How many turtles actually live in New Orleans? If you don’t have the answer right now, that’s no problem – no one actually expects you to know the solution. For job interviews, however, questions like these and others have a crucial importance: after all, employers and applicants want to get to know each other as well as possible.
How to lure applicants out of the gate
In the age of the Internet, it has become more difficult to really get to know applicants. The better they know about possible questions, the better they can prepare and come up with suitable answers. As a result, the recruiter often only gets to hear what he or she supposedly expects.
What do you want to know about your applicant?
Questions can have very different objectives in the job interview – depending on what you want to know:
- the motivation for applying to the company
- the candidate’s personality
- his individual strengths and weaknesses
- his way of working
- his personal values and character
- the creativity, resilience and stress resistance of the candidate
- leadership qualities
Select specific questions that tell you more about an applicant. This can vary from interview to interview, for example in the case of gaps in the CV, an unexpected career break or classic job hoppers.
The 7 best job interview questions and what they reveal
Which questions are most likely to get you where you want to go is, of course, highly individual. The following are examples of appropriate questions to really get to know your candidate:
1. Which five characteristics best describe your character?
To answer this question authentically, the applicant must be reflective and able to assess himself.
After all, he or she is treading a fine line here between an arrogant demeanor and obvious profundity. The recruiter can get to know the character of the candidate better through this question. Ideally, the candidate will not throw around supposedly desirable character traits, but will give you an insight into his self-assessment and be able to justify it.
2. What other jobs have you applied for?
The question may seem a little indiscreet. But it tells you a lot about the applicant’s motivation. Has he only applied for a few, select jobs at certain companies? Or is he so desperate for new employment that he is applying to all employers who can’t save themselves to three up a tree? Make sure the applicant isn’t introducing himself just because he’s looking for a temporary solution.
3. What would your previous boss criticize about you?
These and similar questions force the applicant to confront his or her weaknesses. Here, too, it pays to be honest: Those who know their weaknesses and deal with them in a reflective manner leave a much more positive impression than the applicant who is either unaware of his negative qualities or denies them. Ideally, the candidate can justify why this trait does not affect his or her work: “I can be stubborn – but the more tirelessly I pursue challenges in my daily work.”
4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
A classic – and rightly so. The recruiter finds out what the candidate’s plans are and how he sets his priorities. Does he mention his upcoming marriage and family planning first, or his job? Is he aiming for a career and possibly only sees the job as a stepping stone, or is this very job his dream job?
5. Why are you interested in our company?
With this and similar questions, HR professionals can learn more about the applicant’s values. If the applicant has no answer to this question, he disqualifies himself. If, on the other hand, he gives an answer, you can read from it what is important to the candidate, such as job security, good pay, appreciation or a good working atmosphere. In this way, you can check whether he or she is a good fit for the company.
6. Which person has influenced you the most in your life and why?
Here, the recruiter learns more about the candidate’s character and what has influenced him in his life. A wide variety of people can be named here, from an uncle to a first boss to a chance encounter. The only decisive factor is that the candidate is able to give good reasons for his or her choice. Public figures, on the other hand, are not very meaningful as role models because they are not tangible and concrete enough.
7. Which superpower would you like to have and why?
Spontaneity questions show how your candidate can deal with pressure and uncertainty. There is usually no clear, correct (and therefore also no wrong) answer to them. The decisive factor here is the way to find a solution: With clever answers, an interesting solution and creative approaches, they can score points here and show that they are flexible in dealing with challenges.
How to get to know your applicant even better
Of course, there are many more questions that can tell the recruiter a lot about your interviewer:
- What was the biggest challenge in your last job and how did you overcome it? How does the applicant deal with problems and how does he solve them? Does he give up quickly or does he stick to the solution?
- How do you feel about overtime? The happy medium is the right one. To categorically rule out overtime suggests a lack of commitment. However, blindly accepting everything is not authentic either.
- What do you know about our company/industry? A classic introductory question to switch to the factual level after the small talk. The applicant can show how well he or she has prepared for the interview.
- What will you miss about your previous work? Does the employee mention the team, the boss, the cafeteria or the after-work parties? The recruiter learns a lot about the applicant’s value system and motivation.
- What irritates you about people and how do you deal with these factors? Especially if teamwork is a big issue in the company, it is important to be able to deal well with the weaknesses of others and to fit into existing structures.
- Describe your working style! Is the applicant more of a loner or a real team player?
- Tell something about you that is not on the resume! This very open stress question gives a deep insight. For example, the applicant can point out successes in his or her job, underpin his or her strengths, or even give an insight into his or her personality. The choice of topic is also telling – is the candidate focused on their job or is their personal life balanced?
- What is among your biggest concerns about the job? For this trick question, it’s best for the candidate to take their time and give a thoughtful answer – then they’ve actually already won. A counter-question, on the other hand, is not helpful.
Choose your interview questions carefully. So-called stress and trick questions that put the applicant in the predicament of being able to say something “wrong” could leave a stale taste. They should only be used in measured doses, if at all, such as when the job requires a high level of resilience and stress resistance.
Better use the time to really get to know your applicant. Checking his or her intrinsic motivation for the application and also for his or her work, his or her strengths and weaknesses, and his or her value system is of existential importance for the perfect match.
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