During my active recruiting days, I worked endlessly to find the right questions to ask candidates. I would search the internet for the newest and best questions to stay on top of the hiring world. For a while, I thought having the most innovative and creative questions would make for the best interviews. But, as I did more hiring, I found out that was not the case.
At one point, I worked for a 24-hour operation with three different shifts. The turnover was insane; at first shift, I’d be over-staffed but by the end of it, I’d end up with not enough employees, so another job fair would be scheduled. People left mid-shift, after lunch, or just didn’t show up at all. It was tough keeping the area fully-staffed. I thought it was the nature of the beast, until I figured out that I was asking all of the wrong questions.
Learning early on to ask the exact same questions for the same positions really helped me with my recruiting efforts.
Towards the end of my year-long stint with the company, I had hiring down to a “T”. For every candidate and all interviews, I asked the same questions: 5 “yes” or “no” questions relevant to the jobs and then I lead into more open-ended questions. Those yes/no questions were crucial to determine if I should continue with the interview. These simple questions saved the candidate and me a lot of frustration. I had it so structured that I was once asked if the position was unionized. I chuckled but felt a little bit of pride — my hiring process became so systematic that people thought it was created and voted on by a committee. But, it was just me trying to cut back on the amount of recruiting needing to be done and reduce turnover. You don’t have to learn by mistakes; you can learn from ME through one of my hiring and onboarding packages.
Of all of the thousands of question I’ve asked during interviews, one has always stuck out as being the most revealing: Tell me about your current or previous employer. This one seemingly simple question shows you at least three important characteristics of the person you are interviewing.
- Is the candidate negative or positive? When I’ve asked this question, I’ve gotten so many different responses: squirming in the seat, fond memories, shifting eyes, sighs of relief. Applicants will give you different responses, but their words are either negative or positive, reflecting their attitude. The ones that have always shocked me are the ones that bad-mouth the employer. Common sense would tell you not to talk badly about an employer when you’re being considered for a job, but some candidates lack that knowledge. Pay attention to the overall tone of what is being said.
- Does the candidate have a heart of gratitude or feel entitled? Again, this one is more about the tone, but when you hear things like “thankful for the opportunity” or “grateful to have worked there”, you know you have a employee that is not entitled.
- Is the candidate a victim or is he or she accountable? To find this out, pay attention to the words the candidate is using. Words like “they”, “the company”, “my boss” will indicate a victim mentality. Nothing is ever the candidate’s fault; it’s always someone else’s actions. An accountable applicant will use more “I” language, expressing that he or she was responsible for mistakes or issues.
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