The three questions you must ask a candidate in a job interview

If you search Google for the ‘best job interview questions to ask, you will get more than 389 million results. This is almost equivalent to the number of options you have for questions you can ask when interviewing potential candidates for a role.

But since as a SME owner, leader or hiring manager you don’t have all day to spend interviewing someone. That’s why it’s critical to narrow down to a small selection of the most important questions you need to ask that will highlight the strength of their experience and suitability for the position while demonstrating to the candidates that you are making an extended effort to get to know more about them.

So, what questions should you absolutely must ask? Here are my top three recommendations that will help make the interview and selection process easier.

1. What attracted you to apply for this role?

By asking a candidate what stood out to them about the role they are interviewing for, you can start to paint a picture of the person’s interests and intentions.

If a candidate presents a well-crafted and knowledgeable response about how the company’s core values and culture strongly align with their personal career goals, values and principles, it can show they have an interest in being a part of the business as a whole.

This question can aid in the selection process by showcasing clear differences between a candidate who has only applied for the role because it is consistent with their experience, and a candidate who has applied for the role because it’s a good cultural and career fit, and has the intention to add value to the company.

2. What was the most useful criticism you’ve ever received?

Try and avoid asking cliché interview questions like “what’s your greatest weakness?”. Instead, ask the candidate about the most useful criticism they have received. This can help you to better gauge the candidate’s area of weakness through a somewhat more unbiased lens.

By differentiating this question from the stock standard “area of weakness”, the candidate may not have prepared a canned response prior to the interview. This means that the answer they provide will likely be more honest and raw, giving you the best chance to get a real feel of areas where the candidate’s performance can be improved and also how they respond to constructive criticism (i.e. do they action the suggestions to develop their performance, or do they neglect to acknowledge that they can improve).

3. What is your career plan/what progression are you hoping for in this role?

Asking the candidate to describe their career aspirations for the short and long term can help you to develop a clear idea of where the candidate wants to take their career. You can also compare and contrast how the candidate’s ideal career path either aligns or conflicts with the current needs of the business.

By asking this question, Hiring Managers can improve retention and employee satisfaction through only hiring candidates who’s short and long-term career ambitions align with those of the current role, where the role may progress to, and the overall plans of the business.

This question may also provide insight into what they can offer their preferred candidate in terms of growth opportunities. By understanding the candidate’s preferred career path and progression plan, and offering them opportunities to succeed in this, you are more likely to be able to retain this talent and keep the employee satisfied over the course of their tenure with your company.

What questions do you like to ask in interviews that you think illicit the most important information to help select the right candidate?