6 Candidate Questions You Should Be Ready to Answer

February 18, 2016

As part of his responsibilities running business intelligence departments for organizations like Kaiser, Sybase, Oracle and Informix as well as consulting to Fortune 500 companies, Sam Friedlander has interviewed and hired a lot of BI executives and engineers for projects that needed to be implemented quickly.

With experience on both sides of the desk, he’s discovered that in order to land the right candidate, the interviewer often needs to be just as prepared as candidates to field and answer tough questions during interviews.

So, Friedlander’s developed a list of questions that he thinks hiring managers should know how to answer enthusiastically, in order to get the attention of the best candidates.

Here’s a list of his favorite questions from candidates, which could apply to any industry:

1. What’s your favorite method of communication?

“People ask this question to find out the preferred style of communication of the manager,” says Friedlander, “whether it’s email, text, phone calls, meetings, or video conference.” How someone answers this question says a lot about their style and how they run their department.

“When I asked that question of my last boss, he replied back, ‘text message,’" explains Friedlander. “That told me he really doesn’t want a lot of details, but he wants to find out critical information right away.” If two people have very different styles of communicating they may not be a good fit to work together. 

2. What do you personally enjoy most about the company or its culture?

“If you want to land a great candidate, when you’re asked this question you need to say something that truly means something to you personally,” says Friedlander.

He remembers an experience when he was being interviewed for a job. When he asked an HR woman this question she raved about her company’s daycare program. She told me that it was so good that there was even a waiting list to get in. He could tell it really meant something to her and wasn’t just a boiler plate answer. “Those comments are the types of things that engender you to an organization,” he says, “when you can hear in someone’s voice their own appreciation.”

3. How would you characterize your companies commitment to your department?

“If I’m considering working for a company, I want to know what initiatives or directives are taking place in the business,” says Friedlander. “Are they in an expansion mode for a big program that they have a ton of money they’re investing in, or are they going to say, ‘the big thing we are focusing on right now is cutting costs?’”

The interviewer should also be aware of the state of their company and have an answer for everything related to the current health of the stock prices or the nature of an IPO in their line of business.

4. What tools do you have for me to use for my job?

It’s important that the company has properly invested in the work someone is being hired to do, says Friedlander. “If you don’t have the right tools to tell your candidate about, they’re not going to want to deal with you.”

For business intelligence, he wants to ensure a company has purchased a front end tool for accessing information. He also wants to know that they have serious modeling software. “If a company tells me they are using a less sophisticated type of software, that’s a red flag that they don’t understand the nature of my work and what’s involved in creating effective business intelligence systems.”

5. Why do people say “that stuff” about your company?

An interviewer should be aware of any buzz that’s going on about their company, and be prepared to speak to specific comments, says Friedlander. For example, if you look online while researching your company and you see that people say it’s “old school” and not leading edge, you need to be prepared to address that and any other negative comments in the interview.

Even when a company has a reputation for being behind the times, if they work to become aware of their reputation, they can try to shift the public’s thinking. A recent ad campaign by GE attempted to change people’s perceptions about General Electric being an old fashioned manufacturing company. In order to appeal to a younger demographic they ran ads featuring a college aged student who referred to GE as a digital company. “If you want to attract young engineers today, you’ve got to be able to speak about how your company is addressing its public perception,” says Friedlander.

6. What was the biggest challenge affecting the last person in this job?

If you’re asked this question, it’s important to be as transparent as you can be with candidates, suggests Friedlander. If the previous person left the position because it was a challenging situation or there were difficult personalities involved, it’s better to be upfront with the person you’re interviewing.

“If I’m being interviewed for a job and I’m going to lead a team, I want to know, ‘how would you describe the team’?” says Friedlander. “I asked that question on one interview and they described a woman on the team that wanted to take the position I was interviewing for, but they felt she wasn’t qualified for it. That let me know that she may not be happy about my running the team. But I appreciated their honesty, because it gave me real insight into the people I would be interacting with.”

In the end, candidates are going to have a better experience knowing whether a job is right for them if you can be transparent with them, and it will also help you to figure out whether you have a good match for the role.

*Image from Death to the Stock Photo

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