5 Insightful Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

5 Insightful Interview Questions to Ask CandidatesTo ensure your interview process is running at an optimal level, it’s essential for all parties involved – from the hiring manager to decision makers to your staffing agency partner – to have a shared understanding of a position’s requirements and success factors. The best way to accomplish this is to compile a list of the skills, experience, certifications, and knowledge required for the position and then weave these necessities into questions that’ll help you gain insight into a candidate’s abilities.

While it's important to draft ideal candidate profiles for each role your organization is seeking to fill, the following five must-ask interview questions can be used in every interview you conduct.

1. Can you tell me about a time when you experienced failure in the workplace?

As Bill Gates said, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Everyone fails. How a candidate has handled failure in the past can provide valuable intel on their potential for success in the future. Whether a task or project was sloppily executed, lacked proper resources, or was underfunded, by posing this question to a potential hire, you can gather a plethora of information on the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

When having a discussion around failure, you should be seeking to uncover answers to the following questions:

  • Is the candidate taking ownership of the failure?
  • Did they avoid issues that arose or tackle them head on?
  • What did the individual learn from the experience? (Hint: The candidate should be able to clearly articulate how the incident furthered their development as a professional)
  • What steps did they take to readjust expectations as obstacles surfaced?
  • Were they able to communicate how they would approach the situation differently in the future?
  • Were they pointing the finger at everyone else or taking accountability?
  • Did the individual appear comfortable or flustered when discussing failure?

2. Have you ever successfully convinced a manager or leader within your company to implement a change, even after they were first opposed to it?

By posing this question, you will be able to gauge a candidate’s ability to approach tough conversations, their level of influence, and if they possess an independent, forward-thinking mindset. Not only can you get a feel for their potential from a leadership perspective, but you can measure their problem-solving skills and capacity for overcoming objections.

When a candidate has a knack for influencing others, especially with their superiors, it illustrates that they can embrace change. Additionally, it demonstrates a level of grit and ability to focus on the bigger picture/long-term success of the organization. If an individual has the power to implement change that improves efficiency or productivity, it will prove to be beneficial for the entire company. Plus, it could free up management time, allowing leaders to concentrate on more high-level activities.

3. Can you tell me about a time where your work had a direct and positive impact on the company?

Candidates should be able to share how they've had a measurable impact on the organization, using specific examples and numbers to showcase the value they delivered over the course of their employment. Did they exercise negotiation skills to reduce external vendor costs? Did they streamline processes to reduce production time?

From a long-term standpoint, hiring workers that can further the success of your company is like striking gold. It means a greater likelihood of internal promotions and better retention rates. As the candidate responds to this question, you should be looking for someone who can articulate how they helped usher the company forward, providing concrete examples of their actions, challenges, projects, and successes.

4. Can you tell me about a time when you were given a project outside the normal scope of your daily responsibilities?

This is a great way to measure the candidate’s relationship with their previous employer. Having confidence in an employee and trusting them with a project beyond the scope of their normal tasks speaks volumes of the value the employer saw in this individual’s work. It’s important to uncover why the employer singled this person out, as it’ll give insight into their strengths and skills. For example, maybe they had excellent communication or relationship building skills. Or, maybe their ability to analyze data and propose actionable solutions was highly admired.  

5. Can you give me an example of a time your manager inspired you to reach new heights?

A key aspect of determining how well a candidate aligns with your company is understanding what type of management style they will thrive under. Cultural fit should always be part of your decision-making process. You could interview a candidate that has all the bells and whistles when it comes to their experience and skills, but that doesn’t equate to success if the work environment isn’t a match. Pairing a potential new hire with the right management style will directly impact their level of productivity, engagement, and satisfaction in the workplace. You want the candidate to paint a good picture of what drives their motivation and the level of communication they desire in a potential boss.