A lot of attention is paid to skills for job candidates including how to act, dress, the right questions to ask - and not to ask. Less attention is given to the right kinds of questions for hiring managers to ask. While it is usually clear what the hiring manager SHOULD NOT AND CAN NOT ask, little notice is given to the right key questions. One of the most important things any executive or manager can do is to hire the best people. As resume is only part of the story. Asking and getting responses to tough and probing questions is essential to eliminating the wrong candidates and identifying the right ones.
Tell me a bit about your professional backround
Resume in hand, this is an opportunity to screen the candidate even if you or human resources has already done so over the phone. The key is two fold. First, to insure that what is of interest in the resume is addressed by the candidate. Second, to observe the candidate's poise, presence, tone, self-confidence, manner and body language. How would this person come across to your boss, your boss's boss and to your top customers?
Tell me a bit about your education
A chance to see if what jumped out (or did not) to you is highlighted by the candidate. Is the story consistent? A follow-on question if a younger candidate can be about favorite course and why or least favorite course and why. This is another chance to evaluate demeanor, tone and body language.
Why are you interested in XYZ Company?
This is an opportunity to see if the candidate did their homework about the company. If they are serious, they will tell clearly and concisely about the elements of the company that appeal to them enough to want to work there. If they are vague in response to this question, it is not a good sign about how serious they are about the position.
What are your greatest strengths?
While this question has been asked for years, it speaks volumes about what is important to the candidate and what the candidate thinks is important to the Company AKA the hiring manager. This question can trigger some much exaggerated body language and eye contact.
What is an area of development for you?
This is a variation on the STRENGTHS question. This is often less comfortable. People like to talk about their strengths, not their weaknesses. That makes this question all the more important and telling to the hiring manager. The key here is candor, professionalism and composure on the part of the candidate.
Read the Job Description (do not paraphrase).
Why do you think you are the ideal candidate for this position?
There is a happy medium between boasting and modesty. That is what the hiring manager is looking for here. It is also another opportunity for the candidate to recap their skills and experience and relate them specifically to the open position. Look for two or three key points in response to this question.
Where do you want to be in five years?
This can be a killer question. I know, I was way too honest on this one in my youth. The proper answer should be honest, thoughtful, realistic and to the benefit of the company. If the candidate wants a free education and then go on their own or to be the CEO or to be lying on the beach, that's the end of the interview.
If you were in this job tomorrow, what are the first things you would do and in what priority?
This tells the hiring manager whether the candidate has some understanding of the Company's mission, vision and values. It tells whether they understand the basic functions related to the job. It also gives the candidate an opportunity to show off their initiative while at the same time testing their sense of workplace reality.
What questions do you have for me?
This can be the most telling question of all. It again gives the candidate an opportunity to show what they know about the Company. It is open and allow for probing and creative questions. It also let you know what is important to the candidate - such as "when can I start taking vacation?" (WRONG question!).
When can you start?
Even if you do not make a job offer (which is RARELY done during the interview), it is always important to know the job candidate's availability, whether they are currently working, whether they have another job in the wings or are just fishing.
While the questions a hiring manager can and should ask a job candidate are nearly endless, the right questions are essential. By asking these questions every time, the hiring manager will get better at interviewing and will ultimately hire the best candidates for each job.
George F. Franks, III is the President of Franks Consulting Group, a Bethesda, Maryland based management consulting and leadership coaching practice. Franks Consulting Group's clients include businesses, non-profit organizations and individual leaders. You can contact Franks Consulting Group at: [the website franksconsultinggroup.com cannot be found].