You’ve probably heard about “brain teasers” and why hiring managers use questions in an interview like, “How many tennis balls does it take to fill a school bus?” Or, “How long would it take to get to the moon in a hot air balloon?”
But how much do these questions truly reveal about your candidates? Sure, you may get some creative answers, but you may also miss out on hiring someone who’s a great fit for the job.
While there are certain prompts you may need to start with, there is only so much you can learn from asking “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Often times interviewers have been asked common questions many times and have a portfolio of answers to recite.
So what should you ask to strike a balance between getting creative and understanding who your potential employee really is? Here are a few suggestions:
- What’s one big decision you’ve had to make recently? How did you come to the decision?
This is a great one to figure out how a potential candidate handles decision-making. Asking how they approached the decision will give some insight into how they tackle big thinking: do they prefer to flesh ideas out on their own or work with other people? Do they have a specific evaluation or go with a gut feeling?
- Tell me about a time you set a difficult goal for yourself. How did you work to achieve it?
This question will help you evaluate whether they’ll be able to handle the goals and priorities that are associated with the job and company, and on what scale. A great answer will reflect someone who is results-oriented and is willing to put effort into achieving personal and organizational goals.
- What is your most significant career accomplishment?
The answer given for this one is very telling on whether or not to hire a candidate. It should tell you about how they define success, how confident they are in the field and what their experience has been as it relates to what you’re looking for in a potential employee.
- Tell me about your past work environments. Which have you enjoyed and why?
Getting an idea for how the candidate operates on a team will be valuable in deciding if he or she is right for your team and it’s a good cultural fit. While asking about which environments they have enjoyed should open the door for positive comments, it will be a telling sign if they speak first, or only, about negative experiences.
- How do you define hard work?
This will provide insight into how the candidate views hard work as it relates to the rest of the working world. While some candidates may have experience in a fast-paced environment, they may have a negative opinion about it. Others may be looking for a job that gives them more responsibility and more ownership. Mostly, you should be able to gauge how hard they are willing to work for your company.
- Tell me about a time you failed.
This is a tough one for many candidates to answer, since most are prepared to talk about a “weakness” but not necessarily a time they failed. There is often a negative connotation around failure, but great candidates know that we all make mistakes and struggle sometimes, and what’s important is how we learn from those failures and apply this new knowledge moving forward.
- Who is your role model, and why?
Pointing to a specific person is an interesting test, since you’ll understand what sort of values and practices the candidates aspires to embody. They should be able to articulate why they look up to this person, and when they do you’ll learn what skills or traits they are working to (or would like to) develop and what traits they respect: a telling sign for the type of person you want on your team.
- What is something you’d be content doing every single day for the rest of your career?
This is one most candidates don’t get in an interview, and answers can prove very insightful. While you may have a specific need for the job at hand or are looking for a particular skill, it’s important to hire someone who will be happy doing the job they’re hired for. You ideally want to hire someone who is in it for the long haul, and if elements of this job and company seem appealing for a candidate, he or she is more likely to stay.
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