To gain insight into the way your candidates think and what they can bring to your business, you need to go the extra mile with your interview questions. When you’ve asked multiple candidates the standard interview questions, you’ll notice that their answers differ very little and often sound rehearsed.

Getting to Know Your Candidate

General information about your candidates’ work history can be gathered from their résumés and cover letters. The interview has a massive advantage over a résumé because you’re either face-to-face or over the phone, so you have a chance to expand and get clarity on points. You’ll get to know your candidate’s motivation and ambitions by asking insightful interview questions rather than just listing off the standard ones, such as, “Why do you want to work here?”

Asking insightful interview questions also encourages candidates to give their answers in the form of real life examples. Candidates might feel safer giving you an answer they think you want to hear, but answering a behavioral question like that can be trickier. They’ll have to relay a past situation to you that shows how they turned a bad situation around or how they dealt with a particular issue.

Five Examples of Insightful Interview Questions

1. “Tell me about a time when you made a decision in the workplace that turned out to be a mistake.”

Getting the candidate to discuss an error they’ve made often shows more about their character or professional manner than when they discuss their successes. If they shy away from the question, it might mean they made a mistake but couldn’t fix it or are unwilling to admit they were wrong. What you want to find out is how well they coped when they realized they were wrong, whether they admitted responsibility and how they made it their business to resolve the situation. If you can see they learned from the situation and made swift work of fixing their mistake, you should have nothing to worry about—they are human after all!

2. “What was the last piece of constructive criticism you received and how did you react to it?”

This question gives insight into what the candidate’s last employer asked them to improve on. Following up with a question like, “How did you go about implementing this change?” can reassure you that they take on criticism in order to improve the way they work.

3. “Describe a time you had to make a difficult choice at work.”

The response you’ll get to this question will show you the candidate’s thought process and how they went about making a tough decision. Depending on what role you’re hiring for, you might be looking for the candidate to talk you through their logic, or you might be more concerned with how the candidate went about getting the right results.

4. “Have you ever been in a position where you disagreed with a manager’s decision? What did you do?”

This question should get an interesting response. On the one hand, candidates will be eager to show they follow the rules and understand authority. But on the other, if they can prove they showed initiative and got their manager to come around to their way of thinking, this could prove their capability and intelligent decision-making skills.

5. “What excites you the most about this role?”

You should be able to spot candidates who are more interested in rewards than the actual job here – not that this is always a bad thing! If the role is a target-driven one where monetary reward is the biggest motivator, this might be exactly what you wanted to hear.

Using follow-up questions is straightforward and will lead to a smoother interview. Avoid closed questions; if the candidate is only given the opportunity to answer ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ the interview will be very stop-and-go, and you won’t learn anything.

For more help with interviews that help you learn how a candidate will perform in a job, find out how to conduct a competency-based interview

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