10 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates in a Tiebreak

Blog 10 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates in a Tiebreak

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When you evaluate top-tier candidates to make them a hiring offer, you sometimes realize they are in a tie. Every so often, it happens that two candidates achieve excellent scores on your pre-employment tests. One has more work experience; the other is a rock star at soft skills. They both may have also passed your behavioral assessments with flying colors and even aced your initial interview. On the other hand, suppose all your candidate scorecards, hard skills assessments, and personality inventories show you have a tiebreak. In that case, it is time to use your heavy artillery: strategic interview questions to ask candidates so you can make the best hiring decision! Let’s see today the best interview questions to ask when the recruiting choice is very hard to make!

Why Do We Use Tiebreak Strategic Interview Questions?

It is not hard to guess that these questions are a hybrid between tough interview questions of a behavioral nature and questions challenging the applicants to think on their feet. In addition, such an interview allows the hiring manager to get even more in-depth knowledge and understanding about the candidates.

Before you design it and call your applicants for a final, decisive round of questioning, don’t forget you have plenty of clever strategies to help you break the tie. Most experts agree that

looking at your candidates from multiple angles and testing their abilities practically can be the tiebreaker you need to help you make the final decision.

Nevertheless, if you exhausted all your other options (ability tests included), setting a final interview focused on strategic interview questions to ask candidates is your best bet for a great hire. So let’s see some examples, together with the “secret agenda” you want to follow when you note their answers.

10 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates Who are in a Tie

strategic interview questions to ask candidates in a tiebreak

As some experts pointed out, you should consider these questions more as exercises meant to test the candidates in a rather unconventional manner. Your purpose is to find that applicant who can move your organization forward and support its growth. After all, if you reached this point with your assessments, you are beyond filling open positions. Most likely, you are looking for assets to nurture into future leaders. So let’s ask them the strategic questions that matter!

1. In what situation would it be all right to bend the rules a little?

When evaluating integrity and work ethics, recruiters have access to standardized integrity tests and personality inventories to get their answers. However, ethics, morals, and rule-following are complex matters that deserve a lengthy discussion. Most recruiters would not hire a candidate answering “all the time” to such questions.

However, are you breeding a team of yes-men or a team of thought leaders and innovators? What is more important to you – blind corporate discipline or healthy & constant re-evaluations of the “rules” your people have to follow?

Before we move on to the next question, remember that rule-bending does not always necessarily involve being unethical. Following rules to a tee does not always mean doing the right thing. If history proved anything, the ethical/right thing to do in some cases is to downright bend or break some rules.

What about those situations when a manager/leader allows bending some rules for the company’s greater good?

Before you ask your candidates this question, make up your mind about the right answers for you.

2. Please give me a few examples of how you motivated others to work for/with you

You may have used this question already during your behavioral interview with the candidates, but if you didn’t, this is the best time for it. With this question, you are inquiring into a candidate’s leadership skills, collaborative nature, interpersonal skills, and so on. Focus on your interviewee’s examples of team motivation. Ask for details regarding the techniques they used to influence others to follow their lead.

Sometimes, you don’t recruit for a managerial position yet still want to learn how your candidate would motivate their co-workers. Tailor the question into a hypothetical one and allow the candidate to be as detailed as possible when describing past or potential situations.

3. Suppose I call your past supervisor right now. What would they tell me about you?

Do not skip the reference checking part of any hiring process for any candidate or position! However, it is one thing to prep some questions for your candidates’ referees and another one to ask your candidates what they think their past supervisors would say about them.

Beyond digging more into your candidates’ emotional intelligence and ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes, this question reveals even more. It demonstrates whether applicants can make a correct and sincere assessment of their past performance, personality, and soft skills. It is easy to measure one’s self-awareness, as you already used your reference-checking tool, and you can compare the candidates’ answers to the referees’ ones.

4. What could you teach me in the next ten minutes? Can you demonstrate?

If this is not among the best interview questions to ask tie candidates, we don’t know what it. For a more technical approach, you can tailor the question along the lines of “teach me something in the next ten minutes.” Do you want to learn whether your candidates can think on their feet, have coaching skills, and make decisions on the spot? Offer them this challenge!

With this question, you will learn quickly what your candidates’ most practiced and values skills are. Since you offer them a timeframe, they will pick something that is at their minds’ forefront. For example, some may want to teach you how to create a pie chart in Excel. Others, how to make a paper plane. You may even find candidates explaining the fundamentals of coding so well you might consider a career in programming for a moment.

Allow the candidates to “teach” you anything, work or life or hobby related. What they pick, how they do it, and how well they achieve their task are crucial elements to consider in your hiring decision.

5. Explain your job/role to a stranger and then to your mom

Do you know those memes showing what other people think we do, what we think we do, and what we really do? Yes, turn that piece of professional self-deprecating humor into one of the trickiest strategic interview questions to ask candidates in a tie.

The logic behind this question is simple. The applicants know what they do. Or so we hope. But how good are they at explaining something complex? How do they convey their job’s core elements to a stranger who does not have anything to do with that particular industry?

Go with your investigation even deeper. Does your candidate have the ability to simplify something intricate and make it clear for others? For example, it is easy to explain “lawyer” or “doctor” to a stranger or one’s mother. However, detailing “systems engineer,” “Scrum master,” or “talent acquisition manager” is a bit more difficult.

To add an extra layer to this question, take note of what the candidates consider the core elements of their role/career. Are those features in full alignment with your organization’s view on the role?

6. Describe the ideal organizational culture you would like to be a part of

When you need to decide between two candidates, you need to focus on whether one of them is a better cultural add to your organization. We talk a lot about cultural fits but employing only the ones that make perfect pieces of your big puzzle might discourage diversity at the workplace and encourage bias.

Recruiters ask this question to find candidates who can complete the big picture of their organizational culture. First, however, pay attention to your applicants’ answers. How do they envision the “ideal organization?” Are you anywhere near that image?

According to LinkedIn specialists,

Culture contributors can bring a diverse set of traits, values, backgrounds, and new energy that drive innovation while also making your workplace more welcoming and inclusive for future candidates. Does either candidate stand out for the different perspectives and experiences they could bring to your company? Is one of them from a group that’s underrepresented on your current team and so could bring viewpoints you perhaps haven’t considered in the past?

With this question, you dig into an interesting and rather underrated topic: what could you learn from your new employees compared to what you could teach them?

7. What is not on your resume/past interviews that you would like to discuss?

When candidates tailor their resumes to the position, and you use an interview type focused on the role’s requirements, you miss a lot on subtle synergies and soft skills.

With this question, you could discover a lot of unexplored potential. For example, some candidates might reveal they engaged in certain extra activities to learn new skills. Others might point out to you they are always punctual, or they have artistic inclinations. You can factor in all these minor details in your hiring decision and value your future employee for them.

8. What are you currently working on to improve yourself professionally or personally?

All candidates know that saying “nothing, I am perfect the way I am” is the wrong path to take. So, they could offer some fluff answers revolving around some vague skills or personal projects. After all, you cannot verify the validity of such information. If you want to go deep, you should ask them for examples or a concrete demonstration (for instance, to explain/teach you something in the next ten minutes).

The idea here is to keep an eye on people who self-motivate them and aim for self-improvement. Companies need active people who can take any challenge or who can challenge themselves to be better.

From learning a new technical skill to developing beneficial life habits, self-improvement knows no boundaries. A small example of what and how they do might create a long-lasting impression and factor in your hiring decision.

9. What business would you create if you had the money for it?

If you want to test for business personality, strategic planning, project management skills, and many more, here is a question helping you reach the crux of the matter. Your candidates might focus on how their business idea is revolutionary. Some will want to prove they know the structure of a business plan by heart. Don’t stop here. Ask them who they would hire and why, how they would promote their business, what they would do to stay ahead of the competition, etc.

10. What fictional character you identify with/is your role model, and why?

The last entry on our list of tiebreaker strategic interview questions to ask candidates is a strange one. Nonetheless, it will swipe your candidates off their feet. The answer doesn’t matter here. You want to see them think fast, put their analytical skills into practice, get creative, and have some fun. It is a lighthearted question inquiring into your candidates’ self-perception, personality, and even their sense of irony. It also might yield a serious answer and a surprising argumentation, so pay attention!

What Other Strategic Interview Questions Would You Ask Candidates?

You can expand on this list of tiebreak questions with others you deem important. Psychologists and recruiters recommend you take an interest in your candidates’ vision of life, causes they support, passions and hobbies, describing their best friends, and so on. It is up to you to come up with a set of tricky and strategic interview questions to ask candidates when the hiring choice is hard to make. The best part is that no matter what candidate you pick now, the other will still be on your radar. Then, with the help of your Applicant Tracking System, you will make the applicant an excellent offer when you have a suitable new open position.

It is your time to discuss now! Do you often have tiebreak applicants you need to “grill” further? What other strategic interview questions do you prefer to ask in such situations? Which questions do you feel generate some of the most interesting answers? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

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