The Best Questions a Candidate Can Ask You in a Job Interview
December 30, 2015
Often, one of the most telling moments in a job interview is the end, when the tables are turned. Generally, that’s the time where candidates get to ask you questions, and you gain valuable insight into how prepared they are and where their priorities lie.
What are the best questions a candidate can ask you? What should you look for?
Obviously, it varies somewhat from role to role, but we looked to Quora for some good rules of thumb to follow. What we found were five great examples of questions a candidate would ask you during an interview:
1. Why did you join this company, and what keeps you here?
The goal of any interview shouldn’t be to just find someone who has the right qualifications. While obviously that matters, you should also be looking for someone who is going to love working at your company and wants to build a career there.
This question gives the candidate a good insight into what your company values. Perhaps it matches what they value, perhaps not; but it is great for both parties to get that information out upfront.
The best way to answer it: Be honest – talk about what keeps you there. Maybe it is the people. Maybe it is because you believe in the company’s mission. Or because there’s plenty of room at the company for advancement.
Something to avoid though is focusing only on a great party your company had or a fancy perk. Sure, those things might make for a good Instagram photo, but chances are it isn’t something that motivates you every day. Instead, talk about what really gets you excited to come to work each morning.
2. What does success look like in this position?
What makes this question so strong is it shows the candidate is putting in due diligence to finding the right position for them. Again, the goal of any hiring process is to find a great fit for both sides, and this question shows that person is interested in not just securing a job at your company, but thriving there.
The best way to answer it: Here’s where you have to be coordinated with your hiring manager. The more accurate of a picture you can paint, the better, as you really want to give the candidate as much insight as possible.
Sometimes, for startups or for new roles, there is no clear path for success. Sometimes, the new hire is going to have to figure that out along the way. That’s okay – some candidates will be drawn to that, some won’t.
3. A relevant question about a challenge your company is going through
You want someone who has some researched the challenges your company has faced and has begun to think how they can solve them. For example, if you are a startup in a crowded market, perhaps a question about how you plan to overcome it. Best case scenario – they even have their own ideas, which show they’ve put some real thought into the job.
The best way to answer it: Obviously, you are not going to share every detail of your company’s strategy to someone who doesn’t even work for your company yet, and there’s really no need to. A better solution is to turn the question around and ask them what they think needs to happen, which will give you further insight to their thought process.
4. A question that shows the interviewee has been actively listening to you
It is a good thing when a candidate comes in with a list of questions about the position, as it shows they did some real research and have put real thought into joining your company. That said, it’s also nice if they throw in a question or two that shows they’ve been truly listening to the conversation, as opposed to just reciting questions from memory.
The best way to answer it: Conversationally. Here, the question and the answer aren’t as important as the fact the candidate has the ability to listen to what someone else said (a shockingly rare skill).
5. The last few people who’ve held this position – where are they now?
This is a great question for the candidate to ask because it reveals where the job leads. Our research shows the biggest motivator in the talent market is career development, so it makes good sense why they’d ask it, as they want to build a career at your company. Hopefully, for your sake, the answer is that the last few people are off to bigger-and-better things.
The best way to answer it: Obviously, you have to answer it honestly. Truth is, if the answer is something you are embarrassed about, you should seriously reconsider the way you are approaching the job.
Quick personal story. A few years ago, I was a reporter for a small newspaper in my home state of Connecticut. A few months into the job, the head editor at the paper offered me the most high-profile reporting job at the newspaper, which came with a modest increase in pay (I wasn’t making much money, so that was enticing).
Before I took the job, I asked some of my longer-tenured colleagues what they knew about the position I was offered. They told me the last seven people who took it all got fired within two years.
Not only did I not take the job, I switched companies completely to another news outlet about a month later. Bottom line, if you are not putting your people in a position to succeed or giving them a clear path for advancement, you are going to lose them, real quick.
Really, the questions at the end of the interview should convey two things: the candidate has done some actual research into your company and they’re taking their job search seriously. After all, a new job is big decision for anyone, and if you have someone who doesn’t appear overly interested in learning more about your company, it’s reasonable to question their commitment to the new job.
Instead, interviews are best if they are two-way conversations, where both sides determine get a good sense of each other. Hopefully, it’s a match, but if it isn’t, you’ve certainty saved yourself a lot of effort.
* image by Henry
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