Hiring a new employee isn't cheap — in fact, it may require an investment of up to “1.5x to 3x of salary” for a given role, according to Eric Koester. Because of this, it's prudent for organizations to source and hire candidates who will provide an immediate return on the company’s investment. Fortunately, using a meaty job description that qualifies position fit, alongside a storied, behavioral interview process, can help to achieve these measurable recruiting goals.
Jason Alba, entrepreneur, author and job search innovator/owner of the Job Search Program identifies strategic questions employers can ask to ensure a position fit, while also vetting candidates for culture alignment, problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills and more.
Question #1: In the job description, it says that you must have _______ skills. Can you give me an example of when you have used that skill, and how you think it will apply to this role?
Why It Works: “The first part of this question should be pretty standard,” begins Alba. “I hope the interviewer is asking questions that come from the job description and digging into specifics on characteristics that will make someone in that role successful. And, candidates should be prepared to answer this type of question with a good response.”
“The second part of this question, though, adds flavor to the interview,” Alba continues. “This is where you get an idea of how much the candidate has thought about this role. Will they step in on day one and master the role, or is this kind of a stretch for them? Either way can be okay, but their response should help you understand what they think the role is, and how their past experience will help them be successful in that role.”
Question #2: On your resume, you wrote that you [describe an accomplishment from their resume]. Can you tell us the story behind that and what your role was in a successful outcome? How does that apply to this job?
Melding the resume’s storytelling with the job description distinguishes this question. Challenging the candidate to pull through the finer detail threads (their how, why and metric-laced results) from the resume into the interview conversation brings the achievements to life.
Why It Works: “I saw a video where Elon Musk said (I'm paraphrasing) he can determine how much an engineer contributed to a specific solution by asking them the story about the problem and the solution,” explains Alba. “If the engineer can tell the story with a lot of details, and describe the complexity of the problem and the various solutions, and why the team chose the solution they did, then it's clear the engineer wasn't in the background.”
Expounds Alba, “I want to hear ‘war stories’ that show me you have been in situations where you have had to critically think and analyze and make hard decisions. Stories quantify your experience, and set you apart from other candidates.”
Question #3: What was your most favorite role from your resume, and why was it your favorite?
Alba is digging in to understand “what the candidate loved doing; e.g., creating product, serving customers, managing people, leading strategy, etc.”
Why It Works: Experts believe passion to be integral to hiring a hard-working, successful candidate. According to hiring expert Dan Finnigan, “Passion fosters progress. If you truly enjoy what you do, you naturally work harder at it and you improve. If you don't like it, you won't work as hard and you won't succeed as often — which, in turn, discourages you even more, so that you like it even less.”
In sum: when interviewing, Alba is looking for the “excitement through the candidate’s body language about something that really drives them, and that they think they are good at (or at least, enjoy a lot). I want to know what they think about ... what they are passionate about.”
Question #4: What do you think the biggest challenges will be in this role?
The responses this question elicits meaningfully tease out a candidate’s nuances, shedding light on their strengths and biases.
Why It Works: Explains Alba, “The response will help me understand how much the candidate understands about the role, how much experience they have had in similar roles and any biases. For example, if they respond that the biggest challenge will be working with other teams, and they have had the right experience before, I might assume they have been in toxic or difficult organizations, or perhaps working with other teams is not their strength.”
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Question #5: How would you address the aforementioned challenges?
Delving into more nebulous areas in this follow-up, Alba unearths a candidate's emotional intelligence. According to Psych Central, “For most people, emotional intelligence (EQ) is more important than one’s intelligence (IQ) in attaining success in their lives and careers.”
Why It Works: “This follow-up question helps me understand their approach: either they have done things like this before (a well-prepared candidate should have a good response with stories/examples) or they might think quick on their feet with a hypothetical and logical course of action,” emphasizes Alba. “I am looking for their thought process as well as their EQ to get an idea of potential cultural fit.”
Question #6: What is the most important strength you are bringing to this role? Can you give us some examples of using that strength in a similar role?
Alba’s final question drives home whether a candidate has studied in the job description in depth and thoughtfully planned their potential conversation points ahead of the interview.
Why It Works: “This speaks to the ‘what is your greatest strength’ question, but again, I want to focus the conversation on this particular role,” says Alba. “I have interviewed people who have barely read the job description and it's a waste of time. I want to know that you have read it, thought critically about it and hopefully lost sleep over it!”