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The Top 5 Candidate Questions

Times of asking candidates for strengths and weaknesses at a job interview are over. Seriously, people can tell you ANYTHING.
Even if they have no idea, they will look up standardized questions online and give you exactly what you want to hear when you ask them: generic responses.

Why you don’t want these answers:
When interviewing potential hires, it is already a pressured situation and quite tricky to find out as much as you can within a relatively short meet and greet situation.
You don’t want to waste your and other people’s time by getting answers you want to hear to confirm the potential, which in the end may turn out to be the wrong choice and cost you more money to replace and find the right person in the first place.

You need to get to the bottom of what your candidate is envisioning, what’s important to them and what can they contribute without asking age-old questions such as, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “Why should we pick you?”.

2021 is a year of change by establishing new work environments caused by a wake-up call to traditional organizational operations that require us to declutter old strategies and leadership styles.

These new approaches incorporate collaborative leading, emotional intelligence, and relying on people doing their jobs out of intrinsic motivation.
Hiring for these new work environments requires updated ways of dealing and connecting with people.

Here are the Top 5 questions I recommend when interviewing candidates to gain an insight into what drives them, what they need, and what they want to contribute to the overall organizational success:


1. What have you enjoyed most in your previous position?

This question gives you a more accurate picture of what the candidate’s strengths are than directly asking for them.
You will find out what they love to do and will appreciate in their future position.
In a conversational format, you might be able to learn about what people are more avoidant of or feeling a lack of competencies about, or where there is undiscovered potential as well – if you lead the conversation to it.


2. What is one thing that excites you most when thinking of this position?

Did your candidate prepare for the interview with thoughts on the job description and about what your company does?
This question will be a good indicator of how engaged and motivated the candidate is to be a part of your team, or if it is just another job.


3. What is a difference you wish to make in a new work environment?

What are possible contributions and the motivation behind them to apply for this job?
What does the candidate bring to the table to be the exception?
This is a great way to avoid the question “Why should we hire you?” to bypass a generic answer, such as, “because I am a great team-player”.
You will be able to see if the candidate has a big picture in their mind that aligns with your values and your vision.


4. If you could wish for anything, how would you describe the perfect leader for you?

This question is crucial for three reasons:
For one, it will reveal what the candidate counts on when being led and if there is any team-spirit and learnability. It will tell you what the person may expect support with.
Second, you may hear more about untapped potential and learn about the envisioned leadership style.
And third, the answer to this question gives you clues on how to deal with your candidate in conflict situations if becoming part of your team.


5. What are your expectations of your (new) work environment?

What makes your candidate feel comfortable, hence productive, and a valuable team-member if you decide to welcome them into your team?
Also, this question could give you some hints about preferred working styles, flexibilities, social or remote environment preferences, and much more.
Since you show empathy by asking this question your candidate will feel appreciated and invited to open up about their thoughts, feeling psychologically safe to express what they are looking for.


These five questions can be your basic scaffold for a first candidate interview if you know how to apply them and carry them into a conversation. You can reveal how applicants thrive and what motivates them, learn about their work ethic, and where they may need supportive leadership.

Between the lines you will get a lot about personal values, behaviours, and expectations, to see if they resonate with the core values of your organization and what you are looking for in the first round of interviews.

By asking these questions instead of our old-fashioned “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” or “Why do you want to work here?” you can avoid standardized interview questions that evoke generalized responses.
I think we can agree upon this point:
You don’t want to hear what candidates think you want to hear. 😉


>> If you want (or rather, NEED) to know how to engage candidates with the right thought-provoking questions and how to read the answers I am happy to support your hiring process with my expertise.


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