What Interview Question is Essential for Understanding a Candidate?

    What's one question you always include in an interview, and what does it reveal about the candidate?

    Unveiling the psyche and potential of job candidates is an art mastered by the sharpest hiring professionals. From Recruiters to General Managers, we've gathered six key questions they always ask during interviews. These inquiries range from describing a challenging project to encouraging candidates to ask their own questions, revealing deep insights into the interviewees' capabilities and fit.

    • Describe a Challenging Project
    • Assess Cultural Fit
    • Demonstrate Company Knowledge
    • Reveal a Surprising Fact
    • Handle Social Media Crises
    • Encourage Candidate Questions

    Describe a Challenging Project

    Can you describe a challenging project or situation you've faced in your previous role, how you approached it, and what you learned from it? This question allows the candidate to showcase problem-solving skills, their approach to challenges, their ability to handle adversity, and their willingness to learn and grow from experiences. It gives valuable insights into their thought process, decision-making abilities, and how they handle difficulties in a professional environment.

    Vaishnavi GRecruiter, Appsmith

    Assess Cultural Fit

    “Why do you think you might be a fit for our team?”

    This question offers valuable insights into the candidate's understanding of our company's values and culture, and their ability to align their skills and experiences with the needs of our organization.

    Gricel ChaconHR Manager, BarBurrito

    Demonstrate Company Knowledge

    The question I always include in an interview is, "Tell me what you know about _____________ (the organization, company, firm, etc.), and why do you want to work here?" It tells me whether they have done their homework, and ideally, thought about why they want to work here doing the work that we do. I listen for what their answer says. Did they read the website/job description and pull something from there, or did they actually do their homework to see the work we are immediately involved in, and how they can impact that work?

    Lindsay ZytaHR Manager, Canada's Ocean Supercluster

    Reveal a Surprising Fact

    Over the course of my 20-plus years of recruiting in the advertising/marketing niche, I have screened and profiled, I'm guessing, thousands of candidates. While I get most of my candidates through my extensive network, I also reach out to some directly through my social media efforts.

    The one question I recently found that is very telling is, "I don't like being surprised. Tell me something about you that may surprise me. I'd rather find out now, rather than when we're in the throes of negotiating a potential offer."

    The answers I have received from this rather simple question often are the candidates' biggest weakness. As we all know, nobody likes to admit areas where they are inefficient or may need more development. They believe by sharing a downfall could result in them being “passed over.” Everyone likes to pad their weaknesses into actual strengths like, “I work too many hours,” or “I tend to write and rewrite proposals until the deadline.”

    By forming the question in terms of looking for a surprise rather than a weakness, I have found most open up without guilt or being ashamed.

    Give it a try next time you're vetting someone; I'm willing to bet that you will get the information you were looking for, rather than the fluff most of us give when we're asked about downfalls.

    Jamie McCann
    Jamie McCannExecutive Recruiter, Cohen Partners

    Handle Social Media Crises

    When I'm interviewing someone for a Social Media Specialist job, there's one question I always like to ask:

    "Tell me about a time you turned a bad situation on social media into a good one."

    I love this question because it gives me a peek into how the person handles tricky situations. Social media can be unpredictable, and sometimes things go wrong. How they've dealt with this in the past can show me how they might handle such situations in the future.

    Plus, their answer can also show me how good they are at solving problems. Changing a negative into a positive isn't easy. It requires quick thinking and creativity.

    Lastly, their answer can also tell me how they talk to and treat people. Dealing with upset customers or followers on social media requires respect and understanding.

    So, with just one question, I can learn a lot about the person I'm talking to.

    Mahesh Tyagi
    Mahesh TyagiSMM Head, Gleexa

    Encourage Candidate Questions

    “Do you have any questions?”

    I always make it a point to welcome candidates to ask anything they would like at the end of my interviews, since I believe the most effective interviews are conducted as two-way conversations rather than simply having the interviewees answer me. Asking potential hires if they have any questions reveals a lot about their level of interest in the position. It's always refreshing to interview a qualified professional who expresses a genuine curiosity about the role and is eager to know more about the people they'll be working with or the company they'll be working for. While I often get queries about salary and benefits, and am glad to answer them, candidates with specific questions related more to actually working at the company stand out from the rest. I've had competent professionals research the company beforehand and ask about its latest projects. Others express concern about the workplace culture or employee turnover. Such intelligent queries about things that aren't already in the job description indicate a seriousness to get hired and win you points in interviews.

    Ben Lamarche
    Ben LamarcheGeneral Manager, Lock Search Group