How I Figure Out If A Job Candidate Is Right For The Job

Six interview questions that reveal more than a resume.

Most job interviews are a waste of time.

That’s because most interview questions simply invite candidates to regurgitate their resume or offer generic answers about how their biggest weakness is that they “care too much” or “work too hard.”

No wonder hiring is so hard.

The key to hiring talent is to ask questions that reveal a candidate’s true intent, approach, and skill set.

Here are six questions I use to do that…

  1. Why do you want this job?

A candidate’s answer to this question is revealing, but not in the way you may think.

The candidate won’t just answer this question with the reason they want the job —their answer will also reveal what they think YOU want to hear.

This lets you gauge how well a candidate understands the job and what you’re looking for and gives you a chance to see if they have a false sense of expectations about it.

It allows you to determine if they actually want what you have to offer or if they misunderstand what the job is.

  1. What other jobs are you applying for?

It’s great if a candidate is willing to tell you other specific jobs they’ve applied for, but their answer to this question is valuable even if they only share generalities.

This question forces a candidate to be more honest about what they want in their next position as opposed to telling you what they think you want to hear.

It reveals what part of the position you’re hiring most interests them.

For example, if you’re hiring a tech position at a non-profit organization and the other jobs a candidate applied for are all at other non-profits, then you know the non-profit piece is a priority for them.

By comparison, if the other jobs they applied for are at bigger, for-profit brands, it tells you something else about what they seek.

  1. What was a typical day like in your previous jobs and what did you actually do?

A resume is great, but it rarely speaks to the ways a person actually spent their time at previous jobs and doesn’t reveal the specifics of the work they did.

Were they in meetings all day?

Did they oversee a team, spend half their time reporting to their superiors, or did they actually do the hands-on work themselves?

Did they sell over the phone or in-person?

The best way to know what a candidate did in a previous job is to ask them to break it down for you minute-by-minute.

How they spent a typical day will give you a much better sense of what they actually did than their resume ever will.

  1. How do you know what you know and how are you learning new stuff?

The single most reliable success signal is a person’s ability to learn and their commitment to do so on an ongoing basis.

This question reveals a candidate’s commitment to learning and indicates how likely they’ll be to continue to improve AFTER you hire them.

There’s a big difference between a person who learned how to do something because they studied it in college a decade ago, and one who reads a book a month, learned a skill by developing it on a side project, or taught themselves how to do something.

If a candidate can’t tell you what they do to continually learn new things — separate from their employer teaching them — the chances are they won’t learn many new things after you hire them.

That’s a red flag because you want to hire people who are qualified today, but will be even better tomorrow.

  1. Who do you follow that I should follow?

I work in social media so this question is particularly relevant, but it’s also helpful for just about any profession these days.

One of the best ways to keep up to date on what happens in any industry is to follow smart people in that field.

If a candidate can’t name several valuable people they follow in your industry, they’re likely not up to speed with the latest trends and insights.

It doesn’t matter whether they actually follow these people on social media, read their books or articles, listen to their podcasts, or watch their videos — what matters is that they’re following and being influenced by smart people and have a system to do so.

This is also a sign of how curious and interested a candidate is about your industry and if they’re not curious, they’re not likely to be a top performer.

  1. What tactics are you most excited about in your field and which do you think are overrated or outdated?

This question gives you insight into the tactics a candidate is most likely to employ (or want to employ) if you hire them as well as what they’re going to want to avoid or be frustrated by if they have to do.

It’s a great way to measure a candidate’s fit for your company.

If a candidate says they’re excited about new ways to employ market research and your company intends to ramp up its market research efforts, then she may be a great fit for the job.

But if a candidate thinks companies are overdependent on market research these days, then she’s probably not the right fit for the job.

Use this question to determine how excited a candidate will be to do the work you need them to do which is crucial because the best work always comes from the people who are excited to do it.