interview questions to ask to tell a great candidate from a good one

Interviewing a candidate for a position might sound like a simple task. After all, all you have to do is make sure they have the right skill set for the job description, right? 

Quite the contrary. The process of interviewing candidates today extends well beyond measuring their abilities; it also delves into the candidate’s personality, maturity level and compatibility with a company’s culture. This is especially important at the final stages of an interview, where candidates are already neck-and-neck in terms of qualifications and skills.  

If you’re looking to fill senior positions, your decision can have an even bigger impact on the company as a whole. Asking the right questions when choosing between two equally qualified candidates can save the company at least 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings, which can be a significant sum for startups and smaller firms on a budget.

Related: How employer branding can help your company attract the best talent

Interview questions reflect a company’s priorities, and these very priorities should shape the questions below for better insights into the candidates, as well as how they will fit within the organisation and existing team. In the long haul, this will have an influence on all kinds of areas, ranging from onboarding experiences and retention to productivity. 

Knowing the qualities your candidates possess can make the difference between a good potential team member and a great one. Here are some questions you should include in the final interviews.

1. If we hire you for this job, what goals will you set for yourself? 

A seemingly straightforward question, but what you’ll really get out of this is whether your candidate thinks ahead. Goals are usually a measure of a person’s foresight and ambition, as well as being an indicator of how much they can bring to the position, as well as to the team. Their answer will also reveal how motivated they are to stick around for the long haul, and whether their vision aligns with that which the company has for the job.  

2. What is the first thing you would tackle in this position? 

This is an important question to ask in a final interview because the answer indicates whether the candidate has a solid understanding of the position they’ll be hired for.  

It’s also a good way to find out what their priorities are when they begin their job there, and most importantly, an actual indicator of how they would perform when starting their role.

Related: Why an effective onboarding process is more important than you think

3. What isn’t on your CV that is important for me to know? 

Candidates often tailor their CVs to the position that they’re applying for. Because of this, there can be synergies relevant to the job that might otherwise be overlooked, even if they aren’t directly related to the position. For example, a candidate might be proficient in video editing — expertise which might be useful if there are plans by management to expand their video marketing output. This can be extremely useful for smaller companies, or startups who are looking for employees with general skills to help the company through its early growth stages. 

4. Can you outline an occasion when you failed to reach your goal? 

The biggest takeaway from this question is finding out whether the candidate possesses self-awareness, and whether the lessons from this failure can prevent a recurrence. Answers that push the blame usually indicate that the candidate is working from a victim mentality, and might not have the resolve to take on challenges and responsibility when the time calls for it.

On the other hand, individuals with grit and tenacity will tell of how, despite not succeeding, they didn’t give up. These candidates see failure as a temporary obstacle that can be mitigated with hard work and patience, and should be the ones you want to consider for the job. 

5. What area are you working on to improve yourself? 

People who are highly motivated and pro-active, and thrive on productivity, are always enriching their lives. The pandemic, for example, has resulted in lockdowns around the world, and what candidates have done with this extra time says a lot about their character.

For instance, if they have spent their time doing volunteer work or learning a new skill like coding or video editing, this is a significant sign that they’re looking to continuously improve. These might even be skills your business will find useful in the future.

Read more:
9 ways to manage a remote team effectively 
3 ways to be agile during business disruption—fast
How to be more confident at work according to Asia's female leaders

Ready to hire? We specialise in a variety of sectors and are ready to discuss your vacancy. Contact us and we’ll find the right consultant for your location and role.

If you are looking for a job, visit the Candidates section

Are you Hiring?

If you are an employer and would like to discuss your hiring needs, fill in the form below and we will call you back.

IMPORTANT: By submitting your email address and any other personal information to this website, you consent to such information being collected, held, used and disclosed in accordance with our PRIVACY POLICY and our website TERMS AND CONDITIONS.

Advertise Your Role With Us

Advertise Your Role With ReachTalent