Ask the right questions to make the best hire long after the interview is over.

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‘What’s your greatest weakness?’

If that’s your best question to ask in a job interview, you’re probably not going to hire the best candidate. The interview is your best shot at getting to know your future hire and screening his or her potential for success at your company. But the interview is something candidates prepare for, and their goal is to show the best version of themselves to you.

Coming up with the right list of questions is difficult. You don’t want to trick candidates, but you also don’t want to find out a few months down the road that a good interviewee doesn’t make a good employee. The key is to ask questions that require a candidate to demonstrate how they think and work.

  1. What 3-5 things do you need to be successful in this job?
    This will give you an idea of how the candidate understands the position. More than that, you’ll get a sense for culture fit, the candidate’s expectations, and if his or her work style is suitable for the role for which they are interviewing.
  2. Tell me about our company. What are we doing well, and what can we do better?
    This should reveal the candidate’s values, analytical ability, initiative, confidence, and drive. A good candidate will have researched your company and be able to speak knowledgeably about it.
  3. Talk about a time that you took a risk and failed, and one where you took a risk and succeeded. What was the difference?
    By asking both questions, you’re looking for critical thinking, honesty, and self-awareness. Does the candidate take responsibility for his or her own failure? Or try to blame someone else? Are they aware of the difference? If risk taking doesn’t matter to you, try a variation, such as “tell me about a tough decision you made that worked out. Or one where you made the wrong decision.”
  4. Tell me about one of your proudest moments at work.
    You’re looking for what drives and motivates the people you’re interviewing. You should also get a sense for their preferred work style, and what they value about their own work. The candidate will either be talking about a project they worked on as part of a team, or an individual accomplishment. Pay attention to how they speak about either situation. Regardless, they should be using “I language” when answering this question.
  5. What are the first 5 things you would do if you got this job?
    This reveals prioritization skills, execution style, and strategic thinking. Are they thinking big picture, or small tasks? It may also help you understand how much enthusiasm candidates have for the role, how familiar they are with the responsibilities of the job for which you are hiring, and what they believe they can bring to the table.
  6. What do you want for your career two jobs from now, and how does this position help you get there?
    Not only will this give you an idea of the candidate’s long term goals and professional development expectations, but also reveal personal motivators and drive. Not all jobs have the same career path. Assess the candidate’s ability to judge his or her own skills based on whether the skills align with the career goals of that individual.

To get the best IT professionals on your team, timely hiring is essential. These questions should help you make the most of the valuable time you spend interviewing because they get at more than if the candidate can do the job, they reveal how they would do it.