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Employee Communications Council Blog

Insightful blog posts written by corporate communications professionals on ways to improve employee engagement, organizational change management and internal communication strategies

Important Questions to Ask Candidates During Interviews

06 May 2017
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Employee communication starts before candidates become employees. Recruiting and onboarding starts from the moment your organization selects a candidate to bring on board. To help orient potential new employees and select the ones perfect for your organization, here are some questions to pose to your candidates.

Every employer knows that for each job posting, thousands of resumes and cover letters are submitted for review. Human Resources professionals have to sift through that enormous stack of potential to try and find the few that are qualified to call in to an in-person interview. Considering the time and effort it takes to get to the interview stage of filling a job vacancy, asking good and thoughtful questions will make sure that you get the best possible candidate in the right role on the first try.


For better Employee Communications, don’t ask: Why did you leave your last job?

This is a pretty standard question, and if answered honestly will give recruiting and onboarding interviewers the information that they would need to come to a good hiring decision. The problem is that every interviewee expects it and will likely lie to sound good. This is a boring question that will likely net you a boring and useless answer.

Instead ask: Describe the best boss that you have ever worked for. Describe the worst.

The above question will likely get you a much better look at the candidate’s past work history and attitude. Listen carefully when they describe their best and worst bosses, as that will tell you a lot about their character and the environment they would be most successful in.

Don’t ask: What is your best quality?

People are generally bad at self-assessment and will possibly give you information that makes a bad match. Someone may think that they’re great at multitasking and have amazing interpersonal skills when they’re actually socially insensitive and require absolute silence to focus on a task at hand. Additionally, this will have people telling you what you want to hear rather than what their best quality actually is.

Instead ask: What motivates you?

People will reveal their best qualities when they tell you how they’re motivated to do a great job. Someone who is motivated by a higher salary will have different needs and be a different fit than someone who is motivated by consistent positive feedback or public recognition of accomplishment.

Don’t ask: Do you have experience solving problems?

Questions like this lead applicants during the recruiting and onboarding process to lie and play up past experiences to give an answer they think the interviewer wants rather than something true and helpful. If you must ask a question like this, make it relevant to the job responsibilities and ask them to solve a specific hypothetical problem or scenario they’d be dealing with in the role they’re applying to. This will help start the employee communications process on the right foot.

Instead ask: In five minutes, could you explain to me something complicated that you know well?

It doesn’t really matter what the person chooses to explain, whether it’s how to take apart and build computers or how to bake a complicated French pastry. If a job candidate is able to explain something complex to someone who doesn’t know it well in a concise way then they’re a person who has just demonstrated great communication, information retention, interpersonal, and teaching skills which are valuable for almost any position.

Don’t ask: If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be?

While trendy questions about how many ping pong balls can fit on a school bus or how many windows there are in New York feel edgy and cool, they’re useless at best and can come off as condescending at worst. Steer clear unless you really, really, really need to know what spirit animal the job candidate wanted to be in second grade.

Instead ask: Do you have any questions for us?

A great candidate who prepares thoroughly and has a basic understanding of how interviews work will have prepared a few great questions for you. Someone who simply says, ‘Nah I’m good, thanks’ when asked if they have questions is probably not as serious or qualified for the job as someone who replies with, ‘What do you most like about working here?’ or ‘Do you have any concerns about my qualifications?’ No questions at this point is a bad sign for future employee communications.

Employee Communications start at the Recruiting and Onboarding phase

Effective employee communications start from day one. Take care to assess any candidates during the recruiting and onboarding phase to determine how they will fit into your organization.

Elizabeth Woodard

Liz Woodard is an office veteran who's fascinated by office dynamics and believes that applied behavioral psychology can go far towards managing a company well. Find her at

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