify the essence of a candidate; i.e., whether they have attributes of a long-term employee.

1. How do you feel about dress codes?  Have you ever worked any place with a fairly strict dress code that required you to manage people who did not like a dress code and needed to be constantly reminded or disciplined because they did not agree with it?

Why it works: “If a candidate is really against dress codes, find out now,” encourages McCartt.

“It may be part of their job to supervise a dress code,” she continues. “Ask for examples of how they handled those who fussed about it in the past. Did they ever have to terminate an employee who was a repeat offender?  If they themselves disagree with dress codes, you will know it by the way they answer,” McCartt concludes.

The next question serves to pinpoint a realistic starting date based on a number of factors, including a candidate’s commitments to their current company and financial remunerations that the candidate is awaiting before quitting their current role.

[Related: Must-Ask Interview Questions for Hiring Healthcare Professionals]

2.  If you are offered this position, how soon would you be available to start? Do you have any commission or bonus coming in the future that might require you to stay in your current position longer than a normal notice period?  What do you believe your current employer would feel is an appropriate notice so as not to burn a bridge?

Why it works: “Many times, candidates come back after an initial offer asking for additional compensation to offset the loss of a bonus earned or commissions earned but not paid,” advises McCartt. “Better to know that before an offer is made and if the candidate has considered what they leave on the table.”

Resignation notice may range anywhere from zero to 30+ days. While traditional notice may be two weeks, “in the case of financial employees, it could be 30 days through a monthly financial cycle. Or, it could be a policy that, when an employee gives notice, they are relieved of all duties that day,” explains McCartt.

Further, the question should address the time to make a move if geographical relocation is involved.

“Knowing approximately how long it will take for this candidate to start work is always a consideration based on the level of the position,” says McCartt. “Everybody is going to want to know when a new employee is going to start. There are many a slip between the cup and lip. If the start date is too far out in the future, the risk of losing the hire increases exponentially,” warns McCartt.

“Each case is different. Just know what it is and why,” McCartt concludes.

The next question homes in on a challenging topic: a candidate’s past experience accepting a role that they later regretted, and how they maneuvered within this scenario. This multifaceted question can serve to uncover, among other things, a candidate’s motives for interviewing with you.

[Related: Fun & Engaging New Hire Onboarding Ideas]

3.  Have you ever accepted a position and realized within a few months that you made a wrong move?  What could you have asked or researched that might have prevented that situation? How did you handle that situation?

Why it works: “Many candidates have realized at some time in the past, for many reasons, that they made a bad move,” says McCartt. “Did they learn anything from that mistake? Did they take a position they knew might not be long-term because they needed a job?”

The aforementioned are lead-ins to asking, “What do you know about our company, and why do you think this would be a good career move for you?”

A ‘deer-in-the headlights’ look and a vague response indicate a lack of real research or critical thinking about the company with whom they are interviewing. In this instance, suggests McCartt, “It may be best to move on to a candidate who puts more thought into a career move.”

4.  How do you handle a situation where a political discussion or a discussion of some current event comes up at work, and you find yourself in total disagreement with another employee?  While we always try to keep politics and polarizing events out of the workplace, we are people, and we have opinions that can spill over in passing comments or over lunch or in the breakroom.  How would that situation affect your ability to supervise or work with someone with whom you had a fundamental disagreement?

Why it works:  Says McCartt, “If a candidate is adamant that they keep their opinions about polarizing events to themselves and feel that others should also do so, the possibility of personal disagreements is less likely to affect their ability to engage with or supervise people who come from different cultural, philosophical or political backgrounds.”

McCartt further explains, “As a supervisor, how this candidate might handle a situation where employees have these kinds of disagreements might be reflected by their own attitude and example of keeping ‘hot button issues out of the workplace.’”

Learn More:

How to Conduct Better Interviews