The Five Questions Every Company Should Ask During Interviews

The best candidates have qualifications that are more than skill-deep. It’s difficult to discover these qualities during the interview process. But seeing past first impressions is crucial to hiring the right people-that is, people who have not only the skills, knowledge, and experience to do the job, but also the abstract qualities that will enable them to succeed in the organization’s culture.


Here are the five questions every interviewee should be asked and why:


“What are three negative personal qualities that someone close to you would say you possess?”


This question reveals a lot about a candidate’s self-awareness. Organizations that value transparency often seek candidates who not only understand what their true negatives are but are also willing to admit them. Don’t allow answers such as “I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m a workaholic” or other responses that are actually positives disguised as negatives. When candidates offer answers along those lines, ask them to try again. If they’re stuck and can’t come up three negatives on their own, have them “phone a friend” – a partner or parent is usually a helpful source of information about someone’s negative qualities!


“What is ¾ plus ½?”


This question elicits some of the best responses. It isn’t designed to test math skills (in fact, it’s fine to let the candidates use calculators or search online for the answer) but to offer insight into how candidates handle an unexpected question or situation. At most companies, the days are rarely predictable, and its useful to see how candidates respond to curveballs. Do they panic? Blurt out a lot of wrong answers?  Do they freeze and get stuck? Do they give up? Organizations need to know that the people they hire are resourceful, capable of thinking outside of the box and quick on their feet.


“On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how would you rate how you fulfill your role? And if you’re not at 10, what prevents you from having that score?”


This question, too, highlights a candidate’s self-awareness. It also leads to discussions about personal growth and ambition. There’s nothing wrong with humble confidence, but when candidates don’t rate themselves as 10s, it’s good to know why-and to understand how those individuals plan to improve themselves.


“Complete this sentence: ‘Most people think I meet are _____.’”


An organization that values caring and teamwork need to understand how a potential team member views others. The only answer to this prompt that should be off limits is “interesting,” because it doesn’t reveal any useful details and might actually be a euphemism for something negative. That answer is too open to interpretation and too vague to shed light on how a candidate thinks about and values other people.

“What’s the first name of someone with whom you work very closely?”


A candidate’s ability to answer this question quickly (as well as follow-up questions about the colleague) can indicate that he or she is good at building relationships at work. The ability to well with others goes hand in hand with being committed to an organization’s community. Companies want to hire people who will take ownership not only of the products they create and offer but also of the environment and culture in which they work.


Interviewing is a crucial component of the hiring process that can give recruiters and hiring managers a peek beneath the resume and application form on the surface. Many people have the general skills and qualifications that a company seeks, but only a few will be the right fit with that organization and its culture. When a company develops and uses interview questions that shed light on how the candidate’s values align with the organization’s values, there’s much higher likelihood that a “swipe right” will turn into a successful relationship!

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