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What Questions Should an Employer Ask the Person They're Interviewing?

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When employers don't hire the right people, they wind up investing considerable time and money on recruiting and training employees who don't work out. It's important that employees have an effective pre-interview hiring process that includes reviewing resumes and applications, conducting phone screenings and reviewing results from behavioral assessments. After devoting so much time and resources to screening out applicants and narrowing the list to true contenders, the company must then ask the right questions during an interview to ensure it lands the right candidate.

Question for Compatibility

Employers are advised to think strategically about the qualities a job candidate needs to succeed in an open position. This level of inquiry goes beyond being able to describe the core daily tasks of the job. It should also include articulating the personality or behavioral traits vital to success in the role. For example, if the position requires dealing with many internal leaders on various projects, the interviewer should pose situational questions to assess the candidate's ability to perform effectively in that way. Probing questions might include, "How do you build consensus with competing demands?" or "Describe a time when you had to meet the expectations of various individuals at one time." This type of questioning can be customized based on the position. For example, questions for a sales job might focus on how to build rapport with prospects, while questions for a leadership position could focus on managing interpersonal conflict on the job.

Rising to the Challenge

Every job has its good days and bad days. Employers need to know that a candidate has the staying power to weather the ups and downs of the position and rise to the challenge. These challenges can range from completing everyday tasks properly to meeting a major deadline that requires staff to work long hours for an extended period of time. Employers should ask candidates to draw from their own experience and provide examples of challenges they have worked through in previous jobs, how they handled the challenges, and what the results were. Savvy interviewers should assess the candidate's answer for signs of self-direction and the capacity to be motivated to exceed performance goals when a particular event calls for it.

Why Us?

There's a difference between getting a job and embarking on a career. The former usually involves an employee exchanging services and time for a paycheck, whereas the latter involves a commitment in a given field or occupation for a sustained period of time, usually years. Many employers want to know that a candidate is there for reasons other than to just earn a paycheck. An interviewer should ask candidates why they want to work for the organization. They should look for responses that indicate the candidate is interested in more than just the actual position. For example, he might say he wants to help the company grow its market share, improve its business strategy or enhance its industry reputation. Look for job candidates who see themselves growing along with the company.

Leaving Your Last Position

Many job candidates have usually left --- or are in the process of trying to leave -- an employer. An interviewer should try to determine why. The way a candidate answers this question can be quite telling. The response might reveal a desire for more money, greater responsibility or exposure to a new industry. Or, it might raise flags, such as problems with managers, issues with responsibilities or conflicts with other employees. Gaining an understanding of a candidate's professional past can reveal behavioral patterns, ultimately helping interviewers determine if the job seeker has lasting potential.