3 Important Questions to Ask Interviewees

by Jobbatical June 30, 2016


“I’d rather walk the plank…”

You’re the captain of a pirate ship, and your crew gets to vote on how the gold is divided up. If fewer than half of the pirates agree with you, you die. How do you recommend apportioning the gold in such a way that you get a good share of the booty, but still survive?

This is an actual interview question Google used to ask engineering manager applicants during the recruiting process. While the brainteaser may demonstrate creative thinking, Google found, to its chagrin, that the interview question had zero correlation to how the candidate performed on the job. “Brainteasers are a complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart,” said Google’s senior VP of operations.

Stay focused on what matters most


There are more direct ways to determine if someone is a good fit for both your company and the open position.

Ask the right interview questions, and you help reduce the possibility of hiring the wrong people. Hiring mistakes not only waste time, they’re very expensive: a bad choice could cost up to $200,000 in productivity, according to a Career Builder survey.

3 interview questions that make the difference

  1. What’s your goal in our company?This question is both direct and subtle: while you do want to know what interests the candidate about your business, you’re also listening to see how the applicant frames the answer: do they respond with “we” or “I”? Candidates who are more focused on how the company can help them than on what they can do for the business are more likely to have a case of “I” strain. When you hear a “we,” you know the applicant is already thinking like a member of your team.
  2. Elaborate a bit about your last job. Again, you’re listening on two levels here: for the actual content about their previous role, and more importantly, for context. Are they casting their former boss or coworkers in a negative light? Candidates who badmouth others or exhibit a victim mentality are a red flag.
  3. What aspect of our business do you want to know more about?Candidates who ask salient questions about the business and are unafraid to voice their curiosity have “the right stuff.” Candidates who immediately ask about salary or start laying out benefits demands may be slightly less dedicated to your mission.

Be responsive to interviewees


Smart recruiting cuts both ways.

Liz Ryan, founder of Human Workplace and a Forbes HR columnist, reminds recruiters and company founders to reach out to candidates you elect not to hire so they aren’t left dangling — especially if you’ve met with them multiple times and expressed strong interest in working together. If a candidate has responded well to tough interview questions, go the distance and let them know the outcome of your hiring decision — because you may want them later.

Ryan shares the example of a candidate who interviewed three times with a company and felt positive he was going to get a job offer, only to have them go silent. He continued to interview elsewhere. Six weeks later the same hiring manager called with another opportunity, and apologized for not following through regarding the earlier opening. The potential hire took the new position, and remains a stellar employee today.


Originally published at jobbatical.com on June 30, 2016.

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