The 3 Interview Questions You Should Ask to Instantly Gauge Fit

February 20, 2014

Interviewing is a difficult skill to meaningfully master, a core competency which distinguishes great recruiters from mediocre ones.

The problem is, like writing or social media or driving, everyone thinks they’re good at it, whether or not that’s true. That’s probably because everyone approaches interviewing pretty much the same way, using the same questions as everyone else.

So rather than have “standard” interview questions or candidate score cards (which are almost always still as subjective as any other flawed part of the recruitment process), change the game by rethinking the fundamentals of interviewing.

The point isn’t to obtain answers about stuff most recruiters only know secondhand (most of the technical screening consists of them scanning for the right keywords in a jumble of jargon that’s out of their element). It’s to pass the same test that, aphorism or not, pretty accurately determines who wins the Presidency, and, almost unilaterally, quality of hire: is this someone I want to have a beer with?  Because that’s really what culture fit is all about.

Every candidate who’s not just there out of courtesy (read: internal applicants) is a potential future colleague, and it’s interpersonal dynamics and the outcomes of those interactions that really define company culture and that all-important fit.

To that end, here are three questions that every interviewer should ask. These three talking points, in my experience, are all you need, because an interview really isn’t about asking questions. It’s about having a conversation. These should get those going with even the most tightlipped of candidates – and provide value to even the most mediocre recruiters.

1. What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your resume?

2. What’s the biggest misconception your coworkers have about you and why do they think that?

3. What has to happen during the course of the day to make it a good one at work?

The first question cuts through any previous preparation – most candidates are only prepared to talk about their resume or profile, so you’ll get honest answers and, from the best, the kind of tidbit that transforms a part of the process into a real person.

The second question is basically to gauge the candidate’s level of confidence and self-perception – and their answer should form the foundation for your professional reference checks, because the value of both, like an alibi, lies in both sides’ having matching stories.

The third tells you everything you need to know about whether or not the things that distinguish your opportunity from an identical job at your competitors – values, expectations and work style wrapped up into one seemingly simple question.

If the candidate’s answers don’t align with the position or organization, such as the desire for constant recognition when the hiring manager is actually hands off, or their aspiration to work across departments or functions when you’re really a heavily-siloed organization, then you’ve hit on the kind of thing that most conventional interviews don’t catch –the subtext that really tells the real story beyond the job-seeking surface.