Cut Through the Fluff With These 7 Key Interview Questions

Interviewing Cut Through the Fluff With These 7 Key Interview Questions

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7 Pointed Interview Questions That Cut to the Chase

We all know the feeling of listening to a candidate tell a story in an interview and just really wishing they would hurry and get down to the nitty-gritty, important facts without having to relive their every detail that isn’t nearly as exciting or as important as the ones you’re really after.

Before addressing the questions, it would be wise to get a bit more in-depth about your candidates. 

These 7 interview questions will help you get to the good stuff with your candidates more quickly.

“What was your most significant achievement in your previous role and why?”

Adler strongly suggests utilizing achievement-related interview questions to get to the heart of how good candidates accomplish their work-related goals. Answers to this type of question will lend you a great deal of insight as to what kind of candidate you’re dealing with.

“Would your current/previous supervisor give you a reference?”

This is my favorite question of all time. Partly because it makes candidates squirm, especially if they’re hiding something. This question tells you a lot about your candidate as well. Do they directly answer your question? Or do they divert by explaining how they aren’t in touch with their previous supervisor and probably can’t find them to contact? That’s okay because I can find anyone, so back to my question… will your previous supervisor give you a reference? If your candidate answers with more than a simple and direct response to this question, it may indicate that the candidate is hiding something or trying to avoid answering.

“What would they say about you?”

Hopefully, your candidate doesn’t respond with “I’m a good worker.” Great, what does that mean? Everyone says that. I want to know why. What makes you so great?

This is an opportunity to ask more specific follow-up questions and really get an idea if your candidate can identify his or her strengths and weaknesses while remaining objective. Their well or underdeveloped answer to this question lends insight into a component of emotional intelligence, namely their ability to place themselves in another person’s shoes.

“If given (specific problem/task) how would you handle it and what would you do?”

Asking a prospective candidate how they would deal with a real-world problem within your company helps you understand what kind of thinker and problem solver they are. If they offer up several practical solutions off the cuff, chances are they could bring innovation and creativity to your firm.

“Why are you looking for another opportunity?” Or, if you recruited them, “What would make a new opportunity interesting enough to make a move?”

Sure, all candidates want to make money. That’s so cliché. This question gets beyond the surface level reasons of money and benefits and pokes at what motivates top performers to change jobs after success in a previous career or a strong tenure with their current company. Either way, this line of questioning lends more insight into how candidates are motivated and what encourages them to seek out specifics of different jobs.

“What other types of positions have you been looking at? Where have you interviewed already?”

These are a good series of questions that will tell you how serious your candidate is about seeking new employment and also how far along they are in that process. If you’re really hot on a specific candidate, asking this question can also lend you some insight into where you stand on their radar of choices.

“Do you have any questions for me about the position or company?”

If no, you have to wonder why not? You want your candidate to be engaged and curious about the opportunity, the company, the role itself, what the environment or culture is like, what they’ll be doing on a daily basis, etc. There are several questions that top performer candidates want to know. Those without questions may not be genuinely interested in the role, which can become a problem down the line.

Ultimately, any questions that dig deeper into your candidate’s work history, achievements and successes, interests, motivations for finding a new role, and the ability to verify everything with a reference list will likely yield good results.

Utilize these 7 questions to get to the bottom of the most important factors more quickly so you can better screen out the candidates who are worth spending more time with.

Up next is a more in-depth look at how you should approach your candidates.

Does Your Candidate Really Have Teamwork Ability?

Assessing abilities like teamwork in potential employees can be tricky. Without the chance to truly witness candidates interacting with others in the workplace, you must rely on interview questions, references, and assessment tests.

The first two should focus on candidates’ past performance in previous jobs. Getting the applicant and, if possible, their past supervisors to discuss teamwork abilities is an essential part of evaluating them for those skills.

Pre Employment Testing

Outside of the interview, pre-employment assessment tests are a must-have tool for evaluating teamwork skills. Emotional intelligence and personality assessments can give insight into candidates’ social skills, empathy levels, reaction to criticism, and honesty. Individuals who work well in teams can be identified in part by highly accurate and validated tests. Clear reports will give you a better understanding of a candidate’s true tendencies and character traits.


Request candidates to explain some instance of cooperation or teamwork. The most effective interview question you can ask is always one that addresses candidates’ past performance. A simple “Can you give me an example of a time you had to work on a team?” is sufficient to start things off.

This is a common question candidates should be prepared for. What you are looking for in their response is evidence they were able to complete a team task successfully. What does their attitude seem to be? Do they give a clear impression of their role?

Asking follow up questions

Follow-up questions are needed to obtain more useful information. Ask candidates to clarify or expand on their first example. Have they worked on many teams? Someone who has continually been assigned to teams has not only had practice but may have shown signs of success in working with others.

It is important to ask for more than one example. A candidate who doesn’t have solid teamwork abilities may have prepared one example for the interview, but they often won’t have two rehearsed.

Useful questions measure important aspects of teamwork including how work was accomplished, how conflicts were dealt with, and instances in which the candidate’s responsibility or role grew with time. Progressively more important roles or a voluntary assumption of leadership are useful indicators of not only teamwork but initiative and responsibility.

Do their examples show they worked with a multifunctional team, or have they only worked with people in very similar roles? Did they have a role in determining the team’s work or measuring its success?

Getting candidates to discuss their teamwork experiences is essential to evaluating their teamwork abilities. It will require emotional intelligence on your part, as you will need to discern the candidate’s attitudes about the work and their peers. Don’t neglect the opportunity a reference check offers; a conversation with a past supervisor or coworker is the perfect chance to get another person’s perspective on the candidate’s teamwork abilities.

Like every other skill, teamwork and the ability to get along with others in order to succeed at a project should be reflected in candidates’ past, even without extensive work experience. Take the time to plan your questions ahead of time and pay attention to verbal and visual clues during the interview. If teamwork is involved in the position’s main objectives, it must be a major part of your hiring process.

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With our New Power Interview Guide, you Can Now Begin to

  • Streamline the hiring process
  • Consistently Screen Candidates of All Levels
  • Stay Focused and in Control of the Conversation
  • Ask Powerful Questions Designed to Gain Critical and Specific Information
  • Uncover Key Details for Making a Decision

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