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Recruiting
June 14, 2022

TOP questions for the candidate — what is actual and what is outdated

Written by
Viktoria

In the business of recruitment, one of the crucial processes is interviewing candidates. While interviewing an applicant, the recruiter has to glean as much information and make as many conclusions as possible in quite a short period. Collecting enough information about the candidate to determine if this candidate is suitable for the position is challenging and responsible. 

That is why conducting a successful interview cannot be an improvisation. By asking good interview questions, the recruiter will not only get a clearer idea of the candidate’s experience and skills, but also form their opinion about the candidate’s communicative skills, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, problem-solving skills, cultural level, team-working skills, and ability to think quickly.

Recruiter’s questions can be of some types, including:

  • Behavioral interview questions;
  • Situational interview questions;
  • Questions about the interviewee’s education;
  • Strategical interview questions;
  • Questions about technical knowledge and work experience.

We present our vision of the categories of questions and give the reader the right to decide whether they belong to the worst interview questions or the best interview questions.

• Interview questions the recruiter should avoid

• Interview questions the recruiter should ask the candidate

• Technical interview questions

• Summary

Interview questions the recruiter should avoid

There is a category of questions recruiters shouldn’t ask applicants. Inadequate or outdated interview questions don’t give you valuable information about the candidate and only waste your time. By avoiding time-wasting questions, you can get to the point faster and narrow your list of applicants down with ease. 

Such questions may sound like this:

1. Where do you live?

Interviewers ask this question to get an idea of where the candidate lives concerning the work location. However, it borders on illegal. 

To know if commuting may be an issue for the candidate, you can ask this question differently: “Are you comfortable with the work location?”

2. Where do you see yourself in five years?

This question does not give you a clear insight into the applicant’s career wishes or, more importantly, their ability to do the job but puts the candidate in the position where they have to answer that they would like to be with the company for that time.

It would be better to ask: “Where does this position fit along your long-term career ladder?”

3. Why should we hire you?

Asking this question, you put the candidate on the spot and may back them into a corner. If you ask the candidate a variation of this question, it will demonstrate how well the candidate understands the job requirements.

You should ask, for instance, “How does your previous work experience align with the duties for this position?”

4. What is your biggest weakness?

This question will hardly tell you anything about the candidate’s skills. Moreover, this question is so common that many candidates probably have prepared answers to it.

It seems better to ask open-ended questions that allow applicants to display self-awareness about their potential growth. For example, “What professional development would make you a more effective employee?”

5. Why do you want this job?

Candidates want a new job for countless reasons. Therefore, none of the answers will give you valuable information to help you make a hiring decision.

Instead, it would be more reasonable to ask: “As you understand this job, what is the biggest attraction to it for you?”

6. Can you describe yourself in one sentence?

As an interviewer, you should already know how candidates would describe themselves.

Open-ended questions are usually better to spark the conversation and provide you with a deeper understanding of the applicant’s work experience and character. For instance, the recruiter may say: “Could you tell me something, not on your resume that aligns with this job?”

7. What did you like least about your previous job?

People change jobs for different reasons, but they often do it because of a poor manager. 

It would help if you didn’t ask the candidate to discuss poor management or even malign their previous employer.

A different open-ended question about the candidate’s prior position would suit better to give you valuable information, for example, “What aspects of your previous position did you find most professionally challenging?”

8. What would your former manager say about you?

Asking such a question, you put the applicant in the position to either lie or make something up. Plus, the recruiter has to conduct a reference check to know directly from the applicant’s former manager what they think about the applicant.

Instead, it would be better to ask something like this: “Would your former colleagues describe you as a team player?”

9. If you were stuck on a desert island where you could bring with you only three things, what would you take and why?

This question does not give you any information about the applicant’s ability to do the job.

Instead, it may be more reasonable to ask: “On your last day of your current job, what three things would you tell your replacement?”

10. If you could choose a different career, what would it be?

Whatever the candidate answers, their answers will give you no information about how they will work for your company.

It would be much better to ask like this: “Could you tell me about a challenging project or work experience you had to overcome?”

11. If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

This is another theoretical question that does not give you any valuable information about the candidate. In addition, this is one more common question, so many candidates probably have prepared answers to it.

Instead, you may ask a different question: “If you could have one additional skill to do this job better, what would it be, and why do you think it would be beneficial?”

12. Do you have a car?

Asking this question, the recruiter wants to know if the applicant can perform specific tasks related to the position. However, it borders on illegal. 

To know if the candidate can perform particular responsibilities, you can ask this question differently: “This job may require you to travel long distances. Are you ready to meet the job commitments?”

13. How did your childhood shape your career?

This question borders on illegal. Plus, the answer will not give you any helpful information about how the candidate will perform in the role.

If the recruiter wants to know how the candidate’s prior experience aligns with the job, they should ask: “How has your experience prepared you for this role?”

14. Could you tell me about yourself?

This is a classic example of an outdated interview ice-breaker. 

If you want to avoid time-wasting making the candidate ramble, try asking something more specific, like “What did you find most challenging about your previous job, both in a good and bad way?”

15. Yes/No questions.

Questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer do not give any insight into the candidate’s work experience and skill set. For example, if you ask a question like “Are you a team player?" what answer may you receive?

Instead, it is more acceptable to ask open-ended questions to let the candidates mention their best qualities and job experience.

Interview questions the recruiter should ask the candidate

If you mainly ask the candidate popular interview questions like those mentioned above, you risk receiving only scripted, inauthentic, and spurious answers.

On the other hand, if you want to adequately assess the candidate for both professional skills and work experience, you ought to ask them questions that are specific to the company or the job as well as broader questions that allow the candidate to show their personality and ability to think critically under pressure.

The more creative and extensive interview questions you ask, the more informed hiring decision they will ensure.

Such questions may be formulated as follows:

1. What motivates you to work?

This is a simple question, but it encourages the interviewee to look internally for what truly motivates them.

If they only answer at the surface level with something like “I like to deal with a challenge”, this may signal that they are a less-than exceptional candidate, and you probably need to probe further to extract a deeper understanding of their motivations.

2. Could you name a work accomplishment that makes you proud?

Such a question will help you learn about the candidate in more depth and get a better idea of the results they have achieved at their previous and the types of work they perform well for the current company. In addition, this question will allow the candidate to tell about some of the most vital features they may have.

3. Why do you think you are a fit for this opportunity?

This interview question will help you understand if the interviewee has done serious preparation in learning about your company. You hardly want your company to become a random job the candidate they apply for to get a salary for a while and then leave for a different opportunity in a short period.

4. How do you define hard work in the workplace?

Companies move at different speeds from one another. If the applicant is comfortable working in a laid-back environment where hard deadlines are rare, they may not be a good fit for the role in which they have to constantly work in a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment.

5. Would you rather work in a team or alone?

In this case, it depends on what position the candidate is applying for. Is it, for example, a desk job that only requires them to be by themselves, or is it work that demands constant coordination and communication with others? If you analyze that the candidate is a flexible, willing to do multi-tasking person and is able to work alone or with a team at times, they may be worth hiring.

6. Are there any weak points you would like to work on?

Everyone has weaknesses in their character or qualifications, and the candidate is not an exception, so immediately admitting them during the interview may be a sign of strength.

7. Could you tell me about some of your coworker relationships?

This question may shed light on how the interviewee typically interacts with others and will help you determine if they have the potential to be a balanced and productive member of your staff.

8. What has your typical position in a team been?

Asking this question will give you a deeper insight into how previous employers viewed the candidate and how the candidate may interact with fellow employees.

9. What are your greatest strengths the company can benefit from?

This question will demonstrate the candidate’s ability to talk about their strengths and maintain their humility which may indicate a winning personality. Also, the question will give the candidate a chance to explain and align their strengths that might contribute to the company’s goals.

10. Could you tell me about a critical work situation you solved?

This question will highlight which work situations may be stressful for the applicant and require their efforts to cope with. Also, this will help to see what approach the applicant takes in solving problems.

11. When a conflict arises at work, how do you handle it?

By asking questions related to conflicts, you will better understand the candidate’s personality and interpersonal skills. Besides, the candidate’s answer may provide you with a sense of their ability to resolve and cope with conflicts at work.

12. Could you reveal something about yourself that is not on your CV?

There may sometimes be quirks about prospective employees that you cannot see in their resumes. The applicant may be a good fit on paper, but when you interview them, you may get a sense from their answers that hints at possible trouble for the company if you hire them.

13. How do you deal with tight deadlines (or sprints if it goes about IT specialists)?

This question will show how responsible the interviewee is and how carefully they review the list of tasks and analyze which are the most urgent and critical matters. This question also may show how much the interviewee focuses on each task.

14. Could you describe your ideal workplace?

This kind of open-ended question will give the candidate a chance to describe their ideal work environment and help you see if it matches the office environment your company can provide the candidate with.

15. Could you outline the process of how you set goals?

This question will help you ensure that your potential employee is generally driven and goal-oriented, and they can not only reach goals you would set for them but set their own goals to achieve. The top candidates are usually able to explain their goal-setting process in detail: how they set up the goals, break the goals into smaller tasks, and measure their success once completing them.

Technical interview questions

Technical interviews are often very different from any other traditional job interview. They typically include behavioral questions, and situational questions, but they also have technical problem-solving questions. 

Recruiters assess the candidate’s technical knowledge, skills, and abilities related to the needs of the specific job they are applying for. In addition to evaluating the candidate’s technical knowledge and skills, the recruiter will try to determine the interviewee’s thought process when solving problems and decide how they will fit into the company's staff.

The technical interview questions may be like these:

  1. What was your specific role and responsibilities on the most recent project you worked on?
  2. What is the project you are proud of, and how did you contribute to it?
  3. How did your education prepare you for this job?
  4. What technical certifications do you have?
  5. What do you do to stay up-to-date on your technical certifications and knowledge?
  6. What coding language are you most comfortable with?
  7. When is it appropriate to denormalize database design?
  8. What is the role of continuous integration systems in the automated-build process?
  9. What automated-build tools or processes are you familiar with?
  10. What development tools have you used?
  11. What languages have you programmed in?
  12. What source control tools have you used?
  13. What technical websites do you follow?
  14. Could you describe the most innovative change you have initiated and what you did to implement this change?
  15. What is the biggest IT challenge you have faced, and how did you handle it?

Summary

A job interview is a way to get a feel for whether or not the candidate is qualified enough to hire for the role, but also to realize if they will fit with the other employees in the company and if they could contribute positively to the company’s benefits.

By asking offered in the above or other but well-prepared questions, you can better assess the candidate's skill level and cultural add, two of the most important factors to consider when choosing a new hire.

Finally, it is worth remembering that an interview is a two-way street where the recruiter decides if the candidate is the right person to hire, and the candidate evaluates whether to join the company.

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