Recruiter Report: Asking the Right Interview Questions

Posted by Ryan Jacobson

The current hiring environment requires swift action to secure top talent. Companies are streamlining their recruiting processes and expediting offers to ensure they don’t miss out on the right candidates. This accelerated timeline places added pressure on hiring managers and recruiters to conduct thorough interviews that accurately gauge a candidate’s fit in just a few interactions. In this edition of Recruiter Report, we’re answering the question, "What are the most valuable questions to ask during an interview?"

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While all managers and recruiters likely have their own set of preferred questions, I’m sharing my list of universally valuable questions drawn from my extensive career as a recruiter.

General Interview Questions:

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How would your current/past manager describe you and your work ethic? (For leadership positions, also ask “how would your current team describe you and your management style?)
This question serves as a window into the candidate’s interpersonal skills and work dynamics. It helps discern whether they thrive in collaborative settings or prefer independent work. Are they a collaborator who builds strong working relationships or do they excel in an individual contributor role? For managerial roles, asking how their team perceives them sheds light on their leadership style, ability to delegate effectively and the type of work environment they foster. This question will ultimately help you ensure the candidate’s work approach will complement your existing team and align with the role’s requirements.

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Here is a list of 10 tasks that need to be completed: [list]. Unfortunately, you know you can only get to three of them today. What do you do?
This question helps you understand both the candidate’s decision-making process and work prioritization skills. It also assesses their ability to handle stress and make informed choices under pressure, both critical aspects of problem-solving. Moreover, it will provide you insight into the candidate’s adaptability in overcoming challenges in the workplace.

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Are you interviewing anywhere else?
Unless a candidate is truly passive and has been proactively approached by your organization, this question serves as a valuable gauge of their approach to job searching and their motivation to make a career move. You can uncover their priorities, preferences and commitment to finding the right opportunity. If a candidate is currently unemployed and responds that they are not interviewing elsewhere, this could be a potential red flag, signaling lack of motivation or unrealistic job expectations.

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If you have an urgent problem to solve and your manager is unavailable, what steps do you take to resolve the issue and accomplish what needs to be done?
Responses to this question reveal a candidate’s ability to navigate challenges autonomously and their resourcefulness in seeking solutions and assistance when faced with obstacles. Particularly relevant in remote or hybrid work settings, it assesses their readiness to tackle time-sensitive tasks independently. By gauging the candidate’s approach to problem-solving in the absence of direct supervision, you can assess their level of initiative, ownership and adaptability. 

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If you were a color, what color would you be and why?
This is just one of many unconventional questions designed to assess a candidate’s ability to think on their feet and respond creatively and confidently. It also provides a glimpse into how seriously they take themselves and their reaction to unexpected situations. You may have your own favorite untraditional question. Their response to this specific one provides insight into their character traits, values and potential fit within your organizational culture.

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What qualities do you bring to this role?
This question encourages candidates to articulate the unique skills, experiences and attributes they believe are valuable to both the role in question and your organization. Their ability to effectively communicate these attributes and highlight relevant qualifications demonstrates their level of preparedness for the interview. Furthermore, you can gain insight into their approach to self-reflection and personal development.

Management-specific Interview Questions:

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What type of team environment do you prefer to lead?
When interviewing future managers, assessing their compatibility with the existing team culture is crucial for maintaining team morale and productivity. Their responses can also reveal their ability to integrate smoothly into your established workflows and team dynamics. This insight allows you to gauge if there will be a seamless transition free of disruptions or conflicts.

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Can you discuss the size of the teams you’ve previously led and the leadership styles you've employed?
This question provides you with a comprehensive understanding of a candidate’s ability to manage teams of varying sizes and dynamics, inclusive of diverse personalities and work styles. You can discover how they approach challenging situations and address performance issues within their teams. By learning about how they support struggling team members, whether through coaching or implementing performance plans, you gain a clearer picture of their leadership style and their capacity to foster growth and development within their team. 

Interview Reminders:

In any interview, the goal is to walk away with a clearer understanding of the candidate's fit for the role and organization. To achieve this, going beyond surface-level questions and engaging in meaningful dialogue is key. Here are some tips to help you navigate interviews effectively:

  • Approach the interview with a clear understanding of the information you seek. If you need a candidate to be more specific about their response or if you were looking for a different angle on a question, ask.
  • Make the interview conversational and don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions to delve deeper. Most candidates are able to clearly articulate high-level answers. Exploring their responses further by requesting examples or specifics will provide greater insight.
  • Balance traditional and unconventional questions to gain a well-rounded view of the candidate. While standard questions assess qualifications, unique ones can uncover creativity and cultural alignment, offering a holistic view of the candidate’s suitability for your open role and organization.
  • Expand beyond work-related inquiries. Ask about the candidate’s hobbies and interests outside of work to establish a more personal connection. This not only enhances engagement, but also provides a glimpse into their personality beyond professional accomplishments.

In today’s competitive landscape, posing thoughtful and purpose-driven interview questions from the onset is critical to securing the right talent for your organization. By approaching interviews with clarity, curiosity, and a blend of traditional and unconventional questions, you can quickly uncover whether the candidate possesses the qualities and attributes that truly matter for your role and organization.

Curious to see other hiring managers' perspectives on must-ask interview questions? Click below to view our LinkedIn poll.

For more recruiting best practices, view our past editions of Recruiter Report.

View our LinkedIn poll to learn more and share your thoughts.